Aykol-Kızılkaya Trial for Insulting the President

On August 11, 2016, Prosecutor of the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, Press Crimes Investigation Bureau, drafted an indictment against Hüseyin Aykol, Co-Editor in Chief of the Özgür Gündem newspaper, and İnan Kızılkaya, the managing editor of the newspaper.

The indictment concerned the news story published on the first page of Özgür Gündem dated April 8, 2016 with the title “Şahsı İçin Ülkeyi Yıkıyor” (“He Destroys the Country for Self-Interest”). The following expressions were presented as the ground for accusation: “Upon Erdoğan’s orders for the demolition of buildings in Silopi, a 70-year-old grandmother and a 2-year baby were killed”, “Bahçeli says, either me or the country. Erdoğan, having reached an agreement with the Ergenekon group in return for his presidency, continues to give massacre orders.” The other news stories subject to investigation were “Erdoğan Kelle Avcılığına Soyundu” (“Erdoğan Tries His Hand in Headhunting”) published on page 7 of the newspaper and “2 Yaşındaki Bebeği Katlettiler” (“They Massacred a 2-Year-Old Baby) published on page 8.

In the indictment, the prosecutor stated the following about these stories: “These news articles make statements against the President concerning the incidents of Şırnak and Silopi, which exceed the limits of criticism and of freedom of expression to insult the President. Although it was possible to report the event within the limits of proper criticism, the President was defamed, being portrayed as a headhunter giving massacre orders, making threats and issuing genocidal orders. As such the stories constitute the crime of insulting the President.”

The Istanbul Second Criminal Court of First Instance accepted this indictment mentioning President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as complainant.

On August 23 2016, another indictment, drafted by Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office, Press Crimes Investigation Bureau prosecutor, was sent to the same court with the request to merge the two indictments. In this indictment mentioning Aykol and Kızılkaya as suspects, President Erdoğan figured as complainant. The indictment cited the following phrases to charge the suspects for “insulting the president.” The news article titled “Fitnenin başı bu zirvededir” (“The chief of enmity is at this summit”) on the 1st page of the newspaper dated April 15, 2016, read “…Although he argues that sectarianism is equal to instigating enmity, Erdoğan supports ISIS and provokes animosity against the Kurds, making many feel that the real chief of enmity is right here in this summit.”

Another indictment drafted by prosecutor on September 20, 2016 mentioned Eren Keskin, Özgür Gündem’s editor-in-chief and İnan Kızılkaya, its managing editor, as suspects. President Erdoğan again figured as complainant. The ground for accusation was the news story titled “Erdoğan’ın Dediği Oldu” (“Erdoğan Carried the Day”) published on page 1 of the issue dated March 23, 2016.

A prosecutor at the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office Press Crimes Investigation Bureau, drafted another indictment on October 7, 2016 charging Kızılkaya and Aykol of “insulting the President.” The article titled “Vahşete Saray ödülü” (“The Palace Awards Atrocity”) published on page 1 of the issue dated April 25, 2016, was the subject of this indictment. The indictment was dispatched to the same court with a request for merger.

In yet another indictment drafted by Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office, Press Crimes Investigation Bureau prosecutor, on October 26, 2016 mentioned the writer İhsan Çaralan and managing editor İnan Kızılkaya as suspects and President Erdoğan as complainant. The ground for charges was the story titled “Aynı Yer Aynı Katil“ (“Same Place, Same Killer“) on the 1st page of the issue dated May 31, 2016.

Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, Press Crimes Investigation Bureau Prosecutor also drafted an indictment against İnan Kızılkaya on December 21, 2016 for “Insulting the President”, concerning the article titled “Tarihi Uyarı” (“ Historical Warning”) published on August 4, 2016. President Erdoğan figured as complainant in this indictment as well.

These six separate indictments sent to the Istanbul Second Criminal Court of First Instance were merged. The first hearing of the trial took place in January 2017.

The verdict was issued on the 9th hearing held on October 25, 2018.

Aykol and Kızılkaya were sentenced to 1 year 6 months in prison on charges of ”insulting the President.” The judge stated that the journalists committed this crime publicly and increased the sentence to 1 year 9 months in prison.

The judge, claiming that the journalists had committed the same crime multiple times, increased the sentence further to 2 years, 2 months and 8 days. Then, in consideration of the conduct of the journalists during court, the judge reduced their sentences to 1 year, 10 months and 26 days. The judge ordered a deferment of the announcement of the verdict for Kızılkaya, and a probation period of 5 years.

The judge sentenced İhsan Çaralan to one year in prison for the same offense. Claiming that Çaralan had committed this crime publicly, the judge increased the sentence to 1 year and 2 months in prison. Then, in consideration of Çaralan’s behavior in court, the judge reduced the sentence to 11 months and 20 days. The judge ordered a deferment of the announcement of the verdict, and a probation period of 5 years.

As for Eren Keskin, the judge stated that other trials on the same charges were underway at the Istanbul Second Criminal Court of First Instance concerning her, and ruled that this trial be dropped since the other trials covered the date of this accusation as well.

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