Human rights defender Eren Keskin appears before court on “propaganda” charges in Özgür Gündem trial 

The seventh hearing of the trial against nine former editors and columnists of the shuttered pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem was held on May 7, 2018, at the 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

The newspaper’s former co-editor-in-chief Eren Keskin, a prominent lawyer and human rights defender, was present at the hearing, monitored inside the courtroom by P24. The prosecutor is seeking a prison term for Keskin on charges of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

Along with Keskin, Özgür Gündem editors and writers Hüseyin Aykol, Reyhan Çapan and Filiz Koçali, lawyers Ayşe Batumlu and Nuray Özdoğan, writer Ayşe Berktay, spokesperson of 78ers Initiative, Celalettin Can, and Özgürlükçü Demokrasi editor Reyhan Hacıoğlu are on trial as part of the same case. Both Can and Hacıoğlu are currently jailed pending trial as part of another investigation.

“I have been a human rights defender for 30 years. I have defended freedom of expression for years. I am the co-president of the Human Rights Association,” Keskin told the court. “For it was a newspaper whose employees were assassinated, [headquarters] bombed, and itself has been shut down many times, I agreed for my name to be added as a co-editor-in-chief in 2013,” she added.

Allegations regarding Keskin involve news articles and columns published in the daily while her name figured on the masthead of the newspaper.

Keskin told the court that she had already been sentenced to 12 years in prison and TL 450,000 fine, stressing that her other trials were still ongoing. “I learned today from my lawyer that I was supposed to give defense statements in response to 30 indictments. This is practically impossible,” she said. She also told the court that she wouldn’t leave Turkey no matter what the decision is. “I want this to be put on the record: I will not go abroad. Turkey must change these laws.” 

Keskin ended her statements requesting more time for her final defense.

Lawyer Özcan Kılıç: Keskin held responsible for articles she didn’t write

Her lawyer Özcan Kılıç told the court that the only reason Keskin was on trial was that her name figured on the masthead of the newspaper. “Eren Keskin is held responsible for news articles she didn’t write, control, nor even saw or read,” Kılıç said while requesting the court to merge the trial with another ongoing case. 

In his defense regarding Hüseyin Aykol, also co-editor-in-chief of Özgür Gündem, Kılıç said that Aykol was based in Ankara and could only be held responsible for news articles filed in the capital city. Kılıç also asked for the expansion of the investigation in order to determine the responsibilities of the defendants, while demanding additional time for defense statements. 

The court accepted the request to expand the investigation, but refused to merge the two cases. Accepting the lawyers’ request for additional time, the court postponed the trial and set the next hearing for July 9, 2018.