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.

Six former Cumhuriyet staffers back in prison

Six former Cumhuriyet staffers back in prison

Güray Öz, Önder Çelik, Musa Kart, Hakan Kara, Mustafa Kemal Güngör and Emre İper begin serving the remainder of their sentences as per appellate court ruling

Six former staff members of the Cumhuriyet daily returned to prison on 25 April 2019 to serve the remainder of the sentences they were given last year in the “Cumhuriyet trial.”

The 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul had convicted 14 former columnists and executives of the newspaper of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” last year at the end of the trial.

Columnist Kadri Gürsel was sentenced to 2 years and 6 months, while cartoonist Musa Kart, columnist Hakan Kara, ombudsman Güray Öz, executive board members Önder Çelik and Mustafa Kemal Güngör were each sentenced to 3 years and 9 months. Lawyer Bülent Utku was sentenced to 4 years and 6 months while accounting department employee Emre İper was given 3 years, 1 month and 15 days in prison.

In February, the 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, acting as an appellate court, rejected the appeals against the trial court’s verdict, thus finalizing the sentences less than five years imposed on eight of the defendants. According to Turkish law, prison terms less than five years cannot be appealed further once they are upheld by an appellate court.

The trial court issued an order for the execution of the eight sentences on Thursday, issuing arrest warrants for Güray Öz, Önder Çelik, Musa Kart, Hakan Kara, Mustafa Kemal Güngör, Bülent Utku and Emre İper. The prosecution issued a summons for Kadri Gürsel as the remainder of his sentence corresponds to a brief prison term.

Öz, Çelik, Kart, Kara, Güngör and İper reported to the Kocaeli Courthouse on Thursday afternoon, where they waited for the completion of procedures for their admission in prison. From there, they were sent to the Kandıra Prison.

Tora Pekin, one of the lawyers of the Cumhuriyet trial, said during a statement in front of the Kocaeli Courthouse after their clients were placed in prison, that this case not only concerned the defendants in the case but all of Turkey, and that it was meant to intimidate all journalists.

Pekin told reporters that the files of the remaining six journalists in the case who were given prison sentences more than five years were still pending before the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Pekin added that they believed the Supreme Court of Appeals would quash the convictions. “The supreme court’s ruling will also apply to six of our friends who went back to prison today. We are still of the opinion that a stay of execution should be granted to them. We filed a motion with the trial court requesting a stay of execution, and our petition is still pending,” Pekin said.

The time to be served by the six former Cumhuriyet staffers

Bülent Utku: 1 year, 7 months, 20 days

Güray Öz, Önder Çelik, Musa Kart, Hakan Kara, Mustafa Kemal Güngör: 1 year, 23 days each

Kadri Gürsel: 11 months, 27 days (Based on the time he spent in pre-trial detention during the trial, Gürsel will not have to go back in prison)

Emre İper: 7 months, 14 days