Erol Önderoğlu is granted exemption from personal appearance in court; trial adjourned until 17 July

CANSU PİŞKİN, İSTANBUL

The 10th hearing in a trial where Professor Şebnem Korur Fincancı, the president of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), Erol Önderoğlu, the Turkey representative of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and journalist-writer Ahmet Nesin stand accused of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization,” “incitement to commit crime” and “praising crime and criminals” for joining in the “substitute editor-in-chief” campaign for the shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper, was held on 15 April.

Defendants Fincancı and Önderoğlu and their lawyers Fikret İlkiz, Özcan Kılıç and Tora Pekin were in attendance at the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

In addition to P24, the hearing was monitored by representatives from the office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), International Association of Writers (PEN), International Press Institute (IPI), Amnesty International and several academics.

Defendant Şebnem Korur Fincancı asked not to present her defense until her lawyer Meriç Eyüboğlu, who was hospitalized, will be in attendance.

Erol Önderoğlu, whose lawyers accompanied him in the courtroom, submitted his defense statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion. Önderoğlu said: “It is very clear that I participated [in the campaign] in order to lend support to Özgür Gündem, being a journalist of 24 years myself. Being on trial for vocational activities or for lending support is a heavy burden for anyone living with the longing for democracy. In this trial that has been going on for approximately three years, I request my acquittal and my right to conduct my journalistic activities in freedom.”

The full text of Önderoğlu’s defense statement (in Turkish) can be accessed here.

Önderoğlu will be held exempt

Tora Pekin, the lawyer representing Önderoğlu, addressed the court next, requesting to make his defense last, after all the other defendants got through and requested additional time. Pekin also requested the exemption from personal appearance in court for Önderoğlu, since he completed his defense statement. 

Özcan Kılıç, the lawyer representing Ahmet Nesin, submitted to the court a number of precedent rulings of “non-prosecution” and acquittal as the basis for his defense statement that someone who takes on a symbolic role for a day cannot be held responsible as per Turkey’s press law. “The newspaper’s responsible managing editor İnan Kızılkaya’s trial is ongoing and he might be acquitted. I think the consideration of the issue at hand might be postponed for now. I ask the court to wait for the outcome of that trial before rendering a verdict,” Kılıç said.

The 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul granted additional time for the preparation of the remaining defense statements and accepted Önderoğlu’s request to be exempt from appearing in court but rejected Kılıç’s request for the examination of additional evidence. The next hearing is scheduled for 17 July.