Eren Keskin, Hüseyin Aykol, Reyhan Çapan, Ayşe Batumlu and Reyhan Hacıoğlu and two others get sentences on “propaganda” charge

The final hearing in the trial of 24 defendants including former Özgür Gündem daily editors and columnists was held on 21 May 2019 at the 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

24 defendants were standing accused for “praising the offense or the offender,” “provoking commission of offense,” and “disseminating terrorist propaganda” crimes.

7 defendants, including the shuttered newspapers’ co-editors in chief Eren Keskin and Hüseyin Akyol, managing editor Reyhan Çapan and columnists Ayşe Batumlu and Reyhan Hacıoğlu were handed down jail sentences for the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.” 8 other defendants were acquitted for the same crime. The charges against 2 defendants were dropped due to the expiration of the four-month statute of limitations for pressing charges as per Article 26/1 of Turkey’s press law and the case files of 7 defendants will be separated.

In addition to P24, the final hearing was monitored by representatives from the Embassy of Ireland. Defendants Eren Keskin and Reyhan Çapan were in attendance with their lawyers. Defendant Tahir Temel addressed the court from prison via the video-conferencing system SEGBİS.

Lawyer Özcan Kılıç submitted to court defendant Reyhan Hacıoğlu’s letter of excuse for non-attendance due to being on hunger-strike. The court did not accept the excuse since it was the final hearing in the trial. The prosecutor of the hearing said that he reiterated the final opinion he had submitted on 26 October 2017.

Addressing the court for her defense statement, Eren Keskin said she had included her name in the newspaper’s masthead for defending the freedom of press. Keskin said that she supported the freedom of thought and expression. She said “I don’t believe I have committed a crime. I don’t believe thought is a crime. I request my acquittal.” Reyhan Çapan also said that she didn’t believe she committed a crime and asked to be acquitted.

Senem Doğanoğlu, who is the lawyer of defendant Nuray Özdoğan and the lawyer Sercan Korkmaz, a lawyer representing many defendants, reiterated their previous defense statements and asked their clients to be acquitted. Özcan Kılıç, a lawyer representing a group of defendants, reminded that Eren Keskin included her name in the newspaper’s masthead for lending support and that it is out of question that she had a say in the news reports published in the newspaper. Kılıç also reminded that his client Reyhan Çapan was also a managing editor and that the managing editor or the editor-in-chief does not have any influence or authority over the news published. Kılıç said that the punishment of Hüseyin Aykol, Eren Keskin and Reyhan Çapan would be against the principal of individual criminal responsibility. He ended his defense statement by saying “I insist that you don’t render a verdict but if you must do so, I request acquittal. And I request for the case file of Eren Keskin to be merged with the case file under the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.”

Asked for their final defense statements, Eren Keskin and Reyhan Çapan requested to be acquitted.

The court then went into recess before the announcement of the verdict for which the press was not allowed to enter the courtroom.

The panel sentenced Eren Keskin and Reyhan Çapan to 3 years and 9 months; Hüseyin Akyol to 2 years and 1 month; Hüseyin Güçlü and Tahir Temel to 1 year and 6 months; Reyhan Hacıoğlu and Ayşe Batumlu to 1 year and 3 months in jail for “disseminating terrorist propaganda.”

Hacıoğlu and Batumlu’s sentences were deferred. The sentences that were not deferred will be sent to the appeals court.

Acquitting Ayşe Berktay, Celalettin Can, Cemal Bozkurt, Çetin Ulu, Emrullah Kurcan, Ergin Atabey, Nuray Özdoğan and Özlem Söyler for “disseminating terrorist propaganda,” the court decided to separate the case files of Filiz Koçali, Enver Baysal, Hasan Başak, İhsan Yorulmaz, Muzaffer Ayata, Serbest Zan and Züleyha Yılmaz, for whom the arrest warrants issued were not carried out and they are yet to give their defense statements. The court decided to dismiss the arrest warrants issued for Ruhat Kaya and Bülent Alp and drop the charge which accuses them of “propaganda” since the four-month statute of limitations for pressing charges as per Article 26/1 of Turkey’s press law had expired.

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