The trial of nine Sözcü staffers on the charge of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” to resume in December

CANSU PİŞKİN, ISTANBUL

The 10th hearing of a trial where nine staffers of Sözcü newspaper stand accused of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” took place on 28 October 2019 at the 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

Accepting defense lawyers’ requests for the case file to be reviewed by the prosecution in light of the amendments introduced with the newly enacted judicial reform package, which was published last week in the Official Gazette, the court adjourned the trial until 27 December. As part of the reform package, a clause that reads “Declarations of opinion that do not cross the line of reporting or that are intended as criticism do not constitute crime” was added to Article 7 of the Law on the Fight against Terror (TMK). Defense lawyers asserted that, based on the said amendment, the prosecution’s final opinion was no longer valid and that a new final opinion should be drafted.

P24 monitored the hearing, which was attended by defendants Necati Doğru, Gökmen Ulu, Yonca Yücekaleli, Mediha Olgun and Metin Yılmaz along with their lawyers. Emin Çölaşan participated from Ankara via the video-conferencing system SEGBİS. Having both submitted letters of excuse, Yücel Arı and Mustafa Çetin were not present in the courtroom. Members of the press, CHP deputies and provincial administrators were among those observing the hearing.

Announcing that the hearing would not be recorded due to a technical malfunction in SEGBİS, the presiding judge Akın Gürlek informed that the proceedings would instead be summarized in the minutes.

Addressing the court next, lawyer Ceren Yakışır requested time to expand their defense statements in response to the enactment of the judicial reform package. Also in order to avoid a loss of rights, Yakışır requested the court to lift the arrest warrant issued against her client Burak Akbay, Sözcü’s former publisher who now lives abroad.

Asking the prosecution to draft a new final opinion in light of the amendment introduced with the judicial reform, lawyer İsmail Yılmaz told the court that the panel should also re-discuss evidence and defendants should be given additional time to prepare new defense statements.

Referring to the Supreme Court of Appeals ruling that overturned the convictions rendered in the Cumhuriyet trial and said the defendants should be acquitted, columnist Emin Çölaşan’s lawyer Serhan Özdemir told the court that the Supreme Court judgment in the Cumhuriyet case also applied to the Sözcü trial and asked the court to acquit his client or to dismiss the case.

Urging the court once again to take the judicial reform package into account, lawyer Celal Ülgen requested the court to acquit his clients. Lawyer Fahri Emeksiz also asked the court to lift the arrest warrant against Burak Akbay.

The prosecutor said he did not have anything to add and the court proceeded to deliberate before the audience. Issuing an interim ruling, the court decided to ask the prosecution if any changes were to be made to the final opinion in light of the amendments introduced with the reform package. The court also ruled to grant time for the preparation of new defense statements in case a new final opinion is presented. Ruling to keep the arrest warrant against Akbay in place, the court adjourned the trial until 27 December 2019.

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