Ercan Gün, a news editor for Turkish Fox TV, was detained in July 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 on July 29, 2016, 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 to be murdered. 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, according to press reports.
At a court hearing on October 3, 2017, Gün said that the photograph was a still from a video sent to the newsroom by mail, according to reports. 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. Because Gün was also jailed pending the outcome of the separate trial for allegedly being a member of a terrorist organization, he would not have been eligible for release, according to TV Medyascope.
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.
Çetin, the lawyer representing Gün in 2016, told CPJ that year that his client has suffered from sleeping disorders and vision problems since being jailed. Çetin no longer represents the journalist.
During a visit by a parliamentary commission to the prison in September 2019, Ali Haydar Hakverdi, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), spoke with prisoners including Gün, according to the news website Odatv. Hakverdi said the journalist told him that the prison offered no social activities, the food was greasy and bad, and authorities did not allow inmates to read some newspapers or watch certain television channels. Gün said he did not attend court hearings or visit a hospital during his imprisonment because he refused to be handcuffed, Odatv reported.
Güner told CPJ in an email in late November 2020 that Gün suffers from ankylosing spondylitis, a disease affecting the spine and large joints, and was unable to get treatment in prison. Güner added that Gün did not find the COVID-19 pandemic precautions in prison satisfactory and did not feel safe from infection.
Gün is detained in the Silivri F-Type Prison in Istanbul as of late 2021, according to Güner, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview.
Gün did not have access to the newspapers and magazines that he wants to read, but he had books that provided by his lawyers, and was allowed visits and letters, Güner told CPJ. Güner added that he sees his client once every two weeks, and that Gün is unwilling to request hospital visits because he would be put in the quarantine ward for two weeks upon return due to the prison’s pandemic policies.
Güner told CPJ that the Constitutional Court of Turkey had rejected the journalist’s appeal, and that cases with the Supreme Court of Appeals and the European Court of Human Rights were pending as of late 2021.
Güner said that, considering the journalist had already served more than five years in prison for a 10-year sentence, he would likely spend the maximum time behind bars by the time his appeal was heard.
CPJ emailed the Turkish Ministry of Justice in October 2021 for comment, but did not receive any reply.