Istanbul court retries former Zaman columnists

Former Zaman columnists Ali Bulaç, Şahin Alpay and Mümtazer Türköne on April 13 appeared before an Istanbul court after the Court of Cassation ordered for their retrial in September. Bulaç, Alpay and Türköne will be retried on “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization” charge instead of “membership in a terrorist organization.”

The retrial of former Zaman columnists Mümtazer Türköne (L), Ali Bulaç (C) and Şahin Alpay started on April 13.

Duvar English

The retrial of Ali Bulaç, Şahin Alpay and Mümtazer Türköne, former columnists for now-closed daily Zaman, began at the Istanbul 13th Heavy Penal Court on April 13.

The retrial order was handed down by the Court of Cassation in September 2020, which overturned the convictions of Alpay, Bulaç and Türköne, ruling that their actions do not constitute “membership in a terrorist organization.”

The top appeals court said that the former Zaman columnists should instead stand trial for “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization without being a member” charge. The court also overturned the acquittal decision for former Zaman editor Mehmet Özdemir, ruling that his actions constitute “membership in a terrorist organization.” 

During the hearing on April 13, Alptay, Bulaç, Türköne and their lawyers were in attendance.

“The conviction that I previously received was membership to a terrorist organization, whereas now I am standing trial for aiding a terrorist organization. I have neither aided a terrorist organization nor been its member. I demand my acquittal,” Türköne was quoted as saying by ANKA news agency during his defense.

Alpay also addressed the court, demanding that the Istanbul 13th Heavy Penal Court comply with the Court of Cassation's judgment. “I have not committed any crime,” Alpay said.

Bulaç similarly denied the charges, saying: “I have not abetted this structure. It seems the Court of Cassation has ignored the decision that the Constitutional Court has ruled on me. I am a writer for the last 55 years. I am innocent.”

The Istanbul 13th Heavy Penal Court unanimously decided to comply with the Court of Cassation's reversal judgment and postponed the trial to Sept. 9 for Hüseyin Gülerce, Binnaz Toprak, Ümit Toprak, Ümit Erol and Zekeriya Tüzen to be heard as witnesses in the case.

The court also issued an arrest warrant for Özdemir, who did not attend the hearing.

In 2018, Alpay and Bulaç were sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison for “membership of a terrorist organization” in the “Zaman trial,” while Türköne was sentenced to 10 years and six months in jail.