Necmiye Alpay is a renowned linguist, writer and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the shuttered pro-Kurdish Özgür Gündem newspaper.
Authorities issued an arrest warrant for Alpay as part of an investigation targeting Özgür Gündem, which was temporarily closed down with a court order on 16 August 2016, and subsequently permanently closed with an emergency decree.
On 31 August 2016, Alpay went to the Istanbul Courthouse to give her statement to the prosecutor in charge of the investigation. According to news reports, she denied terrorism accusations, saying that she always rejected violence and terrorism, that her role as an Editorial Advisory Board member was purely symbolic and that she supported Özgür Gündem because she thought this would help the resolution of the Kurdish issue and end clashes and deaths. After taking her statement, the prosecutor referred Alpay to Istanbul 8th Criminal Judgeship of Peace, demanding her imprisonment pending trial. She was remanded by the court on the same day.
An indictment subsequently prepared by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office charged Alpay and eight others, including three in pre-trial detention like Alpay, with “membership of an armed terrorist organization,” “disrupting the unity of the state” and “terrorism propaganda,” seeking an aggravated life sentence and an additional prison term of up to 17.5 years for each.
Özgür Gündem Main Trial
On 23 November 2016, the Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court ruled to release Alpay and novelist Aslı Erdoğan concerning the charge of “disrupting the unity of the state” for lack of evidence but ordered the continuation of their pre-trial detention on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization.”
At the first hearing of the Özgür Gündem Main Trial held on 29 December 2016, Alpay, Erdoğan and Zana (Bilir) Kaya, the former co-editor-in-chief of Özgür Gündem, were released by court. Özgür Gündem's former responsible editor İnan Kızılkaya was ordered to remain behind bars.
On 22 June 2017, at the end of the fourth hearing of the trial, the Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court ruled to lift the travel ban on Alpay and Erdoğan. At the hearing held on 10 April 2019, the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled to hand over the case file to the prosecution for the drafting of their final opinion and set 3 July 2019 as the date for the next hearing.
The 15th hearing in the Özgür Gündem Main Trial trial took place on 13 January 2020. Prosecutor Hakan Gökalp Uçan presented his final opinion during the hearing, asking the court to convict five of the nine defendants in the case. The prosecutor asked the court to acquit Necmiye Alpay of all charges.
The 16th hearing of the trial took place on 14 February 2020 at the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
Addressing the court during the hearing, Necmiye Alpay said: “Being acquitted in this trial would not eliminate the punishment we have already been subjected to. The grounds for acquittal in the final opinion does not sufficiently and clearly cite freedom of expression and press freedom. An environment in which we can think and write without fear is what should be created. For this reason, I think that the decision and grounds for acquittal should be based on the principle of freedom.”
Issuing their judgment at the end of the hearing, the court acquitted Necmiye Alpay of all charges.
Trial for supporting Academics for Peace
Alpay also stod trial for showing solidarity with the signatories of 2016's Academics for Peace petition. The first courtroom hearing of this case, overseen by the 33rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul, took place on 16 July 2019. Alpay’s lawyer Mehmet Adil Demirci requested the court to adjourn the trial awaiting the Constitutional Court’s anticipated judgment on the applications of academics convicted for signing the petition. Demirci also said that the indictment against his client contained a factual error, where it stated that Alpay was "among the signatories of the petition." The lawyer reminded the court that this case was launched because Alpay took part in an action to support the academics. The prosecutor asked the court to reject the request to wait for the Constitutional Court’s ruling, but requested a continuance for the defense. The court accepted the prosecutor’s requests and adjourned the trial until 29 November 2019, without hearing Alpay’s defense statement.