Hüseyin Aydın is one of several journalists imprisoned after the failed 2016 coup attempt. In 2018 he was found guilty of being a member of a terrorist organization. He should be eligible for parole in March 2020, according to his lawyer.
Police in Istanbul detained Aydın, a former military affairs reporter for the shuttered Cihan News Agency, on July 26, 2016, as part of a sweeping purge of journalists and others suspected of following exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen, according to press reports. 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 Fifth Court of Penal Peace on June 30, 2016, arraigned Aydın and 16 other journalists, ordering them jailed pending trial on charges of "being members of an armed terrorist organization," according to the media monitoring group P24. The daily newspaper Hürriyet reported that the 17 journalists were questioned by prosecutors on accusations of "being members of an armed terrorist organization," "founding or leading an armed terrorist organization," "knowingly and willingly helping [a terrorist] organization without being involved in the organization’s hierarchical structure," and "committing crimes in the name of a [terrorist] organization without being a member."
A court in March 2016 ordered the Cihan News Agency’s parent company, the Feza Media Group, put under government trustees, saying it had ties to the Gülenist network. CPJ research shows that authorities have targeted dozens of journalists formerly employed by the Feza Media Group with arrest and prosecution on terrorism charges since the failed July 2016 coup. The government used emergency powers it assumed after the coup attempt to close Feza’s news outlets by decree.
All but one of the journalists with whom Aydın is on trial were charged with “being a member of an armed [terrorist] organization,” which carries up to 10 years in prison, according to the indictment.
CPJ found the indictment to be similar to those presented at trials of other journalists in Turkey. Prosecutors cited as evidence in these cases journalistic activity or acts of free speech and communication, or cited circumstantial evidence such as being employed by a certain media outlet or having an account at a bank allegedly linked to Gülenists.
The indictment accused the defendants of manipulating the public perception of FETÖ to turn citizens against the government, which prosecutors argued made them members of the group that Turkey alleges is behind the failed attempted coup.
Prosecutors presented as evidence against Aydın his employment by Cihan News Agency, his social media activity, and his reporting that the press is censored in Turkey.
When the trial started in March 2017, an Istanbul court ordered Aydın and four of his co-accused to be detained for the duration of the trial, according to news reports.
An Istanbul court on March 8, 2018, found Aydın and at least 21 of the other journalists on trial guilty of "being a member of a [terrorist] organization,” and sentenced Aydın to six years and three months in prison, according to reports.
The court acquitted all the defendants of the more serious coup-related charges in the second indictment. At least 18 of the journalists were sent to prison for varying prison terms. Two of them—Atilla Taş and Murat Aksoy—were sentenced and released for time served, and the journalists Bünyamin Köseli and Cihan Acar remained free pending the appeal, according to reports.
Lawyers for the journalists told CPJ they are appealing the verdict.
In response to a June 2018 poll of jailed journalists carried out by the P24 Independent Journalism Association, Aydın said that he had been denied access for months to a dentist.
As of late 2019, the Supreme Court of Appeals had not reviewed the appeal from the joint trial, Aydın’s lawyer, Ahmet Sarı, told CPJ. He said that his client should be eligible for parole in March 2020. The lawyer said that Aydın’s health was good and that he was allowed visits from family and lawyers in prison.
Aydın is detained in Silivri prison in Istanbul.