The Istanbul 8th Criminal Court of Peace “temporarily” shut down the newspaper Özgür Gündem on August 16, 2016. Previously, in order to support the newspaper in the face of mounting pressure, the “Editor-in-chief on Watch” campaign had been launched on May 3, 2016, whereby prominent individuals took turns as the editor-in-chief of the newspaper. The campaign had become necessary after lawsuits were filed against the newspaper’s co-editors-in-chief Eren Keskin and Hüseyin Aykol, and its managing editor İnan Kızılkaya.
The campaign ended on August 7, 2016. Özgür Gündem was permanently shut down by Decree Law no. 675 on October 29, 2016.
Investigations were launched against 49 of the 56 editors-in-chief on watch who joined the campaign. Eleven of these investigations ended in a verdict of non-prosecution. Thirty-seven lawsuits were filed. The lawsuit against Deniz Türkali was dropped due to statute of limitations.
The lawsuits took place in Istanbul’s 13th, 14th, and 22th High Criminal Courts.
Charges were pressed against these 37 individuals: A. Kumru Başer, Ahmet Nesin, Ayşe Batumlu, Ayşe Düzkan, Beyza Üstün, Can Dündar, Celal Başlangıç, Celalettin Can, Cengiz Baysoy, Çilem Küçükkkeleş, 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.
Verdicts of non-prosecution
Verdicts of non-prosecution were issued for the following 11 names who joined the campaign: İhsan Eliaçık, Sebahat Tuncel, Ahmet Abakay, Eşber Yağmurdereli, Hasip Kaplan, Işın Eliçin, Kemal Can, Mustafa Sönmez, Melda Onur, Uğur Karadaş, Nurcan Baysal.
27 editors-in-chief on watch were sentenced
The court handed down prison sentences totaling 352 months, 15 days in prison and 68,000 TL in fines to the following 27 individuals who joined the campaign: 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 ve Tuğrul Eryılmaz, Hüseyin Aykol, Ayşe Düzkan, Ragıp Duran, Mehmet Ali Çelebi and Hüseyin Bektaş.
Çelikkan and Düzkan served time
Of the editors-in-chief on watch whose sentences were not deferred, Murat Çelikkan was placed in Kırklareli Prison on August 14, 2017, then transferred to an open prison on October 14, 2017, and finally released on October 21, 2017.
Another editor-in-chief on watch whose sentence was not deferred was Ayşe Düzkan, who was put to Bakırköy Women’s Prison on January 29, after the Court of
Appeal upheld her sentence, to serve 1 year, 6 months in prison. She was later transferred to the Eskişehir Open Prison and finally released on June 12, 2019.
First three editors-in-chief arrested were later acquitted.
The first editors-in-chief on watch to be arrested in this investigation were Erol Önderoğlu, Ahmet Nesin and Şebnem Korur Fincancı. These three figures were arrested on June 20, 2016, and released 10 days later. All of them were acquitted of all charges at the 11th hearing held on July 17, 2019.
10 editors-in-chief on watch still stand trial
Of the editors-in-chief on watch who participated in the campaign, Faruk Eren, the president of the press employees union DİSK Basın-İş; İhsan Çaralan and Fehim Işık, contributors to Evrensel newspaper; journalists Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, Celal Başlangıç, Celalettin Can and Öncü Akgül stand trial at the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court. Upon the request of the lawyers, the panel of judges ordered the merger of the cases for these six individuals who served as editors-in-chief and cases for other individuals whose articles and letters were published in the newspaper during those days. These individuals include the newspaper’s ex Co-Editor-in-Chief and contributor Hüseyin Aykol, and columnist Ömer Ağın.
The proceedings continue for the editors-in-chief on watch Can Dündar, Said Sefa and Veysi Altay, whose trials are held separately.
Kızılkaya figures as defendant in all 37 trials
In all of the 37 lawsuits, managing editor İnan Kızılkaya stood trial as defendant. A large number of these lawsuits against Kızılkaya were merged with the Özgür Gündem Main Trial.
The 37 editors-in-chief on watch stand/stood trial on charges of “Spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” as per Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMK) no. 3713; “Publishing and disseminating the announcements and declarations of terrorist organizations” as per Article 6 of the Anti-Terror Law; “Publicly inciting to commit crime” as per Article 215/1 of Turkish Penal Code; and “Praising the crime and criminal” as per Article 214/1 of the Turkish Penal Code.
The prosecutor requested prison sentences of 1 to 5 years as per Anti-Terror Law, Article 7/2; 1 to 3 years as per Anti-Terror Law, Article 6/2; up to 2 years as per Turkish Penal Code, Article 215/1; from 6 months to 5 years as per Turkish Penal Code, Article 214/1; totaling prison sentences of 2.5 to 15 years for each of the 37 editors-in-chief on watch.
Can Dündar’s trial
The last hearing of the case against Can Dündar was held on July 18, 2019. The trial was postponed since the arrest warrant against Dündar could not be implemented and the trial continued in his absence. The trial was adjourned until November 28, 2019.
The prosecution will continue on May 21, 2020. The trial, postponed to 24 December 2020 due to Coronavirus pandemic measures.
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