Kemal Sancılı, the publisher of the shuttered pro-Kurdish newspaper, remains behind bars due to a previous conviction despite release order in this case

CANSU PİŞKİN, ISTANBUL

The “Özgür Gündem main trial,” where nine defendants stand accused of “disrupting the unity and integrity of the state” and “membership in a terrorist organization,” resumed on 10 April in Istanbul.

This was the 12th hearing in the case, which is overseen by the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

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

P24 monitored the latest hearing, where Keskin and the newspaper’s jailed publisher Sancılı were in attendance. Other defendants were represented by their lawyers. Representatives from the German and Dutch consulates in Istanbul were also among those observing the hearing.

Addressing the court concerning the digital forensics reports, Sancılı said he never received a report and requested to be released pending trial.

Keskin also addressed the court during the hearing. A career lawyer, Keskin said she had her name included in the newspaper’s masthead solely for the purpose of lending support to Özgür Gündem.

Lawyer Özcan Kılıç told the court that Sancılı was currently serving a sentence on the “propaganda” charge that he was given by the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul in a previous case. Kılıç said Sancılı was arrested on the grounds that he was a “flight risk,” but because of his conviction, this risk no longer existed and requested his client’s release.

Also addressing the court as Keskin’s defense lawyer, Kılıç said his client was standing trial in an ongoing case overseen by the 13th High Criminal Court where the accusations stem from the newspaper’s editorial policy and requested that both files be merged by the 23rd High Criminal Court.

Aslı Erdoğan’s lawyer Erdal Doğan addressed the court next. Doğan said: “The digital forensics report mentions the books that were found in my client’s home. [Police] found in Erdoğan’s apartment scores of books about Turkish history and world history. Among them were books about the Kurdish issue. My client is a writer. It is perfectly normal for her to own these books.” The lawyer requested Erdoğan’s acquittal.

After the completion of statements by defense lawyers, the prosecution requested Kemal Sancılı’s release pending the conclusion of the trial on the grounds of the time he spent in detention and the current state of the proceedings.

Issuing an interim decision at the end of the hearing, the court ruled for Sancılı’s release. However, Sancılı will remain behind bars due to the previous conviction by the 13th High Criminal Court.

The court also ruled to issue a memo to the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul concerning the merging of the files against Eren Keskin.

Lastly, the court ruled to hand over the case file to the prosecution for the drafting of their final opinion and adjourned the trial until 3 July.