Murat Aksoy, a former columnist for the shuttered daily Yeni Hayat, was taken to prison on November 22, 2018, after an appeals court in October 2018 upheld a prison sentence handed down to him in March of the same year, according to news reports.
At the hearing in March, the court convicted Aksoy, fellow journalist Atilla Taş, and 27 other defendants of "knowingly and willingly aiding a [terrorist] organization," CPJ reported at the time. Aksoy and Taş were sentenced to 25 months and 37 months respectively in prison, CPJ reported at the time.
The judge ruled they should be released pending appeal, according to reports.
Police in Istanbul first detained Aksoy on September 1, 2016, as part of a sweeping purge of suspected followers 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. He was held in custody until October 15, 2017, when a court ordered that he be released pending the outcome of his trial, CPJ documented at the time.
According to court documents seen by CPJ at the time of his arrest and in other court hearings, Aksoy told the court that he wrote a column for the pro-government daily Yeni Şafak until January 2014, but the newspaper fired him for "deviating from the general editorial line of the newspaper."
Aksoy said later he wrote columns for the daily newspaper Millet, which a court in October 2015 ordered placed under government-appointed trustees for what the court ruled were the newspaper’s ties to FETÖ/PDY. Following Millet’s takeover, Aksoy told the court, he wrote columns for news website Haberdar until June 2016, when he moved to the daily newspaper Yeni Hayat.
The state telecommunications regulator shut down Haberdar on July 17, 2016. The government used emergency powers it assumed after the July 2016 failed coup attempt to shut down Yeni Hayat by decree on July 27, 2016. Yeni Hayat was founded by journalists from the daily newspaper Zaman, after an Istanbul court in March 2016 ordered the Feza Media Group, which owned Zaman and several other media outlets, placed under the trusteeship of figures appointed by the government, and subsequently shut it down by decree as well.
Aksoy told the court he stopped writing for Yeni Hayat after July 15, 2016, according to the documents seen by CPJ.
According to the record of his arraignment, prosecutors asked Aksoy why he deleted posts from his Twitter account before he was arrested. He was also asked about a comment he made on a TV program in September 2015. Prosecutors understood this comment as calling for a military intervention in politics, but Aksoy said he was only commenting on the mood in Turkish politics before the November 1, 2015, elections. The court records do not indicate what specific comment Aksoy made, or on what television program he made it.
Aksoy’s lawyer, Meriç Eyüboğlu, told the court that the prosecution’s questions about Aksoy’s columns and social media activity led the defense to understand that prosecutors sought the journalist’s arrest for his journalistic activities.
Following the local appeals court October 2018 ruling on Aksoy’s sentence, Yaman Akdeniz, a lawyer representing the journalist, told CPJ his case will be taken to the national Supreme Court of Appeals.
Aksoy is being held in Metris Prison, according to reports.