Ünal Tanık, chief editor of the news website Rotahaber, 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.
Police detained Tanık in the western province of Yalova on January 17, 2017, according to press reports. The following day, an Istanbul court ordered him to be jailed pending trial as part of Turkey’s sweeping purge of suspected followers of 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 July 15, 2016, military coup.
Tanık is on trial with several other journalists arrested after the failed attempted coup in July 2016. All but one of them were charged with “being a member of an armed [terrorist] organization,” which is punishable by 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 Gulenists.
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 attempted coup.
Prosecutors cited as evidence against Tanık content published on his website about an anonymous pro-Gülen Twitter whistleblower known as @fuatavni, and his account with Bank Asya, which the government alleged to be a Gülenist institution.
When the trial started in March 2017, an Istanbul court ordered Tanık 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 Tanık and at least 21 of the other journalists on trial guilty of “being a member of a [terrorist] organization,” and sentenced Tanık 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 would appeal the verdict.
As of late 2019, Tanık’s lawyer, Yusuf Taş, had not returned CPJ’s calls. CPJ was unable to determine the journalist’s health or any updates to his legal status.
Lawyers representing other defendants in the trial told CPJ that as of late 2019, the Supreme Court of Appeals had not reviewed the appeal of the joint trial.
In 2018, Tanık was held in Silivri Prison in Istanbul.