Istanbul court also issues arrest warrant for writer and theologian İhsan Eliaçık to receive his defense statement


The Istanbul 3rd High Criminal Court ruled on 28 September to keep in place a formal request for an Interpol red notice for arrest of publisher and human rights activist Ragıp Zarakolu, who has been living in Sweden since 2013.

Zarakolu, who was charged with “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization” for a speech he made at a Political Academy seminar organized by the now-defunct Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in 2011, was jailed pending trial between October 2011 and April 2012. The “specially authorized” court which first took up the case was abolished in 2014, following which the case file was transferred to the Istanbul 3rd High Criminal Court.

In July, the court filed a request for an Interpol red notice against Zarakolu, seeking his provisional arrest for extradition to Turkey because he had not given his defense statement yet. Zarakolu criticized the move as “nothing but disrespect and harassment” and said after spending months in jail at the beginning of the trial and eventual release, it was all back at the square one now, and even worse, as this time it involved “harassment on an international scale.”

During Friday’s hearing, monitored by P24, defendants who were present at the courtroom gave their defense statements. Speaking after the defendants, Zarakolu’s lawyer Sennur Baybuğa reiterated her request that Zarakolu give his defense statement in Sweden where he lives. The court, however, claimed that defendants were not allowed to give their statements through such a method when the upper limit of the punishment sought for the crimes they were charged with exceeded five years.

This is in contrast with conclusion of another criminal court, which ruled in June to lift an arrest warrant for Zarakolu in a case where he and eight other writers and executives of the shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper face aggravated life sentences on charges of “disrupting the unity of the state” and terrorism-related offences.

During Thursday’s hearing, it was also revealed that lawyer Baybuğa’s request for the lifting of the arrest warrant and red notice application had been earlier rejected by the next court of first instance, the Istanbul 4th High Criminal Court, but that this was not communicated to Baybuğa. The Istanbul 3rd High Criminal Court ordered the formal communication of the rejection decision.

The court then ruled to keep the arrest warrant, red notice application and a formal request for Zarakolu’s extradition from Sweden in place and adjourned the trial until 30 November.

The court also ruled to issue an arrest warrant for a number of co-defendants to be brought to the court to give their defense statements, including theologian and writer İhsan Eliaçık, who was among the speakers of the BDP’s Political Academy seminars. Eliaçık was arrested but released soon after in 2011 as part of the same investigation.

Zarakolu was among the 44 people who were jailed pending trial on “terrorism” charges based on their involvement in the Political Academy in late October 2011. Those who were jailed included Büşra Ersanlı, a retired professor of politics and history who is also among the Academics for Peace.

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