The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul launched several investigations concerning Reyhan Çapan, managing editor-in-chief of the now-closed Özgür Gündem newspaper, over the contents published in the newspaper in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Çapan was not detained over the investigations. She was called to the prosecutor’s office to give testimony. However, Çapan did not give defensive statements in any of the investigations concerning her.
Most of the articles and news items that were cited as evidence against her were not prepared by Çapan. However, the prosecutor’s office held Çapan responsible for said articles and news items as she was the managing editor-in-chief of the newspaper.
After the investigations were completed, 18 separate indictments were prepared concerning Çapan and submitted on different dates in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. The indictments were prepared by three different prosecutors.
The prosecutor, who prepared nine of the indictments concerning Çapan was one of the prosecutors who conducted the investigation publicly known as “17-25 December corruption and bribery operation”. Three ministers in the government and their children were implicated in the allegations of corruption and bribery as part of the operation launched at the end of 2013. As part of the investigation that was launched on 25 December 2013, then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his son Bilal Erdoğan were also called to give testimony as suspects. The prosecutor expelled from the legal profession following the operation. The prosecutor travelled abroad and several lawsuits were filed against him.
Meanwhile, the prosecutor who prepared one of the indictments concerning Çapan was the prosecutor who launched the investigation concerning the management, writers and correspondents of Cumhuriyet newspaper in October 2016. It was later revealed during the investigation concerning Cumhuriyet newspaper that the prosecutor was “tried over the allegations of being a FETO member”. Upon this finding, the prosecutor turned over the Cumhuriyet newspaper investigation.
It is worth noting that most of the indictments highlighted the fact that freedom of thought and expression were protected by the Constitution and established practices of the Court of Human Rights. However, the indictments asserted that “taking into account the established practices of the Court of Human Rights, expression of opinions that clearly encourage terror and violence cannot be evaluated within freedom of thought”.
The indictments charged Çapan over the articles and news items that were authored by other people or published anonymously. Charges were grounded on the third subsection of Article 11 of the Press Law. The indictments stated that the law contained the provision: “If the owner of a periodical was not specified or he/she did not hold criminal liability during the publication or he/she could not be tried due to being abroad, the acting manager, editor-in-chief or executive editor shall be held responsible”.
Çapan was charged over three different allegations in 18 different indictments.
Çapan was charged with “terrorist organisation propaganda” in accordance with Article 7/2 of the Law on Anti-Terrorism. The prosecution demanded that Çapan be sentenced to imprisonment of between one year and five years within this scope.
Çapan was also charged with “terrorist organisation propaganda by means of the media” in accordance with the second subsection of Article 7/2 of the Law on Anti-Terrorism. Accordingly, the prosecution demanded that the sentence of imprisonment of between one year and five years over the charge of “terrorist organisation propaganda” be increased by half. The prosecution then demanded that Çapan be sentenced to imprisonment of between eighteen months and seven years and six months.
The indictments charged Çapan with “printing or publishing the statements of terrorist organisations” in accordance with Article 6/2 of the Law on Anti-Terrorism. Fort his charge, the prosecution demanded that Çapan be sentenced to imprisonment of between one year and three years.
The prosecution also demanded a judicial fine of between 1,000 days and 5,000 days in accordance with the fourth subsection of Article 6/2 of the Law on Anti-Terrorism. According to this, Çapan was held responsible for the publication “despite not becoming complicit in the crime of printing or publishing statements of terrorist organisations”.
In total, the indictments demanded that Çapan be sentenced to imprisonment of three years and six months and 15 years and six months and a judicial fine of between 1,000 days and 5,000 days.
The 18 indictments concerning Çapan were merged and accepted by the 2nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
The trial concerning Reyhan Çapan commenced with the first hearing at the 2nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 4 December 2014. Çapan presented her two-page written defensive statement to the court. She stated that she had no criminal intent. Attorney Özcan Kılıç stated that the articles subject to the charges concerning Çapan were written by other people. The court provided additional time for the presentation of documents regarding the sources of said articles and the hearing was adjourned.
The second hearing of the trial took place on 5 March 2015. The hearing was adjourned to receive Çapan’s defensive statements against other cases that were merged.
The third hearing of the trial took place on 11 May 2015.
Çapan stated that her defensive statement concerning the new and merged cases was the same as her previous statement.
The fourth hearing of the trial took place on 2 June 2015. The hearing was adjourned to receive defensive statements of the people who were named as the authors of the articles and news items that led to Çapan’s trial.
The subsequent hearings of the trial were adjourned to wait for the fulfilment of the arrest warrants issued for the defendants who were named as the authors of the articles and news items that led to Çapan’s trial and who were tried with Çapan.
The sixteenth hearing of the trial took place on 18 March 2020. The hearing was adjourned for the same reasons.
The seventeenth hearing of the trial took place on 23 September 2020. One member of the panel of judges had changed. Çapan and her attorney Özcan Kılıç did not attend this hearing and the hearing did not take place. The court ruled to wait for the fulfilment of the arrest warrants issued concerning some individuals who were tried with Çapan.
The court ruled that the trial would continue with the eighteenth hearing on 26 January 2021.
The prosecutor’s office has still not presented its opinion as to the accusations in the trial which commenced in December 2014.
Press in Arrest is a database, monitoring, documentation and collective memory study of Press Research Association.
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