The trial of 45 suspects, including Fetullah Gülen the leader of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), charged with secretly wiretapping 59 people - ranging from businesspeople to journalists - commenced yesterday in Istanbul.
The defendants, the majority of which are currently in jail, are police chiefs and police officers, with the exception of U.S.-based Gülen.
Prosecutors say they illegally wiretapped their victims under false names to avoid suspicion. Ali Fuat Yılmazer and Erol Demirhan, two former police chiefs also implicated in other FETÖ-related cases, are the most notable names in what the Turkish media has dubbed the "VIP Wiretapping Case."
The first hearing was held in a courtroom located across from a maximum-security prison in Istanbul's Silivri district. The prison complex is home to hundreds of people jailed for their links to FETÖ after last year's coup bid blamed on the terrorist group's infiltrators in the military.
Yılmazer, Demirhan and 12 other suspects took their places in the first hearing, as Bedri Baykam, a renowned artist among the wiretapped victims, attended the trial.
Among those wiretapped by the FETÖ-linked suspects are Ferit Şahenk, Mehmet Emin Karamehmet, Mustafa Süzer and Ali Koç, all heads of prominent business conglomerates.
The suspects are also accused of wiretapping journalists Tufan Türenç, Murat Yetkin, Yılmaz Özdil, Mirgün Cabas, Uğur Dündar, Engin Ardıç, along with former General Metin Yavuz Yalçın.
The wiretapping took place between 2008 and 2009 under the order of Gülen, the indictment says. Prosecutors claim that FETÖ used the intelligence it gathered from wiretapping for blackmail and extortion.
According to the indictment, the suspects obtained warrants from courts for wiretaps by sending the court false names for victims. Prosecutors also say that the suspects wiretapped more than 5,000 phone conversations of Ferit Şahenk, who owns a company that controls a major news network.
The suspects also wiretapped Ali Koç, a scion of the Koç business dynasty, between 2008 and 2009 in an attempt to associate him with Ergenekon, which is a "gang of criminals" concocted by FETÖ-linked police and prosecutors to imprison its critics.