On December 19, 2009, Cihan Hayırsevener, 53, founder and editor of the daily Güney Marmara’da Yaşam, was shot three times in the leg while walking to his office in the town of Bandırma, northeast of Istanbul, at about 3 p.m., according to news reports and CPJ interviews. He died later that day at the Uludağ University Hospital in Bursa.
Ümit Babacan, an editor at Güney Marmara’da Yaşam, told CPJ that Hayırsevener had recently received anonymous death threats in connection with his journalism. Hayırsevener had reported on corruption charges involving the owners of İlkhaber, another major daily in Bandırma, the Hürriyet Daily News reported. Three principals in İlkhaber had been imprisoned on charges of accepting cash payouts from a former mayor, the paper said.
In late December, police said they had identified three suspects in Hayırsevener’s killing, news reports said. Police arrested alleged triggerman Serkan Erakkuş on December 23, as well as two other men who were later released, according to news reports.
On August 4, 2013, an Istanbul court found Erakkuş and six other men guilty for engaging in a conspiracy to murder Hayırsevener, according to independent news website Bianet. Erakkuş was sentenced to life in prison; İhsan Kuruoğlu, founder of İlkhaber, was originally sentenced to life in prison as the instigator of the murder, but that penalty was reduced to 17 years when the court classified the killing as committed under “unjust provocation,” and Kuruoğlu was sentenced to an additional 10 years, for 27 total, on charges of founding an armed criminal organization, corruption, and violating the law on firearms, according to Bianet.
Ferda Dündar was sentenced to 7 years and 6 months; Osman and İlbey Kuruoğlu, İhsan’s relatives, as well as journalist Engin Arıcan were each sentenced to 2 years and 8 months; and Kerem Yılmaz was sentenced to 11 years and 8 months, but was but released under judicial control and a foreign travel ban considering the 40 months he has spent in custody.
The Hayırsevener family appealed the verdict due to the reduction in Kuruoğlu’s sentencing, the Bianet report said.
In 2016, the Supreme Court of Appeals revoked the armed criminal organization verdict against Kuruoğlu and sent his case to a Bandırma court. That court reheard the case and, on July 29, 2016, released Kuruoğlu, local reports said.
On December 15, 2017, the Bandırma court retried the case and acquitted the other defendants of the organized crime charges, and again sentenced Erakkuş to life in prison, Kuruoğlu to 17 years in prison as the instigator of the crime, and Kerem Yılmaz to 12 years as an accessory to the murder, according to news reports.
Reports said there were 22 defendants in the 2017 trial. Reports did not say which, if any, of the defendants were under arrest or were put under arrest on the day of the sentencing. Both sides were to appeal the 2017 verdict, a local report on the hearing said.
In August 2020, CPJ was unable to reach the Hayırsevener family for updated information and comment.