Court overseeing Karşı newspaper trial convicts Erdem of “aiding a terrorist group without being its member” and orders the continuation of his detention

The court overseeing the trial into the now-defunct Karşı newspaper on 1 March rendered its verdict in the case where Eren Erdem, a former main opposition CHP lawmaker, is among the defendants on account of his time as the daily’s editor-in-chief.

P24 monitored the hearing, where the two jailed defendants in the case, Erdem, and Onur Kala, were both in attendance, as well as unjailed defendants and defense lawyers.

The 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul convicted Erdem, who has been jailed pending trial as part of the case since last summer, and the newspaper’s publisher Turan Ababey of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” and sentenced each to 4 years and 2 months in prison.

The court acquitted Erdem of “violating the confidentiality of an investigation” and “disclosing the identity of an anonymous witness” charges but ordered the continuation of Erdem’s detention on remand pending the appeal process.

Journalists Kutlu Esendemir and Mehmet Bozkurt, who were also accused of “aiding a terrorist group without being its member,” were both acquitted.

The court also convicted the defendant Emre Erciş of the same charge as Erdem and Ababey and gave him a prison sentence of 3 years, 1 month and 15 days.

The prosecution had submitted their final opinion of the case in the previous hearing. However, a different prosecutor was appointed to the final hearing.

Addressing the court for his defense statement during the hearing, Erdem said he was prevented from presenting a political defense statement. He also noted that the prosecutor appointed to the case was replaced three times.

Reminding the court of the release order they issued for him at the end of the previous hearing, to which the prosecution objected, Erdem said he was re-arrested by the next court of first instance, which could not have possibly considered the case file in its entirety. Erdem recalled the Constitutional Court’s judgment that secret witness accounts alone could not be deemed sufficient for a court ruling.

Noting that he was being kept in solitary confinement for the past nine months, Erdem requested for his acquittal and his release.

Onur Cingil, a lawyer representing Erdem, told the court that the prosecution failed to present evidence supporting the allegations and that the prosecution’s final opinion of the case was unlawful and was against moral standards. Cingil requested for his client’s acquittal and release.

Zeynel Öztürk, another lawyer representing Erdem, requested that the court dismiss the case as per Turkey’s Press Law.

Journalist Kutlu Esendemir’s lawyer then addressed the court, noting that despite the lifting of the judicial control measures against his client, Esendemir’s passport was still not returned.

Lawyers representing Onur Kala requested for their client’s file to be separated, while the lawyer representing Turan Ababey requested for his client’s acquittal.

During the previous hearing, the prosecution sought up to 19 years in prison for Erdem on the charges of “aiding an armed terrorist organization without being its member” and “violating the confidentiality [of an investigation] by way of revealing the identity of an anonymous witness.” They also requested the continuation of Erdem’s detention on remand. Requesting the acquittal of Ababey, Esendemir and Bozkurt of the charge “knowingly and willingly aiding an armed terrorist organization,” the prosecution had also asked for the separation of the files of defendants Değer Özergün, Ufuk Emin Köroğlu, Mehmet Aydoğmuş, Murat Kazancı and Emrah Direk, whose statements were still not taken because they had been at large.

In its ruling, the trial court ordered the separation of the file against Kala and also ruled to wait for the execution of the arrest warrants against five defendants at large and merge them in a separate file.

The investigation into Karşı was launched on the grounds that the newspaper had revealed leaked tapes as part of the graft probes targeting the government in 2013, publicly known as “17-25 December.”