Önderoğlu, Fincancı, Nesin - "Özgür Gündem Newspaper Solidarity" Trial

Özgür Gündem Newspaper was “temporarily” shut down on 16 August 2016 by the ruling of 8th Criminal Court of Peace of Istanbul. Following the ruling, the prosecutor’s office filed a lawsuit concerning Eren Kesin and Hüseyin Aykol, co-chief editors of the newspaper and İnan Kızılkaya, managing editor. Between 3 May 2016 and 7 August 2016, a campaign named Editors-in-Chief on Watch was carried out to support the journalists. The newspaper was “fully” shut down by Statutory Decree 675 of 29 October 2016 issued as part of the State of Emergency rule declared following the military coup attempt on 15 July 2016.

Following the coup attempt on 15 July 2016, the government shut down many media outlets by statutory decrees that were put into effect without the parliament’s approval.

56 journalists participated in the Editors-in-Chief on Watch campaign that was initiated to support Özgür Gündem newspaper. Investigations commenced concerning 49 of the journalists. A decision not to prosecute was in 11 of the investigations. The case against Deniz Türkali lapsed due to statute of limitations of the investigation.

Journalists for whom a decision not to prosecute was made

The following 11 people were investigated for participating in the campaign and for whom a decision not to prosecute was made:

İhsan Eliaçık, Sebahat Tuncel, Ahmet Abakay, Eşber Yağmurdereli, Hasip Kaplan, Işın Eliçin, Kemal Can, Mustafa Sönmez, Melda Onur, Uğur Karadaş, Nurcan Baysal.

37 lawsuits were filed concerning the journalists who supported the Editors-in-Chief on Watch campaign. The trials took place at the 13th, 14th and 22nd High Criminal Courts of Istanbul.

Journalists who were put on trial

37 people who were brought before the court are as follows:

A. Kumru Başer, Ahmet Nesin, Ayşe Batumlu, Ayşe Düzkan, Beyza Üstün, Can Dündar, Celal Başlangıç, Celalettin Can, Cengiz Baysoy, Çilem Küçükkeleş, Derya Okatan, Dicle Anter, Erol Önderoğlu, Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, Faruk Balıkçı, Faruk Eren, Fehim Işık, Hüseyin Tahmaz, Hakkı Boltan, Hasan Cemal, Hasan Hayri Şanlı, İbrahim Bodur, İhsan Çaralan, Julide Kural, Murat Çelikkan, Murat Uyurkulak, Nadire Mater, Necmiye Alpay, Nevin Erdemir, Öncü Akgül, Ragıp Duran, Said Sefa, Şanar Yurdatapan, Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Tuğrul Eryılmaz, Veysi Altay, Yıldırım Türker.

Kızılkaya was a defendant in all 37 cases

İnan Kızılkaya, the managing editor of Özgür Gündem newspaper was the only defendant listed in all 37 cases against the acting editors-in-chief of Özgür Gündem newspaper. A majority of the cases against Kızılkaya were merged with the case file publicly known as the “Özgür Gündem Main Court Case.”

Charges

The journalists who supported Özgür Gündem newspaper as acting editors-in-chief were charged over articles of the Turkish Penal Code and the Law on Anti-Terrorism which stipulate imprisonment sentences. The charges and stipulated imprisonment sentences are as follows:

. Imprisonment of between one year and five years in accordance with Article 7/2 of the Law on Anti-Terrorism on the charges of “terrorist organisation propaganda”,
. Imprisonment of between one year and three years in accordance with Article 6 of the Law on Anti-Terrorism on the charges of “publishing and broadcasting declarations and statements of terrorist organisations”,
. Imprisonment up to two years in accordance with Article 215/1 of the Turkish Penal Code on the charges of “publicly inciting people to commit a crime”,
. Imprisonment of between six months and five years in accordance with Article 213/1 of the Turkish Penal Code on the charges of “praising offences and offenders.”

