Prosecutor seeks prison terms for four academics on “terrorism propaganda” charge; drops Article 301 request despite obtaining Justice Ministry authorization

 

Third hearing in trial of academics Esra Mungan, Kıvanç Ersoy, Muzaffer Kaya and Meral Camcı for signing a peace declaration in 2016 was held at the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court on 9 October.

The hearing, monitored by P24, was attended by Mungan and Camcı and defense lawyers, while Ersoy and Kaya, who now reside abroad, were absent.

It was revealed at the hearing that the prosecutor had submitted his final opinion on the case, which outlines finalized charges, before Tuesday’s session. The document, which was formally submitted on 3 September, seeks up to 7.5 years in prison for each defendant on the charge of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law.

The prosecutor said even though there had been attempts on the part of the prosecution in earlier stages of trial to charge the defendants under Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code, which covers “insulting Turkishness,” and permission of the Justice Ministry had been sought to that effect, the conclusion now was that the actions attributed to the defendants constituted the crime of “terrorism propaganda.”

Under the law, the Justice Ministry authorization is required for criminal proceedings under Article 301. The court revealed earlier that the requested authorization had been granted

Mungan and Camcı requested extra time to prepare their final defense statement, while lawyer for Ersoy and Kaya said the prosecutor’s final opinion had been sent to former home addresses of their clients and requested that it be re-sent to current addresses.

Announcing its interim verdict at the end of the hearing, the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court rejected the request to resend the final opinion to the two defendants as their current addresses are registered in Germany and since their lawyer was present at the session.

The court adjourned the trial until 28 January 2019.

Mungan, Ersoy, Kaya and Camcı were arrested and then remanded in prison in March 2016 after holding a press conference to protest harassment of over 1,000 academics who signed the Academics for Peace declaration. The academics, who were initially charged with “terrorism propaganda,” were released at the end of the first hearing in April 2016.

The Justice Ministry’s formal authorization was added to the case file at the previous hearing held in April.

Özgür Gündem solidarity trial adjourned

The seventh hearing in the trial of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu, human rights defender Şebnem Korur Fincancı and writer Ahmet Nesin on “terrorism propaganda” charge was also held on the same day at the same courtroom.

Önderoğlu, Fincancı and Nesin face up to 7,5 years in jail for joining a 2016 campaign of solidarity with Özgür Gündem newspaper, which was since then shuttered, by acting as symbolic editor-in-chief of the daily for a day.

Önderoğlu and Fincancı attended the court session while Nesin, who resides abroad, was absent. The court revealed that defense statement of Nesin had been received and sent to court appointed experts for translation. Nesin sent his defense statement in French.

In its interim ruling, the court adjourned the trial until 28 March 2019, awaiting the expert report on Nesin’s defense statement and execution of a warrant issued for his arrest.

Özgür Gündem columnists and editors on trial

Another trial on the same day, where Özgür Gündem editors and columnists Eren Keskin, Reyhan Çapan, Reyhan Hacıoğlu, Hüseyin Aykol, Filiz Koçali, Ayşe Berktay, Nuray Özdoğan, Celalettin Can and Ayşe Batumlu face “terrorism propaganda” and “overtly praising crime and criminal” charges over some articles and reports published in the now-defunct daily, was also adjourned.

Lawyer for Eren Keskin, Özcan Kılıç, requested that Keskin’s file be separated and merged with the Özgür Gündem main trial, overseen by the Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court, as she was also a defendant in that case on similar grounds.

It was also revealed at the hearing that the file of another defendant who published articles in Özgür Gündem, Züleyha Yılmaz, had been merged with the case file.

The court ruled to request the indictment and court reports on previous sessions from the Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court and adjourned the trial until 28 March 2019.