Court rules to keep Özgürlükçü Demokrasi employees in detention

6 December 2018

Elif Akgül, İstanbul – 14 former employees of Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, a now-defunct pro-Kurdish newspaper, appeared before İstanbul 23. High Criminal Court facing various terrorism charges. The court issued an arrest warrant for Mizgin Fendik, one of the defendants, and adjourned the hearing until February 12.

Former managing editor İshak Yasul, grant owner İhsan Yaşar, and editors Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Hicran Urun and Reyhan Hacıoğlu were present in the hearing. All five are currently detained. Ramazan Sola and Pınar Tarlak, who have been released pending trial, also attended. Fendik, Önder Elaldı, Günay Aksoy, Fırat Benli, Ersin Çaksu, Davut Uçar and Yılmaz Yıldız did not attend. Yıldız already had an arrest warrant issued in his name prior to the hearing.

The case began after both Özgürlükçü Demokrasi and Gün Printing House were raided by police on March 28 2018. During the raid multiple employees were arrested and of ‘terrorist propaganda’, ‘membership in a terrorist organization’ and ‘printing and publishing materials of a terrorist organization’. On July 8 2018, the government issued Statutory Decree 701 which forcibly closed Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, as well as the Halkın Nabzı and Welat newspapers and Avantaj TV.

Today’s hearing revolved around defense statements made by the defendants who were present. A confrontational tone was set from the start, when Hacıoğlu requested her release and alleged that “You are trying the profession of journalism, through us. This is not a legal process, but a political one.”

Urun followed on from Hacıoğlu by lampooning the evidence arrayed against the defendants. “The evidence against me were Kurdish songs, a photo of me working behind a desk, and a press release text. These are evidence of not ‘membership in a terrorist organization’ but of the state of the judiciary in Turkey.”

After issuing an arrest warrant for Fendik, the court ruled for all defendants currently detained to remain imprisoned in an interim basis and sent the case file to the prosecutor’s office for a final opinion to be prepared. The hearing was adjourned until February 21 2019.

Updated: December 10 2018