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An nth tri­al for the Özgür Gün­dem news­pa­per on this Feb­ru­ary 14 2020: on the bench­es of the accused: nov­el­ist Aslı Erdoğan, lin­guist Necmiye Alpay, jurist Eren Keskin and the admin­is­tra­tor at the time, Kemal, Sancılı along with nine oth­er journalists…

Media expressing solidarity with Kurds targeted

On July 25 2015, after the ces­sa­tion of the “res­o­lu­tion process” in the talks seek­ing a peace­ful solu­tion to the “Kur­dish ques­tion” in Turkey, there fol­lowed a long peri­od of con­fronta­tions. From the out­set, a num­ber of media and press organs were cen­sored. In order to sup­port them a sol­i­dar­i­ty cam­paign was launched. Titled “Become Chief Edi­tor at the Özgür Gün­dem for a day”, this cam­paign received the sup­port of 100 jour­nal­ists, artists, writ­ers, aca­d­e­mics, politi­cians and heads of civil­ian orga­ni­za­tions. It last­ed until August 7 2016.

After censorship, persecution

Inquests were opened tar­get­ing 50 of the 100 per­son­al­i­ties who had expressed their sol­i­dar­i­ty; one after the oth­er, they were accused of “pro­pa­gan­da for a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­aza­tion” and “belong­ing to a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion”… 11 of these inquests were dropped, but 38 of the files moved on to trial.

28 “Chief Editors” before the courts

Deniz Türkali’s file was not includ­ed, since the inquest delays had run out.

Prison sen­tences inflict­ed on Murat Çelikkan, Ayşe Düzkan, Ragıp Duran and Celalet­tin Can were not car­ried out, on the basis of the prin­ci­ple call­ing for the post­pone­ment for the dec­la­ra­tion of a ver­dict (Hük­mün Açık­lan­masının Erteleme­si — HAGB). Murat Çelikkan was lib­er­at­ed on parole fol­low­ing three months in jail.

On June 20 2016, Şeb­nem Korur Fin­cancı, Ahmet Nesin and Erol Önderoğlu were arrest­ed then lib­er­at­ed fol­low­ing ten days of incar­cer­a­tion. Three more peo­ple were acquit­ted only on July 17 2019. After four and a half months in jail, Ayşe Düzkan was lib­er­at­ed on June 12 2019.

Thus far, only 7 per­sons in the Özgür Gün­dem tri­al have been acquit­ted: Erol Önderoğlu, Şeb­nem Korur Fin­cancı, Ahmet Nesin, Hasan Hayri Şan­lı, Nevin Erdemir, Hüseyin Tah­maz, Hakkı Boltan.

On August 16 2016, fol­low­ing the deci­sion to pro­hib­it and close down Özgür Gün­dem, the spe­cial police raid­ed the news­pa­per’s offices, tak­ing into cus­tody 24 jour­nal­ists, those of the news­pa­per but also jour­nal­ists from IMC TV and DIHA who were cov­er­ing the event. These media were also pro­hib­it­ed and shut down a few weeks later.

This oper­a­tion was fol­lowed by raids on the homes of Eren Keskin, a jurist and for­mer Edi­tor in Chief at Özgür Gün­dem, a writer from the news­pa­per Fil­iz Koçali and jour­nal­ist Ragıp Zarakolu.

Then on August 22 2016, Edi­tor in Chief İnan Kızılka­ya and pub­lish­er Zana Kaya were arrest­ed. As one of the advi­sors, Asli Erdo­gan was arrest­ed on August 19 2016, incar­cer­at­ed 135 days, then lib­er­at­ed on Decem­ber 29 2016 fol­low­ing an inter­na­tion­al cam­paign of sup­port. Necmiye Alpay, impris­oned on August 31 2016 was lib­er­at­ed on the same day.

On Octo­ber 31 2017, İnan Kızılka­ya was lib­er­at­ed fol­low­ing 441 days in deten­tion and Kemal Sancılı, after 301 days.

This did not stop the tri­al from proceeding.

The previous hearing

The pre­vi­ous hear­ing took place on Jan­u­ary 13 2020.

