Murat Dağdeviren, a local journalist and former newspaper publisher from western Turkey, has been detained since July 2016. Authorities shuttered his outlet, Demokrat Gebze, and in 2017, sentenced Dağdeviren to more than seven years in prison.
A court in the western Turkish province of Kocaeli convicted Dağdeviren of “being a member of a [terrorist] organization,” according to local press reports. The court on October 10, 2017, sentenced Dağdeviren to seven years and six months in prison, the reports said.
The journalist’s lawyer, Yüksel Genç, told CPJ in October 2017 that Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MIT) handed the court a report that alleged that his client had the Bylock app on his phone. Bylock is an encrypted messaging application that Turkish authorities claim is evidence of membership in the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization–-a charge that carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, the lawyer said. The Turkish government claims Gülen’s group, which it calls FETÖ/PDY, was behind a failed coup attempt in July 2016.
Genç said that he told the court that Dağdeviren did not use the app, but the court rejected his denial.
Prosecutors presented as evidence against Dağdeviren his published work, the lawyer said. The court found Dağdeviren not guilty of a second charge of financing terrorism, according to the reports.
Police first detained Dağdeviren on June 1, 2016, on suspicion of FETÖ/PDY membership, according to news reports. He was released but police detained him again on July 24, 2016, after the failed coup attempt, local reports said. A Kocaeli Court on July 29, 2016, ordered that he be detained pending trial on suspicion of being a member of FETÖ.
Police raided Dağdeviren’s newspaper on July 28, 2016, for allegedly being connected to FETÖ, according to local reports. The Turkish government closed 178 broadcasters, websites, and newspapers, including Demokrat Gebze, between July 20 and December 31, 2016, according to Bianet. The government sold the newspaper’s assets for an opening bid of 75,425 Turkish lira (US$22,131), the online newspaper Gazete Duvar reported in September 2017.
Genç said that the Supreme Court of Appeals denied Dağdeviren’s appeal on June 3, 2018. The lawyer said Dağdeviren’s request for a transfer to Bandırma Prison was accepted.
Genç told CPJ in an email in September 2020 that in May of that year, the Constitutional Court of Turkey rejected their appeal on the grounds of violation of the constitutional right to a fair trial.
Dağdeviren’s lawyer told CPJ that they took the case to the European Court of Human Rights in 2018, but it had not yet been heard in late 2020.
Genç told CPJ the journalist does not have any health issues in prison, nor does he have any complaints of mistreatment. He said Dağdeviren has access to books, mail, and newspapers and is allowed visits from lawyers and relatives.
CPJ emailed a request for comment on Dağdeviren’s case to the Turkish Ministry of Justice in October 2020, but did not receive a reply.