Former MP Eren Erdem is sentenced to 4 years and 2 months in prison

1 March 2019

Cansu Pişkin, İstanbul - Eren Erdem is sentenced to 4 years and 2 months in prison for “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization without being a member” during the trial targeting the since shut down Karşı daily’s staff, who are accused of FETÖ connections.

The fourth hearing of the trial where 12 defendants, including Karşı daily’s Editor-in-Chief at the time and former CHP MP Eren Erdem who has been in pre-trial detention, face charges for reporting on the tape recordings regarding the 17-25 December 2013 corruption scandal was held at İstanbul 23rd High Criminal Court. Detained defendants Eren Erdem and Onur Kala were present in the courtroom alongside defendants who are tried without arrest, and their lawyers. CHP MPs were among the many who monitored the hearing.

The prosecutor was changed three times

The prosecutor had presented their opinion in the previous hearing and requested a prison sentence of 8.5 to 19 years for Eren Erdem on “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization without being a member” and “breach of confidentiality” charges. The prosecutor who had prepared the opinion has been replaced at this hearing. It was also revealed that detained defendant Onur Kala benefited from effective remorse law between hearings. Following the reading of files added to the case between hearings, the witness was heard. In his witness testimony, Kemal Özkiraz claimed that defendant Emre Erciş had casted aspersions against Eren Erdem to get him arrested and said, “I’ve heard Emre Erciş say about Erdem, ‘I know that he is not a FETÖ guy but I am not done with him, I will keep on going until I get him arrested’ twice.” Emre Erciş did not accept this witness testimony against him. While presenting his defense against the opinion as to the accusations, detained defendant Onur Kala stated that he has nothing to do with politics and demanded his release.”

 “I’m only a member of BJK and CHP”

Then, Eren Erdem presented a statement regarding the prosecutor’s opinion as to the accusations. Erdem said that he believes the court had given him a fair trial and that his defense will not be a political but a legal one. Erdem stated, “You released me but the 24th High Criminal Court arrested me again due to an objection. You examined the case diligently before making your decision, whereas the 24th High Criminal Court examined 65 folders of files in the blink of an eye and said ‘let’s keep this man behind bars, there is reasonable doubt for him to flee’ following the prosecutor’s objection. There is only one ground for my punishment and that is the statements of secret witnesses. The secret witness says during the hearing that he had not seen anyone called ‘Yusuf,’ then on Beyaz TV he says, ‘Someone called Yusuf brought the CDs in a chocolate box.’ We have filed a lawsuit against this individual and the TV channel.” Erdem reminded the Constitutional Court’s decision which ruled that “statement from a secret witness cannot be the sole ground when ruling a sentence.” Noting that the prosecutor has been changed thrice during the trial, Erdem said, “All pieces of evidence presented in the indictment have been scrutinized and it was revealed that they are all inconsequential. There is nothing left for me to answer regarding the indictment. In my opinion, I have already been acquitted per this indictment. If you really need to give me a political sentence, do it besides FETÖ. If you really need to accuse me of membership in a terrorist organization, find a different organization. There are only two organizations that I am a member of and those are Beşiktaş and CHP.”

Erdem: “The prosecutor’s opinion gets me high”

Reminding that Aydınlık daily had been acquitted in the case about the MİT (National Intelligence Service) trailer trucks, Erdem stated, “I’ve been in prison for 9 months due to an illogical perception management policy. My son thinks that I work at the airport and according to him, I am a pilot. But I really do feel like a pilot because the prosecutor’s opinion as to the accusations gets me high. There’s no need for rakı, I don’t crave it at all. I get some cheese from the prison commissary and read the prosecutor’s opinion with it. I’ve been held in solitary confinement intentionally. The prosecutor summoned me to his office and said, “Solitary confinement is hard, eh? But CHP does have connections to FETÖ” and I’ve been in this situation for 9 months for not selling anybody out. I have nothing to benefit from that effective remorse law nonsense and if I’ll get a sentence for this reason, I’ll go ahead and just serve my sentence. This case must be heard in a commercial court because there is commercial enmity against the newspaper’s owner. Because the newspaper went bankrupt. It went bankrupt because its daily circulation decreased by thirty thousand overnight,” and demanded his release and acquittal: “If I get acquitted, I will not file a lawsuit at the European Court of Human Rights against Turkey.”

“The lawsuit must be abetted due to the Press Law”

Onur Cingil, who is one of Erdem’s lawyers, said, “The prosecutor’s opinion goes against not just the law but morality for he cannot present any piece of evidence pertaining to the attributed crime. The indictment should present justified reasons instead of using copy-pasted phrases. These proceedings should not cause an unlawful sentence. A sentence would not be a way to fight terrorism here; on the contrary, it would be a way to play into the hands of terrorism.” Emphasizing that material and moral elements of the accusations are not constituted, Cingil demanded Erdem’s acquittal and release. Lawyer Zeynel Öztürk stated that this is a newspaper trial and that the committed actions, regardless of what those action may entail, are subject to the Press Law. Reminding that the accusations outlined in the indictment are from 2013, Öztürk argued that the lawsuit must be abetted because it was filed much later then the required deadline.

Defendant Kutlu Esendemir’s lawyer Taylan Tanay stated, “Accusing my client of terror-related charges with constrained methods is unacceptable. The indictment has nothing on him that constitutes a crime. He is accused of working for Karşı daily. This is no different from medieval clan law. In those times, when someone committed a crime his entire clan was punished. To accuse my client only for his profession is not acceptable in modern criminal law. The principle of individual criminal responsibility has been violated here. My client has been experiencing unjust suffering for two years now, he still has not received his passport” and demanded Esendemir’s acquittal. Onur Kala’s lawyer Bahadır Behzat Polat said, “This is a political case. My client is neither a politician nor a journalist, he’s just a tradesman. We demand release.”

Turan Ababay is arrested

Following a two-and-a-half-hour break for deliberation, the court announced its verdict. The court ruled the case to be separated for defendants Ufuk Emin Köroğlu, Emrah Direk, Değer Özergün, Mehmet Aydoğmuş, Murat Kazancı, whose arrest warrants could not be carried out. The court also decided that detained defendant Onur Kala’s case shall proceed with a different file number and sentenced Kala to 3 years 1 month and 15 days in prison for “membership in a terrorist organization,” ruling the continuation of his detention. While the court acquitted Mehmet Bozkurt and Kutlu Esendemir, Emre Erciş was sentenced to 3 years, 1 month and 15 days for “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization without being a member.”  Turan Ababey was sentenced to 4 years and 2 months in prison for “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization without being a member” and the court requested his arrest since Ababey was on trial without detention. The court acquitted Eren Erdem on “breach of confidentiality” charges and ruled a 4 years and 2 months prison sentence for “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization without being a member” charges.