Ruling to comply with the reversal judgment rendered by the regional court of justice, the court set 17 February 2022 as the date for the next hearing
CANSU PİŞKİN, ISTANBUL
The retrial of the former publisher, editors and staff members of the pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgürlükçü Demokrasi on “terror” charges got underway on 3 November 2021 at the Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court.
The prison sentences given in 2019 to the newspaper's former editors Hicran Urun, Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Reyhan Hacıoğlu and İshak Yasul and publisher İhsan Yaşar, and the acquittals of staffers Mizgin Fendik and Pınar Tarlak were reversed in March 2021 by a regional court of justice, which also ordered a retrial.
Hacıoğlu, Urun, Yasul, Çelebi, Yaşar and Tarlak attended the first hearing of the retrial. They were accompanied by their lawyers Özcan Kılıç and Sercan Korkmaz. Citing the Covid-19 pandemic, the court did not allow spectators in the courtroom.
According to the minutes of the hearing, lawyers Kılıç and Korkmaz requested that the court grant their clients exemption from personally appearing in court. They also demanded that the international travel ban on their clients be lifted.
Issuing an interim ruling, the court decided to comply with the appellate court’s reversal judgment and granted the defendants exemption from appearing in court. Ruling for the continuation of the travel ban imposed on the defendants, the court set 17 February 2022 as the date for the second hearing.
Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper was appointed a trustee by the government in March 2018. The newspaper’s publisher İhsan Yaşar, responsible editor İshak Yasul, editors Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Reyhan Hacıoğlu, Hicran Urun and staff member Pınar Tarlak were arrested in April 2018 within the scope of the investigation launched against the newspaper.
The newspaper was closed under a statutory decree issued in July 2018. In the meantime, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued an indictment against 14 employees of the newspaper, charging them with “membership in a terrorist organization,” “terrorism propaganda” and “printing or publishing statements by terrorist organizations.” The content published in the newspaper was held as evidence against the journalists in the indictment. In addition to the six jailed journalists, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi employees Davut Uçar, Ersin Çaksu, Fırat Benli, Günay Aksoy, Mizgin Fendik, Önder Elaldı, Ramazan Sola and Yılmaz Yıldız were also charged in the indictment.
Tarlak was released pending trial at the first hearing of the case, held on 12 September 2018. Editors Yasul and Urun remained behind bars for one year while Hacıoğlu, Çelebi and Yaşar each spent 15 months behind bars as part of the case, which concluded on 28 June 2019.
At the final hearing, the court sentenced Urun, Çelebi, Hacıoğlu and Yasul for “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” under Article 220/7 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). Yasul was given an additional sentence for “terrorism propaganda” under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMK). Yaşar was given a judicial fine for “possessing an unregistered firearm” while Sola, Fendik and Tarlak were acquitted. The file against six newspaper employees who failed to appear before court (Uçar, Çaksu, Benli, Aksoy, Elaldı and Yıldız) was separated.