The indictment charged 22 journalists with “preventing police officers from performing their duty” and “insulting a public official”
The trial of journalists violently arrested during a 2016 police raid on Özgür Gündem newspaper’s Istanbul office concluded at the Istanbul 5th Criminal Court of First Instance on 21 December 2021. This was the 12th hearing of the case, which got underway in February 2018.
P24 monitored the hearing. None of the journalists on trial were in attendance. They were represented by their lawyers.
Reiterating their final opinion submitted to the court during the 10th hearing, the prosecutor asked the court to sentence all 18 journalists as charged.
Following the prosecutor, lawyers representing the journalists addressed the court in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion.
Gülfem Karataş’s lawyer, Cemal Polat, said: “Even though my client is on trial as a defendant, she is actually the victim of the incident. She was battered and insulted while performing her duty as a journalist.” He demanded his client’s acquittal.
Lawyer Sercan Korkmaz said: “Our clients were battered and assaulted, they were the victims of this incident, and yet they are on trial as defendants. Usually in such incidents footage from police [body] cameras should be available, but no such footage has been submitted to the court. There is no evidence proving the elements of the alleged offense.” Korkmaz demanded his clients’ acquittal.
Özcan Kılıç, another defense lawyer, said: “How did the journalists resist nearly 30 policemen in riot gear? These journalists were injured during the raid; their arms were broken, let alone resisting arrest. There are 22 defendants in the file. It is not clear who insulted [the officers]. The [case file and the prosecutor’s final opinion] should clearly state which act had allegedly been committed by which of the defendants. Neither the indictment nor the final opinion contains any information as to which crime is attributed to which defendant. The elements of the alleged offense are not present. I demand my clients’ acquittal.”
The lawyer representing Yılmaz Bozkurt addressed the court next: “My client is not a journalist. He was the press officer for another institution. He was just visiting his friends at Özgür Gündem that day. We have also submitted to the court a medical report proving the physical attack [my client suffered during the raid]. There is no personalized criminal charge in this file. I demand my client’s acquittal.”
After hearing the lawyers' statements, the court issued its judgment, acquitting all 18 defendants -- former Özgür Gündem staffers Elif Aydoğmuş, Sevdiye Ergürbüz, Reyhan Hacıoğlu, Burcu Özkara, Kemal Bozkurt, Önder Elaldı, Ender Öndeş, Sinan Balık, Davut Uçar, Fırat Yeşilçınar, Zeki Erden and Doğan Güzel; former DİHA reporters Özgür Paksoy and Mesut Kaynar; former İMC TV reporters Gülfem Karataş and Gökhan Çetin; Doğu Publishing House staff member Hüseyin Gündüz and Yılmaz Bozkurt from the Istanbul Medical Chamber -- on the grounds that the elements of the alleged crime did not occur.
The pro-Kurdish Özgür Gündem daily was “temporarily” closed on 16 August 2016 by the Istanbul 8th Criminal Judgeship of Peace, which cited “terrorism propaganda” as the grounds for its decision. Police teams raided the Özgür Gündem offices the same day to implement the court’s decision.
A total of 22 journalists and media workers who were at the scene during the raid, including Özgür Gündem staffers and fellow journalists who were covering the raid, were violently detained by the police. All 22 journalists were released on 18 August 2016, after spending three days in police custody.
An indictment was issued against the 22 journalists on 29 September 2017, more than one year after the raid. Three officers from the police teams that conducted the raid were named as complainants in the indictment.
In the indictment, 22 journalists were charged with “preventing police officers from performing their duty” under Article 265/1 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) and “insulting a public official” (TCK 125/1, 125/3-a) for resisting arrest during the raid.
During the ninth hearing of the case, held on 22 April 2021, the files against journalists Amine Demirkan, Bayram Balcı, Ersin Çaksu and Günay Aksoy, who all face arrest warrants as part of the case, were separated by the court.