Faruk Akkan, the general director of the shuttered Cihan News Agency, was arrested shortly after the failed attempted coup in 2016 and found guilty of “being a member of a [terrorist] organization.” Akkan, who denies involvement in the coup, is serving a nine-year prison sentence.
Police detained Akkan at his home in Istanbul on July 27, 2016, according to a message posted to his Twitter account on his behalf, referring to him in the third person.
Istanbul’s Third Court of Penal Peace ordered the then-46-year-old journalist to be jailed pending trial "based on the strong suspicion" that he was a member of a terrorist organization. He was accused of being a follower of exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom the Turkish government accuses of maintaining a terrorist organization and "parallel state structure" (FETÖ/PDY, by its Turkish acronym) and of masterminding a July 15 failed military coup.
According to legal documents, the court based its conclusion on Akkan’s employment at the Cihan News Agency, which it called "within the structure of FETÖ/PDY’s media arm." A court in March 2016 ordered the news agency’s parent company, the Feza Media Group, placed under government-appointed trustee, on the grounds that it was a Gülenist mouthpiece.
Akkan told the court that he started working at the news agency’s foreign desk in 2004 and then went to Russia in 2006 as a reporter, where he stayed until 2015, when he returned to Istanbul and became general director.
Akkan is on trial alongside 30 journalists and media workers and an academic. All are charged with “attempting, through violence and force, to disrupt and replace the order as recognized by Turkey’s Constitution,” “attempting through violence and force to eliminate or prevent Parliament from carrying out its duties,” and “being a member of an armed terrorist organization.” Not all of the defendants are in custody.
The trial’s first hearing began in Istanbul on September 18, 2017, according to local reports.
In the indictment, reviewed by CPJ, the prosecution said that the defendants’ journalism, including opinion pieces or their employment by pro-Gülen outlets such as the daily Zaman and Cihan News Agency, is evidence that the journalists were part of the so-called Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure (FETÖ/PDY).
The indictment accused the journalists—which it referred to as “the media force of the terrorist organization”—of producing false news to weaken the government, insult or humiliate the authorities, attempt to disrupt the peace, and to create an environment suitable for a coup.
Akkan denied the charges, according to the indictment.
A court in Istanbul on April 30, 2018, found Akkan guilty of “being a member of a [terrorist] organization” and sentenced him to nine years in prison, according to news reports. The time he has already served will count toward his sentence, according to the reports.
In late 2019, CPJ was unable to find contact details for the journalist’s lawyer. CPJ attempted to contact a relative via social media but the message went unanswered.