“8.658 years” in the Adnan Oktar Case

The Adnan Oktar case has more than 200 defendants, including 74 in custody. The court sentenced Adnan Oktar and 13 alleged executives to a total of 8658 years in prison on November 16th, 2022.

While some male defendants received sentences of hundreds of years, the court sentenced 106 defendants (including 5 lawyers) to 4.5 years each for the alleged charge of “membership in an armed criminal organization”, which is the maximum sentence that can be given.

If the verdict is affirmed, then these lawyers will have to go to prison and their licenses of attorneyship will be annulled (i.e. they will not be able to practice their professions as lawyers any longer).

The court acquitted the defendants of the charges of “aiding FETÖ armed terrorist organization” and of political or military espionage“. 

Oktar and the other defendants will appeal to the Court of Appeal against convictions.

As stated by the international observer organization Solicitors International Human Rights Group (SIHRG) in its trial observation report, this case in question is the “demolition of an independent group”. In the summary section of the mentioned report, the following assessment was made of the trial heard by the local court:

It is with reluctance that I even use the word “trial” to describe a
process
that was uninterested in defense evidence or arguments and was manifestly determined to convict the defendants, sentence them to lengthy terms of imprisonment and thus utterly crush the movement.”

The record prison sentences handed down by the local court at the end of a process for which the observers were reluctant to use the word “trial”, the subsequent reversal of all convictions by the court of appeal, the release of the detained defendants on the grounds that acquittal should have been given for most of the charges, and the subsequent record prison sentences handed down again in the retrial… all reveal the fact that this case is not an ordinary criminal proceeding.

➤ The panel of the Istanbul 30th High Criminal Court, which conducted the first trial of the case, was not formed according to the “principle of the natural judge”, but was composed of “specially appointed judges,” who eventually handed down tens of thousands of years of prison sentences despite the absence of a single piece of concrete criminal evidence. https://www.adnanoktarlawsuit.com/2021/04/14/irregular-proceedings-of-the-panel-of-judges-during-the-trial/

➤ On March 15th, 2022, the Court of Appeal overturned almost all of the sentences handed down by the trial court on the merits, with a 400-page reasoned decision. In terms of some of the criminal charges, the court of appeal decided to send the file back to the trial court for a new verdict to be given after the procedural deficiencies are resolved.

A terrible smear campaign was launched against the judges of this Court of Appeals and in order to prevent these same judges from hearing the case a second time, they were assigned to other chambers, and the committee of the chamber that will review the case on appeal has been changed. Also an investigation was launched against the mentioned judges. In this way, the Court of Appeal’s decision was attempted to be
nullified and the judges who would later hear the case were intimidated.

➤ Following the release of 68 detained defendants by the Court of Appeal, adverse media publication forced the prosecutor of the Court of Appeal to raise an objection against the release decision. Right after the decision of the 2nd Criminal Chamber of Appeal accepting the appeal, 55 defendants, for whom arrest warrants had been issued, turned themselves in at the police stations and the courts on their own free will and were arrested on the same day. Selman Söğüt, one of the journalists involved in the structure known as the Pelicans, known for its hostility towards Adnan Oktar and his friends, admitted in a chat room on Twitter that they intervened in the judiciary, by saying, “The
re-arrest of 61 people after the release of 68 defendants of the Adnan Oktar terrorist organization happened thanks to the efforts of these great people here.

➤ On March 30th, 2022, on the morning of the day the defendants who turned themselves in were to appear in court, 4 of their lawyers were taken into custody, one of them was subsequently arrested, and three were released on judicial control measures. This was not the first operation against the lawyers of the group. Some of the lawyers who represented the defendants in various cases in the past were also investigated and included in the case (without obtaining the necessary permissions from the Ministry of Justice). During the prosecution process, two of the most effective and strong defence counsels, were accused of being members of the criminal organization and were arrested; one of them is still in prison. 3 lawyers are being tried without arrest.

These unlawful arbitrary practices against Adnan Oktar’s lawyers were criticized by the International
Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute
 (IBAHRI) in a special letter addressed to the Turkish President Mr. Erdogan. In a letter addressed to Mr. Erdogan, the International Bar Association IBAHRI criticized these interventions which impeded the right to a fair trial.

In the letter that starts saying;

We are writing to you … to express our serious concern over the recent judicial harassment of Adnan Oktar’s legal defense counsel whilst in the legitimate course of their professional work as legal practitioners, lacking sufficient evidence and a clear legal basis, in violation of fundamental procedural safeguards”

➤ Shortly after the decision of the Court of Appeal, Mr. Oktar’s meetings with his lawyers were restricted. Since April 27th, 2022, all of his meetings have been audio and video recorded and 2 officers have been present in these meetings; the documents that he and his lawyers exchanged, and even the notes they took during their meetings were seized.

The new panel of the local court, to which the Court of Appeal sent the file back, clearly showed from day one that it would not be impartial. To give a few examples:

➤ The court did not accept any requests of the defendants for further investigation, using the unjustified and stereotypical grounds that “they were intended to prolong the trial”.

