In his final opinion of the case, the prosecutor seeks conviction for 8 newspaper employees while asking the court to separate the files of the rest of the defendants

CANSU PİŞKİN, ISTANBUL

The fourth courtroom hearing in the trial of 14 employees of the shuttered daily Özgürlükçü Demokrasi on terrorism-related charges took place on 10 April in Istanbul.

The pro-Kurdish newspaper’s publisher İhsan Yaşar, responsible managing editor İshak Yasul, editors Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Reyhan Hacıoğlu and Hicran Urun and bookkeeper and secretary Pınar Tarlak were jailed pending trial on terrorism-related charges in April 2018, in the aftermath of a police raid on the Özgürlükçü Demokrasi office in Istanbul. The newspaper was closed down in July through an emergency decree. Tarlak was released from pre-trial detention at the end of the first courtroom hearing in September.

P24 monitored the latest hearing, where Yaşar, Yasul, Çelebi and Urun, all of whom have been in detention on remand for one year, were in attendance as well as the unjailed defendants Tarlak and Ramazan Sola. Hacıoğlu, who is also jailed in the Bakırköy Women’s Prison, did not attend the hearing.

The 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul is overseeing the trial, where the defendants stand accused of “membership in a terrorist organization,” “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “printing or publishing terrorist group publications” on account of the news stories featured in the newspaper.

Prosecution seeks conviction for 8 defendants

The prosecutor submitted his final opinion of the case during the hearing, asking the court to convict Urun, Çelebi, Tarlak, Yasul, Yaşar and Hacıoğlu of “membership in an armed terrorist organization,” “successively publishing terrorist group publications” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.” The prosecutor requested that Ramazan Sola and Mizgin Fendik be convicted of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.”

The prosecution requested the continuation of the detention of all jailed defendants on account of the sentences he sought for them. The prosecution also requested the court to separate the files of six defendants for whom arrest warrants have been issued.

In his defense statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion, Yasul said the alleged offenses were not based on any concrete evidence. Asserting that in addition to being a journalist he was also a student, Yasul said his detention hampered his studies and requested to be released. Also addressing the court in response to the prosecution’s final opinion, publisher İhsan Yaşar, and editors Çelebi and Urun requested to be released pending trial.

Trial adjourned until June

Lawyer Özcan Kılıç, who is representing all the defendants in the case, told the court that the allegations in neither the indictment nor the prosecution’s final opinion were based on concrete evidence. “I request continuance in order to figure out how to prepare a defense statement against [ambiguous] accusations of ‘terrorist group membership’ that [do not rest on] concrete evidence,” Kılıç said.

Other defense lawyers also requested additional time for the final defense statements.

Issuing its interim decision at the end of the hearing, the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled to release journalists İshak Yasul and Hicran Urun pending the conclusion of the trial. The court imposed on both journalists an international travel ban and another judicial control measure in the form of reporting to the nearest police station once a week to give their signature.

The next hearing in the trial will take place on 28 June.

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