Several members of the ultranationalist-leftist news website Odatv, including Küçük, were arrested in February and March 2011 on charges of having ties to the alleged Ergenekon plot, a shadowy conspiracy that authorities claimed was aimed at overthrowing the government through a military coup. Authorities charged all of the staffers with propagandizing on behalf of Ergenekon and lodged additional charges against some.
Odatv features news and commentary that promotes an ultranationalist agenda from a Kemalist perspective and is harshly critical of its perceived opponents. The targets of its attacks include the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the Fethullah Gülen religious community, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and liberals. Much of Odatv’s critical commentary involves highly personal attacks.
Küçük, an opinion writer for the site and for the daily Aydınlık, was accused of being a leader of the Ergenekon organization, inciting hatred, violating privacy rights, and disclosing classified military and intelligence documents. In court, Küçük said the charges were without basis.
As evidence, authorities cited wiretapped phone conversations between Odatv staffers in which coverage was discussed.
Authorities also cited as evidence a series of digital documents purportedly found on Odatv computers during a police raid on the news outlet. The authenticity of the documents has been challenged by the defense. A team from the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, which examined the evidence at the request of the defense, found that the computers contained Trojan files that left the machines vulnerable to outside manipulation. The team also found that the documents themselves were altered on the day of the police raid, further raising the possibility that the files could have been planted or manipulated.
Authorities said the documents included an Ergenekon media strategy memo, an ultranationalist text describing the AKP as dangerous, and directions on covering the PKK, AKP, army generals, and the Ergenekon investigation.
Authorities also cited two documents claiming that the well-known investigative reporter Nedim Şener, who received CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award in 2013, had helped a former regional police chief, Hanefi Avci, write a 2010 book alleging that the Gülen movement had infiltrated the police force. Another document claimed Şener was also helping investigative reporter Ahmet Şık write a book about the Gülen movement. Authorities used those documents to link Şener and Şık to the Ergenekon plot. The two were jailed for more than 12 months before being freed pending trial; they continued to face anti-state charges related to the plot.
In August 2013, the 13th Court of Serious Crimes in Istanbul convicted at least 20 journalists, including Küçük, in the Ergenekon case, according to news reports. The journalists were handed different prison terms. Küçük was sentenced to 22 ½ years on charges of “founding or leading an armed terrorist organization,” which is what Ergenekon is considered, according to an updated list of imprisoned journalists provided by the Justice Ministry in November 2013 at CPJ’s request.
Küçük was appealing the verdict before Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals. The appeal was ongoing in late 2013.
Küçük was serving his term at the Silivri L Type High Security Closed Prison No. 1 in Istanbul, according to the Justice Ministry’s updated list.