7 are handed down prison sentences in Özgür Gündem columnists’ trial

21 May 2019
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In the trial where Özgür Gündem daily’s executives and columnists faced “terrorist propaganda” charges, 7 were sentenced to prison including Eren Keskin, Reyhan Çapan and Hüseyin Aykol

İstanbul - In the trial where since shuttered Özgür Gündem daily’s Co-Editors-in-Chief, Managing Editor, and 21 columnists faced “terrorist propaganda” charges, 7 people were handed down prison sentences while 8 were acquitted. The case was separated for 7 defendants.

Fourteenth hearing of the trial was held at İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court today. Many journalists and representatives from the Irish Embassy monitored the hearing in solidarity with the writers.

Defendants Eren Keskin and Reyhan Çapan attended the hearing and stated that the columns and news stories listed in the case file should be considered within freedom of expression and demanded their acquittals. Tayyip Temel, who is currently in prison due to a conviction from a different case, attended the hearing via video-conference and presented a defense statement, emphasizing the significance of freedom of expression. Lawyers repeated these statements and requested their clients’ acquittal.

The court did not let journalists and observes inside the courtroom while announcing the verdict.

The court handed down the following prison sentences for “propaganda” charges: 1 year 3 months for Ayşe Batumlu and Reyhan Hacıoğlu, 3 years and 9 months for Eren Keskin and Reyhan Çapan, 2 years 1 month for Hüseyin Aykol and 1 year 6 months for Hüseyin Güçlü and Tahir Temel.

The court ruled to acquit Ayşe Berktay, Celalettin Can, Cemal Bozkurt, Çetin Ulu, Nuray Özdoğan, Özlem Söyer, Emrullah Kurcan, Ergin Atabey for “propaganda” charges.

The case is dismissed on behalf of Bülent Alp and Ruhat Kaya due to the statute of limitations specified in the Turkish Press Law. The case is separated for Filiz Koçali, Enver Baysal, Hasan Başak, İhsan Yorulmaz, Muzaffer Ayata, Serbest Zan and Züleyha Yılmaz since their arrest warrants could not be executed and defense statement not heard.

Prison sentences of lawyer Ayşe Batumlu and Reyhan Hacıoğlu, who is in prison for a sentence from a separate case, are deferred per Turkish Penal Code Article 51(1).

Background

The Özgür Gündem newspaper was shut down on 30 October  2016 under Cabinet Decree 675 during Turkey’s post-coup-attempt State of Emergency. Various trials where Co-Editors-in-Chief Eren Keskin and Hüseyin Aykol, Managing Editor legally liable for publication content Reyhan Çapan and columnists Filiz Koçali, Ayşe Berktay, Nuray Özdoğan, Celalettin Can, Ayşe Batumlu, Reyhan Hacıoğlu, Bülent Alp, Cemal Bozkurt, Çetin Ulu, Emrullah Kurcan, Ruhat Kaya, Serbest Zan, Tahir Temel, Enver Baysal, Ergin Atabey, Hasan Başak, Hüseyin Güçlü, İhsan Yorulmaz and  Muzaffer Ayata who faced separate charges of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization,” “praising a crime and a criminal,” and “openly inciting the public to commit a crime” were merged into a single trial.

The Prosecutor’s Office had submitted a final opinion as to the accusations on 26 October 2017 and demanded defendants Reyhan Çapan, Eren Keskin and Hüseyin Aykol to be punished for “successively making propaganda for a terrorist organization through press,” adding that there was no ground to punish other defendants.  

Currently, Keskin is a suspect in 47 different trials while Aykol is being tried in 38 cases.