İshak Yasul and Hicran Urun are released in the Özgürlükçü Demokrasi trial

10 April 2019

During the Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper trial, the court ordered the release of İshak Yasul and Hicran Urun pending the outcome of their trial with a travel ban, ruled for the continuation of the detainment of Reyhan Hacıoğlu, Mehmet Ali Çelebi and İhsan Yaşar, and adjourned the trial until 28 June

İstanbul - Fourth hearing of the trial where fourteen staff members of the Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper face membership in a terrorist organization and terrorist propaganda charges resumed at İstanbul 23rd High Criminal Court today. Five of the defendants are tried whilst in detention. Four of these detained defendants were present in the courtroom today: the newspaper’s Managing Editor İshak Yasul, publisher İhsan Yaşar and editors Mehmet Ali Çelebi and Hicran Urun, whereas Reyhan Hacıoğlu did not attend the hearing..

The prosecutor presented their final opinion as to the accusations. The opinion requested the continuation of the defendants’ detainment. Following the prosecutor, the journalists presented their defense statements.  

“We stand trial for our journalistic activities only”

Detained defendant İshak Yasul stated: “We do not want the length of our detention to go unnoticed. There is no evidence. If you’re looking for membership in anything, I have a membership at the Civil Registry Office as a citizen of this country. Why have I been here for a year? Why are we deprived of our fundamental human rights? We stand trial for our journalistic activities only,” and demanded his release.

İhsan Yaşar took the floor next and said that he would like to talk about the hunger strike. The presiding judge interrupted Yaşar and said, “Come to the point. Come to the defense. Don’t talk to me about any hunger strikes.” Following this reaction, Yaşar requested his release.

“Kurds writing news stories and pressing the shutter are considered crimes”

Mehmet Ali Çelebi stated the following: “Our right to communication is limited. The conditions of the prison are dire. People face solitary confinement when they disagree with or object to something. Dozens of people are on hunger strike at the moment. Cihan Demir is wasting away in our ward because of the hunger strike.”  While Çelebi was talking about the hunger strike, the judge interrupted again and said, “We’re interested in your defense, not the hunger strikes.” Çelebi continued: “Kurds to hold a pen, press the shutter, and write news stories are considered as crimes. Journalism is not a crime. No power should stand between press and the public. The indictment is based on abstract reasons although there is no concrete presumption about us.” Çelebi ended his statement by requesting his release.

Hicran Urun, another detained defendant, said, “It’s journalism that’s on trial here. We’ve been trying to defend journalism here. Trials against press freedom are the shame of Turkish judiciary.”   

Defendants Pınar Tarlak and Ramazan Sola, who stand trial without detention, requested additional time for their defenses.

Lawyer Özcan Kılıç said, “We’ve come across many indictments based on political arguments” and requested additional time for defense. Pınar Tarlak’s lawyer Meral Hanbayat also requested additional time. İshak Yasul’s lawyers Nurefşan Torunoğlu Yasul, Müslüm Kocaoğlu and Taha Enes Yasul requested additional time as well. Müslüm Kocaoğlu made a brief statement and said “It is clear that the allegations remained as mere claims throughout the proceedings.” Lawyer Taha Enes Yasul noted that the prosecutor’s opinion was “far from conscience and humanity.” The judge interrupted the lawyer and said, “Please pay attention to what you’re saying. You cannot talk like that.”

Following a short break for deliberation, the court ordered the release of İshak Yasul and Hicran Urun pending the outcome of their trial with a travel ban, ruled for the continuation of the detainment of Reyhan Hacıoğlu, Mehmet Ali Çelebi and İhsan Yaşar.

The trial is adjourned until 28 June.

The 67-page indictment accusing the staff of Özgürlükçü Demokrasi of "terrorist propaganda" refers mostly to news stories that are about Turkey’s military operation in Afrin, Syria.