Necmiye Alpay is a renowned linguist, writer and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the shuttered pro-Kurdish Özgür Gündem newspaper.
Authorities issued an arrest warrant for Alpay as part of an investigation targeting Özgür Gündem, which was temporarily closed down with a court order on August 16, 2016, and subsequently shuttered permanently with an emergency decree. On August 31, 2016, Alpay arrived at the Istanbul Courthouse to give her statement to the prosecutor in charge of the investigation. According to news reports, she denied terrorism accusations, saying that she always rejected violence and terrorism, that her role as an Editorial Advisory Board member was purely symbolic and that she supported Özgür Gündem because she thought this would help the resolution of the Kurdish issue and end clashes and deaths. After taking her statement, the prosecutor referred Alpay to Istanbul 8th Criminal Judgeship of Peace, demanding her detention pending trial. She was remanded by the court on the same day.
An indictment subsequently prepared by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office formally charged Alpay and eight others, including three in pre-trial detention like Alpay, with “membership in an armed terrorist organization,” “disrupting the unity of the state” and “terrorism propaganda,” seeking an aggravated life sentence and an additional prison term of up to 17.5 years for each.
On November 23, 2016, the Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court ruled to release Alpay and novelist Aslı Erdoğan, another member of the Özgür Gündem Editorial Advisory Board, and one of the four suspects held in pre-trial detention, in connection with the charge of “disrupting the unity of the state” on the grounds of lack of sufficient evidence indicating that the said crime was committed. But they remained imprisoned as the court ruled to keep them in pre-trial detention in connection with the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.”
On December 29, 2016, Alpay, Erdoğan and Zana (Bilir) Kaya, the editor-in-chief of Özgür Gündem, were released following a court hearing. The fourth suspect held in pre-trial detention, Responsible Managing Editor İnan Kızılkaya, was ordered to remain jailed pending trial.
On June 22, 2017, at the end of the fourth hearing of trial, the Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court ruled to lift the travel ban on Alpay and Erdoğan.
At the latest hearing of the “Özgür Gündem main trial” held on 10 April 2019, the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled to hand over the case file to the prosecution for the drafting of their final opinion and set 3 July 2019 as the date for the next hearing.
Trial for supporting Academics for Peace
Alpay will also be standing trial in a separate case where she is accused because she supported the signatories of 2016’s Academics for Peace petition. The first courtroom hearing of this file, to be overseen by the 33rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul, is scheduled for 16 July 2019.
The trial got under was on 16 July 2019 at the 33rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul. Alpay’s lawyer Mehmet Adil Demirci requested the court to adjourn the trial awaiting the Constitutional Court’s anticipated judgment on the applications of academics convicted for signing the peace petition.
Demirci also said that the indictment against his client contained a factual error, where it stated that Alpay was among the signatories of the Academics for Peace petition. The lawyer reminded the court that this case was launched because Alpay took part in the action to support the academics.
The prosecutor asked the court to reject the request to wait for the Constitutional Court’s ruling, but requested a continuance for the defense. The court accepted the prosecutor’s requests and adjourned the trial until 29 November 2019, without hearing Alpay’s defense statement.