The pros­e­cu­tor dropped the accu­sa­tion against all of the accused in this tri­al of “attempts against State integri­ty and order in the coun­try”, because “no ele­ments were found to jus­ti­fy this crime”. Thus “aggra­vat­ed per­pe­tu­ity” also known as “incom­press­ible per­pe­tu­ity” no longer fig­ures among the required sentences.

As a reminder, this spe­cif­ic sen­tence is a sub­sti­tute for cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment which was abol­ished in Turkey in 2002. But with this sen­tence, the con­demned can­not obtain any remis­sion on dura­tion of the incar­cer­a­tion, as can occur with “nor­mal” perpetuity.

No suf­fi­cient and con­vinc­ing evi­dence hav­ing been found”, the pros­e­cu­tor called for the acquital of Necmiye Alpay and Bilge Oykut. The news­pa­per’s admin­is­tra­tor at the time, Kemal Sancılı and İnan Kızılka­ya are still accused of “belong­ing” and Bilir Kaya of “pro­pa­gan­da”. The pros­e­cu­tor also called for the sep­a­ra­tion of the files con­cern­ing Ragıp Zarakolu and Fil­iz Koçali who are abroad and “could not be interrogated.”

Against Aslı Erdoğan, accused of “pro­pa­gan­da” for the 4 arti­cles pub­lished in Özgür Gün­dem, the pros­e­cu­tor calls for a sen­tence of one year and 10 months to 9 years and three months in jail. As for Eren Keskin, THE great lady of human rights defense in Turkey (a respect­ful salu­ta­tion to her on this occasion)…She is at risk of a prison sen­tence of 7 years and 6 months to 17 years for “belong­ing to a ter­ror­ist orgniza­tion”, since she would have “allowed pub­li­ca­tions favor­ing the orga­ni­za­tion”. Sev­en­teen years more or less for Eren is noth­ing, con­sid­er­ing the num­ber of cas­es pend­ing against her with sen­tences run­ning to scores of years and fines in amounts impos­si­ble to set­tle. Nor is she the kind of per­son to give up. Respond­ing to the pros­e­cu­tor at the pre­vi­ous hear­ing, she said “I am described in the accu­sa­tion as a mem­ber of a ter­ror­ist and armed orga­ni­za­tion. This indict­ment is con­trary to the inter­nal Law of Turkey. You see us as ene­mies. For 30 years, I have defend­ed human rights. I have been a lawyer for 30 years, But you claim that I am a mem­ber of an armed ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion. This is something…do you even believe this your­self? I will pre­pare my defense accord­ing­ly. I request a delay.”

The hear­ing was post­poned to Feb­ru­ary 14 2020, mean­ing, tomorrow.

14/02/2020: Verdict of the hearing of February 14, 2020, some good news…

Aslı Erdoğan has just been acquit­ted of the charges of “mem­ber­ship in a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion” and “under­min­ing the uni­ty and integri­ty of the State”. She has also been acquit­ted from the charge of “pro­pa­gan­da for a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion” due to the statute of lim­i­ta­tions. Bilge Oykut and Necmiye Alpay were also acquit­ted. The files of Zana Bilir, Inan Kızılka­ya, Eren Keskin and Kemal Sancılı were dis­so­ci­at­ed into a sep­a­rate case and will be cov­ered at a new hear­ing. Their ordeal is there­fore not over and, as Aslı’s lawyer said “the tri­als them­selves become a sen­tence in their own right”.

A big thank you to all those who sup­port­ed Aslı and, through her per­son, all of the oth­er polit­i­cal hostages. Inter­na­tion­al sol­i­dar­i­ty is more nec­es­sary than ever!

Express your support
For Aslı Erdoğan, Eren Keskin,
But also for all of the accused in this Kafkaesque trial.
Sign the petition!

Anoth­er peti­tion, what for?” you may say…
Know that the ones con­cerned find new resources to stand tall,
thanks to our sup­port, even from afar.

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges

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Le petit mag­a­zine qui ne se laisse pas caress­er dans le sens du poil.