Court acquits Erdoğan of “membership in a terrorist group” but convicts him of “systematically disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group”

CANSU PİŞKİN, ISTANBUL

The final hearing in the trial of photojournalist Çağdaş Erdoğan on the charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” was held on 5 September 2019 at the 33rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

P24 monitored the hearing, which began an hour later than scheduled. 

Erdoğan, who was not in attendance, was represented by his lawyer Veysel Ok.

Presiding judge Muhammed Zafer Terzi asked the prosecutor to give his final opinion. The prosecutor reiterated the final opinion he delivered in the previous sessions, asking the court to acquit Erdoğan of “membership in a terrorist organization” but convict him of the “propaganda” charge.

Afterwards, Erdoğan’s lawyer addressed the court for Erdoğan’s final defense statement in response to the final opinion. 

Ok said: “For a journalist and photographer like Çağdaş Erdoğan to share posts on the Kurdish issue does not mean that he was making propaganda, nor does posting news from a newspaper like The New York Times mean that he was making propaganda. In his posts my client did not use words that were encouraging or praising crime. The posts my client posted without comment in the face of social occurrences do not constitute elements of crime. We do not think that (the posts) constitute propaganda as the prosecutor suggests. Even if they’re perceived as elements of crime my client must be considered to be exercising his right to report news according to article 26 of the Turkish Penal Code, which declares that a person who exercises his right shall not be subject to a penalty.”

The lawyer asked the court to acquit Erdoğan of all charges against him.

After the completion of Ok’s defense statement, the court panel declared a five minute recess to deliberate on the judgment and the audience was asked to leave. However, the prosecutor remained in the courtroom. 

Announcing its verdict after the recess, the court sentenced Erdoğan to 1 year and 8 months in prison on the charge of “systematically disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” and acquitted him of the “membership in a terrorist group” charge as per the prosecutor’s final opinion.

Erdoğan was arrested on 2 September 2017 while taking photographs in a park in Istanbul’s Kadıköy district. He was accused of allegedly taking pictures of a social facility for the employees of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and was jailed pending trial 11 days later, on 13 September 2017, on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization (PKK/KCK).” He was released by the trial court at the end of the first hearing of his trial, on 13 February 2018.

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