Özgür Gündem case hearing adjourned to October

16 July 2018

The trial of the 13 journalists who were sued for making “propaganda for a terrorist organisation” based upon their support for Özgür Gündem’s solidarity campaign has been adjourned to October 10.

The 8th hearing of the 13 journalists, who are facing ‘propaganda’ charges, was held in the Istanbul 14th Criminal Court in Çağlayan Courthouse. The defense lawyers were present whereas the defendants who are being tried due to their participation in the “Editor-in-Chief on Watch” campaign, were absent in the courtroom. The campaign was launched by Özgür Gündem daily, a pro-Kurdish news outlet and was aimed to show solidarity against oppression of free press, and draw attention to the pressure and violence of the state over Kurdish media.

During the previous hearing, the prosecutor, Ercan Gümüş, had expressed his opinion as to the accusations. Claiming that Hüseyin Aykol committed the successive offense of 'making propaganda for a terrorist organization,' Prosecutor Gümüş demanded imprisonment for up to 13 years as his punishment. The prosecutor had also demanded imprisonment for up to 7 and a half years of the President of Press Workers’ Union (DİSK Basın-İş) Faruk Eren, Evrensel daily writers İhsan Çaralan and Fehim Işık, journalists Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, Celal Başlangıç, Celalettin Can, Öncü Akgül, Hüseyin Aykol, Ömer Ağın, Dilşah Kocakaya, Mehmet Şirin Taşdemir, Veysel Kemer and Yüksel Oğuz, who took part in the solidarity campaign and became ‘Editors in Chief on Watch’.


Hüseyin Aykol and Fehim Işık’s attorney Özcan Kılıç argued that Aykol and Işık being held responsible as if they were authors is in conflict with the opinion of the prosecutor, both legally and procedurally. Attorney Kılıç remarked that Fehim Işık became an editor-in-chief on watch for only 1 day, and demanded the court to ask the Press Prosecution who the editor-in-chief was on the date of the crime. Kılıç stated “We think that it would only be duly and legally appropriate for the court to make a decision after our demands are investigated,” and requested additional time in order to make a counter statement over the prosecutor’s opinion as to the accusations against Celalettin Can. İhsan Çaralan’s attorney Devrim Avcı, reminded that Çaralan is being tried as the chief of the director in charge, and requested the court to send a letter to the Press Prosecution so that the then chief of the director in charge could be identified. Attorney Avcı claimed that Çaralan being tried as the chief of the director in charge is not in accordance with the principle of individual criminal responsibility, which is in conflict with the constitution and submitted a plea of unconstitutionality on that account. Celal Başlangıç’s attorney Fikret İlkiz made an objection on the same grounds as well, and demanded the cancellation of the case file due to unconstitutionality. İlkiz remarked that the elements of the propaganda charge have not been constituted and demanded acquittal.

The court made its interim decision and rejected the defense attorneys’ unconstitutionality objections, considering the stage of the proceedings and the content of the case file. The court then adjourned the next hearing to October 10, for the preparations of the defenses as to the accusations.

Cansu Pişkin, Istanbul