Court rules at the end of three-day hearing to keep Eren Erdem, a former main opposition CHP MP, and Karşı newspaper’s one-time editor in chief, behind bars, adjourns trial until January
The “Karşı newspaper trial,” where 12 defendants, including the former publisher of the shuttered daily, Turan Ababey, and the newspaper’s former employees, including its one-time editor in chief Eren Erdem, stand accused of various criminal charges on account of their work at the newspaper, got under way on 31 October in Istanbul.
At the end of the three-day hearing, the court ruled for the continuation of Eren Erdem’s detention.
Erdem, a former CHP MP, was jailed pending trial in June on accusations stemming from his time as Karşı editor in chief as part of the case overseen by the 35th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. Erdem is charged with “knowingly and willingly aiding an armed terrorist organization without being part of its hierarchical structure,” “revealing the identity of a secret witness” and “violating the confidentiality of an investigation.”
The 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which later accepted an indictment into the publisher and employees of Karşı, ruled to merge the case file with the file before the 35th High Criminal Court against Erdem. An appellate court later ruled that the 23rd High Criminal Court should have jurisdiction over the merged case.
The indictment for the merged case file seeks up to 15 years of imprisonment for Alaaddin Akkaşoğlu, the owner of the newspaper’s website, karşıgazete.com, and a partner of the shuttered Akis Publications; karşıgazete.com chief editor Mehmet Aydoğmuş; Our Kala, who is purported to be the owner of the Twitter account “@Fedakarkisi”; Murat Kazancı, the news director for the hardcopy; and Emrah Direk, on the charge of “membership in an armed terrorist organization.” Also indicted is Kutlu Esendemir, the newspaper’s general coordinator, for “knowingly and willingly aiding an armed terrorist organization without being its member.” He also faces 15 years in prison.
The indictment also seeks up to 18 years in prison each for Karşı reporter Ufuk Emin Köroğlu and former editor in chief of the shuttered Millet daily, Değer Özergün, on charges of “membership in an armed terrorist organization” and “disclosing the identities of public officials who have taken part in the fight against terrorism.”
The prosecution did not seek jail terms for Ababey, reporter Emre Erciş, and responsible managing editor Mehmet Bozkurt, who are charged with “knowingly and willingly aiding an armed terrorist organization without being its member.” Instead the prosecution asked that they benefit from effective remorse.
The 23rd High Criminal Court had also issued arrest warrants for five of the suspects: Alaaddin Akkaşoğlu, Değer Özergün, Mehmet Aydoğmuş, Murat Kazancı and Onur Kala, who are accused in the indictment of using ByLock, an encrypted messaging app purported to be exclusively used by the members of the Fethullah Gülen network, which the government accuses of being the perpetrators behind the 2016 coup attempt.
The first hearing after the merging of the files took place over three days in Silivri. Eren Erdem, Turan Ababey, Emre Erciş, Mehmet Bozkurt and Kutlu Esendemir as well as defense lawyers were in attendance at the court.
Erdem gave his defense statement on the first day of the hearing, responding to the accusations against him.
Onur Kala, who was recently arrested, also addressed the court for his defense statement via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS from the Istanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan. He denied the accusations.
After the completion of the defense statements, the prosecutor requested continued detention for Erdem on grounds that “the collection of evidence was ongoing” and that there was “strong suspicion of crime.” The prosecution also asked that Onur Kala be jailed pending trial and that the case file against Alaaddin Akkaşoğlu be separated.
Announcing its interim ruling on the last day of the hearing, 2 November, the court ruled to keep Erdem behind bars, and jailed Kala pending trial, as well as separating Akkaşoğlu’s file. The court also ruled to await the execution of arrest warrants against Ufuk Emin Köroğlu, Emrah Direk, Değer Özergün, Mehmet Aydoğmuş and Murat Kazancı and set 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 January 2019 as the dates for the next hearing.
The investigation into Karşı was launched on 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.”