Publisher Necati Abay was sentenced to imprisonment of 18 years and nine months; journalist Hatice Duman, former owner and editor-in-chief of the Atılım newspaper received a life sentence. Abay was charged with directing the underground Marxist Leninist Communist Party (MLKP).
The final decision was taken by the Istanbul 12th High Criminal Court on 4 May. Abay rejected the charges pressed against him. He reminded the fact that he was taken into custody from his home in Kadıköy (Istanbul) on 13 April 2003. Abay was working as a writer and editor of the Atılım weekly then. His computer was seized in the course of the operation. He was taken to the Anti-Terror Branch. Abay put forward that the indictment was unfounded and that he became the subject of a police conspiracy. He compared his situation with journalists Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener who were arrested on 6 March this year and have been detained ever since.
Abay was being tried un-detained; Duman was in pre-trial detention. They appealed the decision.
Abay is the spokesperson of the Platform for Solidarity with Detained Journalists (TGDP). He indicated that his conviction displayed a demeanour against the TGDP's struggle for press freedom, freedom of thought and expression and for the release of imprisoned journalists.
"This decision is a scandal and we expect it to be thoroughly disputed. This decision is an attack against the Atılım newspaper both in the name of Hatice Duman and Necati Abay".
In Abay's opinion, he was taken into custody in connection with the statement of a person called Aligül Alkaya, whom he apparently did not know. Abay claimed that Akaya signed a statement under torture which had been prepared by the police beforehand. According to the journalist, the file of the trial that was pending for eight years did not contain any evidence against himself. He argued that Alkaya mentioned at the judgeship inquiry and also at the hearings that he did not give a statement related to Abay.
In the statement given at the police, Alkaya supposedly said, "Abay is responsible for the cell houses in Istanbul. He provides the connection between the cells. He is using the code name 'Emre' to keep [his identity] secret".
History of the case
The first hearing of the case was held on 3 October 2003 before the Istanbul No.4 State Security Court. Abay was facing a life sentence under allegations of the "attempt to overthrow the constitutional order by armed force" according to Article 146/1 of the former Turkish Criminal Law (TCK). Abay was released pending trial.
The final hearing was heard before a Special Authority High Criminal Court after the State Security Courts had been abolished. Defendants Ali Gülkaya, Ahmet Doğan and Gülizar Erman were handed down life sentences. Hasan Özcan and Abay were sentenced to imprisonment of 18 years and nine months each on charges of "managing an illegal organization" according to Article 168/1 of the former TCK. The final decision on defendant Sami Özbil was left for the coming hearing because he did not present his defence.
Abay protested the decisions. He called on professional press institutions in particular and people and institutions that are sensitive on freedom of thought and expression and press freedom in general to voice their democratic reactions. (EÖ/VK)