Turkish authorities issued a warrant for the detention of Fevzi Yazıcı, the then-44-year-old layout editor of the shuttered newspaper Zaman, on July 27, 2016. CPJ was unable to determine the precise date he was taken into custody.
Istanbul's Third Court of Penal Peace on August 4, 2016, ordered Yazıcı jailed, pending trial on charges 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, 2016, failed military coup.
According to court records seen by CPJ, Yazıcı told the court that he started his career at the weekly Aksiyon, and later joined the daily Zaman as its chief page designer. The government ordered both publications closed by decree using emergency powers it assumed after the failed military coup, asserting they had links to FETÖ/PDY. The court concluded that there was a strong suspicion that Yazıcı was a member of FETÖ/PDY because he worked in media outlets that were "within the structure of FETÖ/PDY's media arm."
Yazıcı, under questioning, told the court that he did not know who owned Aksiyon. He said that he did not know whether Zaman had ever criticized Gülen--whom he admitted having met at one of the preacher's sermons in the U.S., where Gülen is exiled--and that he was responsible only for laying out the newspaper's pages.
The trial began in Istanbul on July 19, 2017. The co-defendants are the brothers Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak, a former columnist for Özgür Düşünce and a former TV host for the shuttered broadcaster Can Erzincan TV; Yakup Şimşek, the newspaper's former advertising director; and Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül, a former police academy instructor and TV commentator, according to reports.
The defendants were charged with: “attempting to eliminate the Constitutional order,” “attempting to eliminate the government of Turkey or to prevent it from its duties partially or totally through violence and force,” “attempting to eliminate the parliament of Turkey or to prevent it from its duties partially or totally through violence and force,” and “aiding an armed terrorist organization without being a member,” according to the indictment.
All the defendants denied the charges.
According to press reports from June 2017, Yazıcı told the court that he worked at Zaman because “they offered very good pay and conditions.” Yazıcı said, “Do not evaluate the Zaman I worked for with today's extraordinary conditions. There was no 'terrorism' accusation against the newspaper. Those who wanted to advertise [in the newspaper] did. There were official ads featured. Government leaders were giving interviews.”
On February 16, 2018, a court sentenced Yazıcı, alongside Mehmet Altan, Ahmet Altan, Ilıcak, and Şimşek, to life in prison without parole for “attempting, through violence and force, to disrupt and replace the order as recognized by Turkey's Constitution,” according to news reports.
On October 2, 2018, a local appeals court in Istanbul upheld the life sentences, according to reports. The journalists’ lawyers said they will appeal.