Ercan Gün, a news editor for Turkish Fox TV, was detained on July 29, 2016 on terrorism charges and for allegedly being involved in a conspiracy to blame the Turkish military for the 2007 murder of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink. Gün was sentenced to 10 years in prison in March 2021.
Police in Istanbul detained Gün as part of a sweeping crackdown on journalists and others suspected of being followers of exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen, according to his lawyer, Çağrı Çetin, and court documents reviewed by CPJ. The government accuses Gülen of maintaining a terrorist organization and "parallel state structure" (or FETÖ/PDY, as the government calls it) within Turkey that it blames for orchestrating a failed military coup on July 15, 2016.
Istanbul’s Third Court of Penal Peace on August 2, 2016, ordered the journalist released on probation, but police detained him before he left the courthouse, on suspicion that he had broadcast a news report to tarnish the image of the military on the order of FETÖ/PDY, Çetin told CPJ.
Those new allegations stemmed from his having broadcast footage on February 1, 2007, showing Ogün Samast — whom a juvenile court in 2011 convicted of Dink’s January 19, 2007, murder— receiving a Turkish flag and congratulations on the murder from police officers less than a day after it occurred. The footage aired on TGRT-TV, which Fox bought and renamed later in 2007. The police officers in the footage were terrorism police, but were incorrectly identified as military police in the broadcast.
Turkish authorities ordered a retrial in the Dink case in May 2013, alleging that Gülenists murdered the journalist to defame the military and the ruling AKP, the party of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Istanbul’s Second Court of Penal Peace on August 25, 2016, ordered that Gün remain jailed pending trial on the accusation that he was a member of a terrorist organization, and that he aired the story on Samast at FETÖ/PDY’s behest "to create the perception that the military is related to the murder," according to court records of the hearing, which CPJ reviewed.
Çetin told CPJ that police repeatedly asked Gün who gave him the footage, and that he said an officer promised that Gün would be released if he implicated Ekrem Dumanlı, then the editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper Zaman, which the government ordered closed using emergency powers it assumed after the failed 2016 coup attempt. Gün previously worked at Zaman. Police produced call logs showing that he had spoken with Dumanlı and other senior Zaman staff by telephone shortly before the video aired, Çetin told CPJ. Gün said the calls to Dumanlı and others at Zaman were in pursuit of his severance package, his lawyer told CPJ.
An Istanbul court accepted a fourth indictment on May 29, 2017, which named Gün as one of several defendants, according to Bianet. The indictment centered on state officials who allegedly neglected to do their duty or conspired to allow Dink’s murder. In the indictment, Gün was charged with “attempting through violence or force to disrupt the order as foreseen by the Constitution of the Republic” and “aiding and abetting a [terrorist] organization,” Bianet reported.
The indictment alleged that Gün tried to defame the military and “manipulate public perception” by publishing a photo of Dink’s murderer, according to Bianet. The court had rejected three earlier indictments from the prosecution for the retrial of the Dink murder case.
At a court hearing on October 3, 2017, Gün said the photograph was a still from a video sent to the newsroom by mail. Gün said that when the newspaper realized it had made a mistake in the photo’s caption, it corrected the caption and did not repeat the mistake.
Gün asked the court how he could have manipulated public perception with one editorial mistake.
On October 6, 2017, the court ordered some of the defendants released for the duration of the trial, but Gün was not among them, according to reports citing the Doğan News Agency.
On March 14, 2019, an Istanbul court hearing the Dink case ordered Gün to be released on probation, the pro-government daily Sabah reported. The following day, a different court accepted the prosecution’s appeal of that decision, Sabah reported.
On March 26, 2021, Gün was sentenced to 10 years in prison for alleged membership in an armed terrorist organization, relating to his alleged connection to the Dink murder coverage, according to news reports, which said he pleaded not guilty.
His lawyer, Uğur Güner, told CPJ via messaging app that the Constitutional Court of Turkey had rejected the journalist’s appeal, and that a case with the European Court of Human Rights was pending as of late 2022.
Güner also said that a local appeals court had transferred Gün’s case to the Supreme Court of Appeals sometime in “April [or] May,” even though Gün served the majority of his 10-year sentence.
Güner said in June that they had filed three separate applications to Turkey’s Constitutional Court, alleging violations of Gün’s right to personal freedom and safety, his right to a fair trial, and his right to freedom of the speech and press.
Güner told CPJ in an email in late November 2020 that Gün, who is held in the Silivri F-Type Prison in Istanbul, suffers from ankylosing spondylitis, a disease affecting the spine and large joints, and was unable to get treatment in prison. Güner said in 2022 that his client sometimes has issues with his blood pressure.
CPJ emailed the Turkish Ministry of Justice in October 2022 for comment but did not receive any reply.