Seyid Kılıç is one of several journalists imprisoned after the failed 2016 coup attempt. He has twice been charged in joint trials. In 2018, he was acquitted of charges that linked him to the coup attempt, but found guilty of being a member of a terrorist organization.
An Istanbul court ordered Kılıç, a production technician for news and radio channels of the state broadcaster TRT, to be detained pending trial on July 29, 2016, according to the indictment on his case and that of several other journalists rounded up as part of a sweeping purge of suspected followers of exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen. The Turkish government accuses Gülen of maintaining a terrorist organization and "parallel state structure" (FETÖ/PDY, as the government calls it) within Turkey and alleges that it masterminded a failed July 2016 military coup.
CPJ was unable to determine the date Kılıç was first taken into custody.
When the trial started in March 2017, an Istanbul court ordered Kılıç and several of the other journalists with whom he was being tried to be released while the case was heard. However, authorities brought fresh charges and the journalists were ordered to remain in custody, according to reports. Authorities ordered an investigation into the judges who had ordered the release and they were relieved of duty, according to reports.
In the original indictment, all but one of the co-accused were charged with “being a member of an armed [terrorist] organization,” which carries up to 10 years in prison. The second indictment listed the charges as “attempting, through violence and force, to disrupt and replace the order as recognized by Turkey’s Constitution” and “attempting through violence and force to eliminate or prevent Parliament from carrying out its duties.” Both charges carry a maximum life sentence without parole.
CPJ found both indictments 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 first indictment accused the defendants of manipulating the public perception of FETÖ to turn citizens against the government, which prosecutors argued, made the journalists members of the group that Turkey alleges is behind the attempted coup. The second indictment, which was presented as an addition to the original case, argued that the journalists should be held responsible for more than alleged membership to the group.
Prosecutors presented as evidence against Kılıç a post that he wrote on his blog Haberinnotu in September 2014, in which he praised a pro-Gülen charity; his social media activity; and his account at Bank Asya, which the government alleged was a Gülenist institution. The second indictment listed as evidence the bank; Kılıç’s mobile phone activity; his travel abroad; and communication records with people who were wanted or were on trial for alleged Gülenist activity. Some of these people had the Bylock app on their phones, according to the authorities, who say the application is of being a FETÖ member. Kılıç had the app installed on his phone, according to the indictment.
It also said that Kılıç was associated with Gülenists through his past employment by an outlet owned by Samanyolu media. The indictment did not state why traveling abroad was significant.
An Istanbul court on March 8, 2018, found Kılıç and at least 21 of the other journalists on trial guilty of "being a member of a [terrorist] organization,” and sentenced Kılıç to seven years and six 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.
Kılıç’s lawyer Barış Topuk told CPJ that as of late 2019, the Supreme Court of Appeals had not reviewed the appeal from the joint trial.
Topuk said that the journalist’s health was generally satisfactory but that he sometimes has depression as might be expected for someone incarcerated. Kılıç is allowed visits from family and lawyers at Silivri Prison in Istanbul, where he is detained.