İsminaz Temel, an editor for the Etkin news agency (ETHA), was arrested on 19 October 2017 as part of an operation launched into the members of ESP (The Socialist Party of the Oppressed) and EHB (The Law Office of the Oppressed) on charges of “terrorist organization membership” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.”
Out of the 23 accused, Temel and her colleague Havva Cuştan were among 16 who were arrested in dawn raids across Istanbul on 19 October.
After nine months of pre-trial detention, the first hearing of her trial, overseen by the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, was held over two days on 16 and 17 July 2018 and was marked by the presence of the police officers who arrested and interrogated the defendants at the police department. The judge refused the lawyers’ request for the removal of the police officers from the courtroom on the grounds that the hearing was open to public.
Referring to the accusations in the indictment, Temel deplored that ETHA has been considered as “the publishing organ of a terrorist organization” and its articles treated as evidence. “ETHA is a news agency looking to embrace all the segments of society,” she said.
Temel acknowledged having attended all the events and demonstrations cited in the indictment, but stressed that she had been present as a journalist and also highlighted the fact that attending press statements or marches shouldn’t be considered as a crime.
At the end of the hearing, the court ordered the release of five defendants, including Havva Cuştan, under judicial control measures while eight defendants, including Temel, were ordered to remain in prison, on the grounds that they “might tamper with evidence” and the possibility of “flight risk.”
In the second hearing held on 29 November 2018, Temel gave her defense statement. Explaining that she has been a journalist since 2006, she told the court that the accusations against her in the case file were based in their entirety on her journalistic work.
She continued: “As for the ‘flight risk’ claim, I can definitely say that in this case, where I know I am absolutely right, I will continue until the end [of the proceedings] to defend my stance. I am sure that all defendants in this case, including myself, are going to be eventually acquitted. So I demand that [the court] put an end to this unlawfulness today, and I request to be released pending trial.”
After hearing her defense, the court ruled to keep Temel behind bars.
At the third hearing of the case on 15 February 2019, Temel said that no new evidence has been added to the case file to justify the continuation of her detention. The hearing concluded with the court ruling to release Temel from prison, imposing an international travel ban on her and requiring her to report to a police station once a week. Temel was finally released after enduring 16 months of pre-trial detention.
At the fourth hearing that took place on 19 April 2019, the court ruled to release the last two jailed defendants in the case, Coşkun Yiğit and Erkan Kakça, but rejected the request to lift the travel ban imposed on the defendants.
The next hearing in the trial is set for 3 September 2019.
Arrest during police raid on ETHA offices
On 15 June 2019, Temel was arrested along with six others during a police raid on ETHA’s offices in Istanbul. Reports said a confidentiality order was in place concerning the investigation.
It was later revealed that the investigation concerned a supplement issued by the weekly newspaper Atılım. The ETHA employees were among a group of 14 people arrested as part of the same investigation, who also included administrators from the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP). All 14, arrested on the charge of “inciting hatred and animosity,” were brought to the Istanbul Courthouse on 19 June 2019 to give their statements to a prosecutor. The prosecutor referred all 14 to a Criminal Judgeship of Peace after the completion of their statements. The judgeship ruled to release İsminaz Temel, Havva Cuştan, Serdal Işık, Deniz Bakır, Ozancan Sarı, Gülçin Aykul and Mehmet Acettin, but imposed travel bans on all seven.