An Istanbul court Wednesday ordered the release of Bekir Gökmen Ulu, a reporter for the Sözcü newspaper accused of aiding the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). He was expected to be freed from Silivri Prison, west of Istanbul, later Wednesday.
Of four defendants, including staff and the owner of the newspaper, Ulu was the only to be jailed. He was charged along with video journalist Mediha Olgun, who was held for several months before her release on bail in September, and accountant Yonca Yücekaleli. Both Olgun and Yücekaleli deny the accusations against them.
Burak Akbay, the newpaper's owner, remains at large, but he sent a note to the court in his defense, denying accusations. Akbay's father, Ertuğrul Akbay, also appeared in court and rejected the accusations directed against his son.
Ulu ran a story that revealed the location where President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was vacationing at the time FETÖ was trying to seize power. On July 15, 2016, putschist troops attempted to assassinate Erdoğan in his hotel, but the president had learned of the plan and left the hotel before the assassin team arrived. Forty-two soldiers were found guilty last month of trying to kill him and given life sentences.
The reporter claimed that everybody in Marmaris, the southwestern town where Erdoğan was on vacation, knew where Erdoğan stayed, and that it should not be counted as a crime to report on the whereabouts of an important figure. Ulu denied the charges of aiding FETÖ.
Three journalists who are known for their strong opposition to Sözcü's hardline coverage, namely Fuat Uğur, Cem Küçük, Ersoy Dede and Hüseyin Gülerce, former columnist of FETÖ-linked daily Zaman, testified as witnesses in the hearing and said the newspaper could not be affiliated with the terrorist group.
The journalists were cited as witnesses in the prosecutor's indictment. However, once the indictment was released, they objected that their testimonies could not be used as evidence against the newspaper.
The court ruled for the removal of the signature clause and Olgun's conditional release but kept the ban to travel abroad.
The court also ruled for journalist Fehmi Koru, who accused Akbay of staying in FETÖ-linked houses as a student and cited by various journalist in their articles, to be brought to court to testify, setting the next hearing at Jan. 23.
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