Fevzi Yazıcı, a former designer for the shuttered daily Zaman, was detained in July 2016 as part of Turkey’s sweeping purge after the failed attempted coup that year. In 2019, the Supreme Court revoked an earlier life sentence and ordered a retrial, at which Yazıcı was sentenced to 11 years and three months in prison.
Turkish authorities first issued a warrant for the detention of Yazıcı, the then 44-year-old layout editor of the 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 the July 15, 2016, failed military coup.
On February 16, 2018, an Istanbul court sentenced Yazıcı, alongside his co-defendants—the journalist Ahmet Altan and his brother, the columnist 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—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 would appeal.
The Supreme Court of Appeals revoked the life sentence and referred the case to the local court for retrial on July 5, 2019, reports said. At the retrial on November 4, 2019, Yazıcı was convicted of “being a member of a [terrorist] organization,” and sentenced to 11 years and three months in prison, BBC Turkey reported.
Ahmet Altan was convicted of “aiding a [terrorist] organization without being a member” and sentenced to 10 years and six months in prison, while Ilıcak was sentenced to eight years and nine months for the same charge and released on probation for time served, BBC Turkey reported. The court ordered Ahmet Altan released on probation for time served, the report said. On November 12, 2019, Altan was taken back into custody after a prosecutor appealed the ruling, according to German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle.
The court acquitted Mehmet Altan at the same hearing, according to the BBC Turkey report.
According to court records seen by CPJ when Yazıcı was first detained, the journalist 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.
According to press reports from June 2017, Yazıcı told the court during the first trial 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.”
Yazıcı’s lawyer Sinan Erkan Şimşek told CPJ in a phone interview in September 2021 that the Supreme Court had upheld the journalist’s sentence, and he had made a further appeal to the Constitutional Court. The journalist’s wife, Firdevs Yazıcı, told CPJ that as of late 2021, the Constitutional Court had not yet heard two separate petitions in Yazıcı’s case.
Şimşek said the lawyer who previously represented Yazıcı had also appealed to the European Court of Human Rights regarding the journalist’s arrest, and said he would pursue the case there if the Constitutional Court did not decide in their favor.
The Washington Post reported in May 2020—in a column about a U.S. exhibit of his art—that Yazıcı, who was being held at Silivri Prison in Istanbul.
Firdevs Yazıcı told CPJ in September 2021 that her husband’s health is fine, and he had received the COVID-19 vaccine.
She said she visited him once every other week. Yazıcı does not have complaints regarding mistreatment in prison, but told her that he was occasionally denied his right to exercise, she said, adding that her husband’s biggest complaint was that he had been kept in isolation for the past four years.
An exhibition of Yazıcı’s work is scheduled to open in the United States in February 2022, in which he will present a new font design, his wife told CPJ. Yazıcı is maintaining his mental health by focusing on his work, she said.
CPJ emailed the Turkish Ministry of Justice in October 2021 for comment, but did not receive any reply.