27 Acting Editors-in-Chief were sentenced

At the end of the trial process, 27 people who participated in the campaign were sentenced in total to imprisonment of 352 months and 15 days and to a judicial fine of TRY 68,000. The people who were sentenced are:

Şanar Yurdatapan, İbrahim Bodur, Cengiz Baysoy, İmam Canpolat, Çilem Küçükkeleş, Nadire Mater, Yıldırım Türker, Hasan Cemal, Faruk Balıkçı, Dicle Anter, Derya Okatan, Kumru Başer, Ayşe Batumlu, Jülide Kural, İlham Bakır, Murat Uyurkulak, Murat Çelikkan, Beyza Üstün, Nevin Erdemir, Hakkı Boltan, Hasan Hayri Şanlı and Tuğrul Eryılmaz, Hüseyin Aykol, Ayşe Düzkan, Ragıp Duran, Mehmet Ali Çelebi and Hüseyin Bektaş.

Çelikkan and Düzkan were sentenced to imprisonment

Murat Çelikkan, one of the acting editors-in-chief whose sentence was not suspended, was taken to Kırklareli Prison on 14 August 2017. He was taken to an open prison on 14 October 2017, and was released on 21 October 2017.

Ayşe Düzkan, another acting editor-in-chief whose sentence was not suspended, was taken to Bakırköy Women’s Prison to complete her sentence on 29 January following the approval of the imprisonment sentence of one year and six months by the court of appeals. Düzkan was released from Eskişehir Open Prison where she had been transferred on 12 June 2019.

Three remanded journalists were released; but the ruling was overturned

Erol Önderoğlu, Ahmet Nesin and Şebnem Korur Fincancı were the first people to be remanded under the investigation. These three journalists were remanded on 20 June 2016 and were released 10 days later. The three journalists were acquitted in the 11th hearing of the trial on 17 July 2019. The prosecutor’s office objected to the ruling concerning the journalists’ acquittal. The court of appeals overturned the rulings on 20 October 2020. The retrial concerning the three journalists then commenced.

Journalists Faruk Eren, İhsan Çaralan, Fehim Işık, Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, Celal Başlangıç, Celalettin Can, Ömer Ağın, Öncü Akgül and Hüseyin Aykol were among the journalists who supported the “Editors-in-Chief on Watch” campaign. These journalists were placed under investigation. They were charged over the news and articles published in Özgür Gündem newspaper on the days they acted as the newspaper’s editors-in-chief.

The indictments concerning the journalists were completed separately by the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul. İnan Kızılkaya, the managing editor of the newspaper, was listed as a defendant in all indictments.

The indictment charged journalists Faruk Eren, İhsan Çaralan, Fehim Işık, Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, Celal Başlangıç, Celalettin Can, Ömer Ağın and Öncü Akgül with “terrorist organisation propaganda” in accordance with Article 7/2 of the Law on Anti-Terrorism. The prosecution demanded that the journalists be sentenced to imprisonment of between one year and five years. In addition, they were charged with “incitement to crime” according to Article 214/1 of the Turkish Penal Code. The prosecution demanded that the journalists be sentenced to an additional imprisonment of between six months and five years on this charge. The indictment also charged the journalists with “praising offences and offenders” according to Article 215/1 of the Turkish Penal Code. The prosecution demanded that the journalists be sentenced to an additional imprisonment of two years over this charge.

In total, the prosecution demanded that the journalists be sentenced to imprisonment of between eighteen months and 12 years.

The prosecution also demanded the same sentence for Hüseyin Aykol, the former co-editor-in-chief of Özgür Gündem newspaper, on the same charges.

NOTE: However, multiple indictments that cited articles and news prepared concerning Aykol and published during the “Editors-in-Chief on Watch” campaign organised to act in solidarity with Özgür Gündem newspaper were added to this indictment concerning Hüseyin Aykol.

Aykol was charged with “terrorist organisation propaganda”, “praising offences and offenders”, “publicly incitement to crime”, “making potential targets of people who took part in counter terrorism” with the merged indictments.

Not all of the documents concerning Aykol’s trial could be obtained. This section will be updated as more files are obtained.

The journalists’ trials started on different dates as the indictments concerning them were prepared separately.

The case files concerning the nine journalists were merged on 21 February 2017. Meanwhile, the case file concerning Kızılkaya, the managing editor of the newspaper, was separated from this file again on 21 February 2017 and merged with the case file publicly known as the “Özgür Gündem Newspaper Case”.

The fourth hearing of the trial that continued after the files were merged took place on 7 May 2018. The prosecutor for the hearing presented the opinion of the prosecution as to the accusations in this hearing.

