Etkin news agency journalists Şahin and Gayıp, standing trial on terrorism-related charges, had been in pre-trial detention since April 2018

CANSU PİŞKİN, İSTANBUL

The fifth hearing in the trial of Etkin News Agency (ETHA) journalists Semiha Şahin and Pınar Gayıp, who have been in pre-trial detention in the Bakırköy Women’s Prison since April 2018, took place on 13 June 2019 in an Istanbul court.

P24 monitored the hearing at the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which ruled at the end of the hearing to release both Şahin and Gayıp on house arrest after 14 months in detention on remand.

Şahin and Gayıp are on trial on account of their journalistic work and their social media posts. They are accused of “membership in a terrorist group” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group.”

Both journalists were brought to the courtroom in handcuffs by the gendarmerie. Two other unjailed defendants in the case, Ferhat Harun Pehlivan, a member of the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations (SGDF), and Gülsen İmre, an Istanbul-based local politician from the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP), did not attend.

Addressing the court during the hearing, Şahin referred to the newly introduced regulations concerning freedom of expression and lengthy detention periods in the “judicial reform strategy,” revealed late May by President Erdoğan. Şahin underlined that throughout the trial, the focus of their defense statements has been the right to freedom of expression and their lengthy pre-trial detention. “Journalism is not a crime. The news articles that are the grounds for the accusations are part of the exercising of my freedom of expression. I request to be released,” she added.

Gayıp said in her defense statement: “We have been explaining to the court since the beginning of this trial that we are journalists. We are jailed because of our news stories, which are part of the right to freedom of expression. I request to be released.”

Gayıp’s lawyer Kader Tonç also told the court that the evidence in the case file was not obtained through lawful means. Tonç requested her client’s release. Şahin’s lawyer Özcan Karakoç also stressed that the proceeding was in violation of the rights of the defendants. He also asked for his client’s release.

The prosecution said they reiterated their previous final opinion of the case and asked the court to rule for the continuation of Şahin and Gayıp’s detention.

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the panel ruled to release Şahin and Gayıp from jail but decided to place them under house arrest. The court set 15 October 2019 as the date for the next hearing.

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