On August 16, 2016, Istanbul 8. Criminal Court of Peace ordered that Özgür Gündem newspaper be shuttered for “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization”.
On the day of the court order for closing down the newspaper, the newspaper building was raided by the police. While the police searched the building, they disrupted the IMC TV team who were doing a live broadcast. Twenty-two people including newspaper editors, the editor-in-chief and IMC TV reporters who were there for an interview were beaten and detained, with their hands handcuffed behind their back. The individuals in custody were released after their statements were taken by prosecutors on August 28, 2016.
The indictment was accepted by Istanbul 5. Criminal Court of First Instance; a lawsuit was filed against 22 people, 17 of whom were journalists. Three police officers from Anti-Terror Branch who took part in the raid figured as complainants in the indictment.
The police officers who participated in the raid were heard at the court as complainants and witnesses. The confiscated materials belonging to the detained journalists have still not been returned.
The 7th hearing of the case could not be held 2 June 2020, as planned. The trial, postponed to 22 October 2020 due to Coronavirus pandemic measures.
The trial was supposed to continue with the seventh hearing on June 2nd, 2020. However, the hearing was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The eighth hearing took place on October 22nd, 2020. The president of the court had changed. Observers were not allowed to the courtroom on the pretext of the measures against the pandemic. The journalists and other defendants on trial did not attend the hearing.
The court, in previous hearings, had demanded from Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office the phones seized during the raid on the newspaper. In the response from the Chief Prosecutor’s Office, it was stated that the phones had been seized by Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court, conducting the trial popularly known as “Özgür Gündem Newspaper Main Trail”.
Lawyer Özcan Kılıç stated that this file had nothing to do with the “Özgür Gündem Newspaper Main Trail” and that the digital materials seized for the Özgür Gündem Newspaper investigation had already been returned to them. Lawyer Hazal Pekşen Demirhan stated that “the phones seized for this file are nowhere to be found” and required “that the location of these items be identified”.
In response to lawyers’ request for the delivery of journalists’ phones, the court ruled that there “is no reason for such a decision”, arguing that “no such item or attachment is present in the file”. The court ruled that the case file shall be examined for the verdict.
The trial will continue with the ninth hearing on February 16th, 2021.
Press in Arrest is a database, monitoring, documentation and collective memory study of Press Research Association.
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