The opinion of the prosecution charged the journalists with “terrorist organisation propaganda” in accordance with Article 7/2 of the Law on Anti-Terrorism. The opinion asserted that the journalists committed the crime of “terrorist organisation propaganda” “by means of the media”. Thus, the prosecution demanded that the sentence be increased by half in accordance with the second clause of Article 7/2 of the Law on Anti-Terrorism. However, the previous indictment had charged the journalists with “terrorist organisation propaganda”. The opinion of the prosecution demanded that the journalists be sentenced to imprisonment of between eighteen months and seven years and six months

The opinion of the prosecution did not demand the journalists to be sentenced over the charges “praising offences and offenders” and “incitement to crime”. However, the indictment had charged the journalists with these crimes.

The tenth hearing of the trial took place on 28 March 2019.

The court had demanded the publication and copyright records of Özgür Gündem newspaper in previous hearings from the Press Office of the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul. It was announced at this hearing that the prosecutor’s office had sent the requested documents. According to documentation, the names of “editors-in-chief on watch” were included in the newspaper’s publication and copyright records for one day.

The eleventh and final hearing of the trial took place on 3 April 2019.

The court ruled that journalists Faruk Eren, İhsan Çaralan, Fehim Işık, Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, Celal Başlangıç, Celalettin Can, Ömer Ağın and Öncü Akgül be sentenced to imprisonment of one year on the charge of “terrorist organisation propaganda” in accordance with Article 7/2 of the Law on Anti-Terrorism. However, the court ruled that “the crime of terrorist organisation propaganda was committed by means of the media”. Thus, the journalists’ sentences were increased to fifteen months in accordance with the second clause of Article 7/2 of the Law on Anti-Terrorism.

The court ruled that it was not necessary to convict the journalists on the charges of “publicly inciting to crime” and “praising offences and offenders”.

Ömer Ağın was acquitted of all charges.

The pronouncement of the judgment concerning Eren, Işık, Mavioğlu, Başlangıç and Akgül was not delayed; but the court ruled that their imprisonment sentence be postponed. The pronouncement of the judgment concerning İhsan Çaralan was delayed.

The court ruled that Aykol be acquitted of the charges of “terrorist organisation propaganda”, “praising offences and offenders” and “publicly inciting to crime” over the article titled “Sürgünlere Doyamadılar” [They Couldn’t Exile Enough].

The court also made its ruling concerning Aykol on the charges included in the merged files in this hearing.

The court declined to issue a ruling on charges of “terrorist organisation propaganda”, “praising offences and offenders” and “publicly inciting to crime” asserted in other indictments.

The court also ruled that Aykol be acquitted of the charge of “making potential targets of people who took part in counter terrorism” asserted in another indictment.

However, the court ruled that Hüseyin Aykol be sentenced to imprisonment of two years on the charge of “terrorist organisation propaganda” in accordance with Article 7/2 of the Law on Anti-Terrorism. The court ruled that “the crime was committed by means of media”. Thus the sentence was increased by half to three years in accordance with the second clause of Article 7/2 of the Law on Anti-Terrorism. The court ruled that “the crime was committed consecutively”. Thus, the sentence concerning Aykol was increased to four years and six months in accordance with Article 43 of the Turkish Penal Code. The imprisonment sentence was then reduced to three years and nine months due to Aykol’s “good conduct, attitude and behaviour during the trial process”. The pronouncement of the judgment was not delayed; the imprisonment sentence was not postponed.

The Appeals Process

Attorneys of the journalists Celal Başlangıç, Celal Başlangı, Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, Fehim Işık, Hüseyin Aykol and Öncü Akgül launched an appeal against the imprisonment sentences at the court of appeals.

The appeals process was carried out by the 3rd Penal Chamber of the Istanbul Circuit Courts of Appeals. The Chamber delivered its ruling on 15 September 2020.

The imprisonment sentence concerning the journalists was approved by the Chamber. The court of appeals found the ruling of the local court lawful.

The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul objected to the ruling which did not convict Celalettin Can on the charges of “publicly inciting crime” and “praising offences and offenders” and the ruling by which the local court acquitted Ömer Ağın at the court of appeals.

The court of appeals ruled that the rulings concerning Can and Ağın were lawful and approved them.

All rulings were unanimous.

Retrial

After the court of appeal overruled the verdict, the trial concerning Önderoğlu, Fincancı and Nisan resumed.

The retrial will commence on February 3rd, 2021.

Contact: pressinarrest@gmail.com

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