➤ Women who claimed to have been sexually assaulted were not referred to the Forensic Medicine Institute for the medical examination despite repeated requests of the defendants and despite the instruction of the Court of Appeal to do so.

Hundreds of points relating to defendant Mert Sucu, who allegedly fired at the police on the day of the police operation, remain unclarified. Although there must be at least 200 different footages of the incident that day (i.e. footages recorded by the photo film department, police helmet camera footages, police helicopter and drone footages, footages recorded by the villa’s security cameras), not a single one was put in the case file.

➤ To cite some of the points still remaining in the dark in the alleged shooting incident:

– There was no trace of gunshot residue on the right hand of the righty Mert Sucu on the day he was alleged to have fired his gun,

– However, gunshot residue was found on both hands of the special operations police who claim he did not fire any gun on that day,

– There was no DNA found on the gun, not even the gun’s owner Mert Sucu; the gun was wiped off,

– Three police officers who are said to have been at the scene gave contradictory statements in many details and even in the alleged course and sequence of events,

(Please find here the expert report prepared by experts in this field from the Republic of South Africa.)

– During their examination at the court, the judge gave clear hints to the testifying police officers to help them eliminate their contradictions and conflicting statements. He directly intervened, answered on their behalf some of the questions, and made such leading statements as “maybe it happened like this” suggesting and prompting the witnesses to answer in a particular way. The judge also did not allow the defendant to show the crime scene photographs he wanted to show.

– During his testimony in the last trial, the defendant Mert Sucu stated that during the first trial, he was brought to the courthouse by the prosecutors of the case for a secret unrecorded meeting and was told that he would be released right away if he said: “Adnan Oktar gave me the order and I shot at the police”. He also said that the previous presiding judge also came into the room and said; “do what the prosecutor says, make a statement against the group, Adnan Oktar will die in prison, and you will never see them again”. Unfortunately, the new panel of the court did not even investigate these highly unusual incidents, which was very easy to verify if they just checked the security footage of the courthouse.

These are just some of the major anomalies revealing that this allegation is a vital element of the conspiracy set against the group.

➤ The defense of the defendants on the merits was limited to 15 minutes for the defendants without arrest, and the defense of the defendants charged with as many as 15 crimes was limited to 1 hour only. The defendants’ rights to defense were seriously violated by limiting their time for the defense to an extremely short period of time.

➤ Although a verdict had not yet been established, the court ignored the presumption of innocence and repeatedly referred to the group as an “armed criminal organization.”

The court performed only a few of the 37 investigative actions that the Court of Appeal had required in its judgment of reversal, and completely ignored and did not carry out the others.

The presiding judge repeatedly made statements to show his partiality. He openly condemned a mother on the defendant’s stand, saying that the blouse her 9-year-old daughter was wearing -which was actually purchased from the children’s section- was “not age-appropriate, and didn’t even have straps“. He also questioned the same defendant over a photograph she had taken with Adnan Oktar, asking “why did you hold Adnan Oktar’s arm?”

➤ The court decided to continue the detainment of the defendants who had been released by the Court of Appeal despite the fact that these defendants willingly went to the police station knowing that they would be arrested and clearly have no intention to flee.

➤ The court changed the court’s schedule, which was originally set for the first two weeks of each month, and instead held hearings every working day without any break. However, this eventually denied the defendants who are in detention the right to meet with their lawyers, use the computer room, see a doctor, meet with their families, see the light of day every day, and their ability to prepare an effective defense. And their health deteriorated.

➤ In summary, it was apparent that the court had no interest in the evidence. The court continued hearing the trial without waiting for the outcome of the defendants’ appeals to the higher court and even sentenced the defendants despite the pending appeals for the recusal of the court panel.

➤ The court hurriedly asked the public prosecutor for his opinion on the merits, without taking many necessary procedural steps. On Friday, September 16th, 2022, at around 23:00, the court asked the public prosecutor for his opinion on the merits, and the prosecutor entered his opinion on the merits at noon on September 19th, 2022. The
opinion is 455 pages. There is only the weekend in between. In just half a business day, the legal opinion of the prosecution, which is almost an exact copy of the previous one of 2 years ago, was presented for the giant mediatized case with 215 defendants. In this opinion, no new evidence was taken into account, and not even a single reference was made to the 400-page documented and reasoned decision of the Court of Appeals.

➤ The court sentenced Adnan Oktar to a total of 8658 years in prison and all other defendants to the maximum limit, at the expense of disregarding the law and destroying their professional reputation. The case will go back to the Court of Appeal.

Before this operation on July 11, 2018, the defendants had good jobs, and good positions in society, they had no past convictions, and they were reputable citizens such as doctors, lawyers,  businessmen, columnists, businesswomen, and academicians. After this operation, they lost their jobs, properties, and reputations. 37 of them lost their elderly parents whose health worsened because of what their children had to go through. They couldn’t even attend their parents’ funerals. 

The rule of law is a must not for a certain area, but for the entire world and for all people. But surely with regards to Turkey, as a candidate for EU membership, it is particularly of utmost importance that the fundamental principles and values are respected. That’s why it’s important that we are supported by international institutions, not tolerating such injustice and violations of fundamental rights be inflicted on us, to help the rule of law prevail.