Expression Interrupted

Journalists and academics bear the brunt of the massive crackdown on freedom of expression in Turkey. Scores of them are currently subject to criminal investigations or behind bars. This website is dedicated to tracking the legal process against them.

Prosecutor seeks prison sentences for 5 defendants in Özgür Gündem trial

Prosecutor seeks prison sentences for 5 defendants in Özgür Gündem trial

Prosecutor asks court to convict Aslı Erdoğan and Zana Kaya of “terrorism propaganda,” Eren Keskin, İnan Kızılkaya and Kemal Sancılı of “membership of a terrorist group”



The “Özgür Gündem main trial,” where nine former editors, executives and members of the editorial advisory board of the shuttered newspaper Özgür Gündem face terrorism-related charges, resumed on 13 January 2020 at the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

This was the 15th hearing in the trial, which got under way in December 2016.

Novelist Aslı Erdoğan, linguist Necmiye Alpay, journalists Filiz Koçali, Bilge Aykut, publisher and activist Ragıp Zarakolu, Özgür Gündem chief editor Zana (Bilir) Kaya, lawyer Eren Keskin, publisher Kemal Sancılı and responsible editor İnan Kızılkaya are charged with “disrupting the integrity of the state and the unity of the nation,” “membership of a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” in the case. The pro-Kurdish daily was closed down in 2016 through a statutory decree issued under Turkey’s emergency rule.

P24 monitored the hearing, where Keskin and Alpay were in attendance in the courtroom as well as defense lawyers. 

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 convict Aslı Erdoğan and Zana Kaya of “terrorism propaganda” while seeking prison sentences for Eren Keskin, İnan Kızılkaya and Kemal Sancılı on the charge of “membership of a terrorist group.”

The prosecutor asked the court to acquit Bilge Aykut and Necmiye Alpay of all charges and to separate the files of Ragıp Zarakolu and Filiz Koçali.

Addressing the court in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion, Eren Keskin requested a continuance to prepare her final defense statement: “The prosecution’s final opinion is against the law. As a human rights defender, I voluntarily had my name listed on the masthead of the newspaper as co-editor-in-chief in order to lend them support. I request a continuance because I am accused of ‘being a member of a terrorist group,’ which I am definitely not.”

Keskin and Kızılkaya’s lawyer Gülizar Tuncer addressed the court next: “My client is not a journalist; she is a lawyer and a human rights defender. She was only co-editor-in-chief on paper, since there was a violation of freedom of the press targeting Özgür Gündem at the time. The prosecution’s final opinion does not rely on criteria that can be deemed lawful. The accusations in the final opinion are ideologically motivated.”

Other defense lawyers also requested additional time to prepare their final defense statements. The court granted the defendants and their lawyers additional time, adjourning the trial until 14 February 2020.