Çoban, the former responsible editor of the shuttered Kurdish newspaper Azadiya Welat, is charged with “terrorism propaganda” over articles published in 2013
The retrial of jailed journalist İsmail Çoban, the former responsible managing editor of the shuttered Kurdish-language newspaper Azadiya Welat, on the charge of “disseminating terrorism propaganda via the press” resumed on 16 February 2021 in Diyarbakır.
At the end of the initial trial, which ended on 13 November 2018, the 7th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır had sentenced Çoban to 5 years in prison for “systematically disseminating terrorism propaganda via the press.” In June 2020, the 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Gaziantep Regional Court of Justice overturned the trial court’s judgment and ordered a retrial. The appellate court held that the trial court had failed to review a separate investigation filed against Çoban in Mersin on the same charge and also asserted that for an offense to be “committed in a systematic manner there needs to be more than one offense.”
P24 monitored the hearing on 16 February, which marked the second hearing in Çoban’s retrial. Çoban, who is currently in Tarsus Prison in Mersin province as part of a separate trial against him, was scheduled to address the court via the judicial video-conferencing network SEGBİS. However, Tarsus prison administrators told the court that Çoban was “not there.” Therefore the hearing was held in the absence of Çoban.
The prosecutor submitted their final opinion, asking the court to once again convict Çoban as charged. Çoban’s lawyer Resul Tamur requested a continuance to prepare their final defense statement in response to the prosecutor’s opinion. Granting a continuance to Tamur, the court adjourned Çoban’s trial until 4 May 2021.
Following the hearing, Expression Interrupted spoke to Tamur on the details of the case against Çoban and the increasing pressure on the Kurdish press in Turkey.
Case filed in 2014, trial began in 2017
Çoban is charged with “terrorism propaganda” over several issues of the newspaper published in 2013.
Tamur told Expression Interrupted that the case against Çoban was initially filed in 2014. The 7th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır, where the case was initially sent, ruled that the case involved a “press offense” and that therefore it should be overseen by the 2nd High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır. However, the 2nd High Criminal Court ruled that the case was “not a press trial.” The jurisdictional dispute was resolved by the 5th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals, which held that the case should be overseen by the 7th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır. The trial commenced in 2017.
At the end of the trial, which concluded in November 2018, the court sentenced Çoban to 5 years in prison. The sentence was overturned by an appellate court and the retrial got underway in 2020.
Çoban charged over content published when he was not responsible editor
Tamur explained that although the indictment formally charged Çoban over six issues of the newspaper, the trial court sentenced him over content in nine issues. Tamur added that in their latest opinion, the prosecutor demanded conviction for Çoban for all 15 issues of the newspaper mentioned in the initial indictment, where another former responsible editor of the newspaper was the second defendant. But the file against the other journalist has since been separated.
“The initial sentence Çoban was given over nine issues of the newspaper was erroneous because his name is cited as responsible editor in only six of those issues. Whereas in the final opinion submitted today, the prosecutor asked the court to convict Çoban of ‘systematically disseminating terrorism propaganda’ over 15 issues of the newspaper, which were held as evidence in the indictment. This proves that the prosecutor has actually not read the indictment at all, and failed to check who the masthead of newspaper issues included in the case file mentioned as responsible managing editor,” Tamur explained.
As to the outcome of the retrial, Tamur said: “Trial courts tend to swiftly get over with reversed and remanded case files because they perceive those files as a drudgery. So I am concerned that the court will not render a judgment in my client’s favor.”
Tamur added: “When the appellate court found out about another investigation launched against Çoban, they reversed his conviction on the grounds that the trial court should have investigated whether the two files were similar or based on evidence from the same time. But since the allegations in the two files stem from different periods, the files will not be merged and the trial court will render its judgment in light of the prosecutor’s latest final opinion. And I am worried that the lack of attention to detail in the prosecutor’s final opinion will be carried on by the trial court.”