Lawyer and human rights defender Eren Keskin, although not a journalist by profession, faces a total of 129 trials for briefly assuming the post of co-editor in chief of the shuttered Özgür Gündem daily in an act of solidarity with the pro-Kurdish newspaper.
Keskin faces life imprisonment in the ongoing case publicly known as the “Özgür Gündem main trial,” in which she is indicted alongside eight other defendants including writer Aslı Erdoğan and linguist Necmiye Alpay, both of whom were on the newspaper’s advisory board, as well as the newspaper’s former Editor in Chief İnan Kızılkaya and its publisher Kemal Sancılı.
Keskin was sentenced to a total of 7.5 years in prison along with former Özgür Gündem managing editor in two separate trials on 29 March 2018: one on charges of “denigrating Turkishness, the Republic, and the foundation and institutions of the state” and the other of “insulting the president.”
Speaking during a press conference and solidarity event on 3 April at the Istanbul branch of the Human Rights Association (İHD), Keskin expressed her frustration with the rulings. “Giving someone such a lengthy prison sentence for merely appearing as the editor-in-chief of a newspaper is in breach of all [international human rights] conventions where Turkey is a signatory. The Turkish Republic is not a constitutional state, we already know that, but why do European Union members who have also signed these conventions remain silent?”
Seventy-nine of the trials against Keskin have been concluded as of 3 April 2018. Keskin has been sentenced to a total of 12.5 years in prison and fined to a total amount of TL 456,000 (93,000 euros) in those cases. Most of the cases are currently in appeal stage. The total amount of the fines upheld is TL 105,000 (21,400 euros).
Keskin will have to spend a day in prison for every TL 20 she fails to pay.
Among the 79 trials against Keskin that have been finalized to date, only four were dismissed due to either acquittal or the statute of limitations. A travel ban issued against Keskin in the Özgür Gündem main trial was lifted by a decision of the Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court on 10 October 2018, at the end of the tenth hearing in the long-running case.