04 April 2019 11:34

Jail terms rain down in the Özgür Gündem newspaper acting editor-in-chief trial

Penalties rained down on those who acted as co-editors-in-chief in solidarity with Özgür Gündem, including Evrensel's columnist İhsan Çaralan.

Photograph: Evrensel

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Eight people, Evrensel newspaper's columnist İhsan Çaralan, who acted as co-editors-in-chief in solidarity with Özgür Gündem newspaper, shuttered under a decree with the force of law, were sentenced to fifteen months imprisonment. Özgür Gündem’s former co-editor-in-chief Hüseyin Aykol was handed down a three year and nine-month jail term.

Thirteen journalists including our columnist İhsan Çaralan along with Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, Hüseyin Aykol, Fehim Işık, Celal Başlangıç, Öncü Akgül, Celalettin Can and Faruk Eren appeared before the judges charged with “terrorist organization propaganda” for having taken part in the one-day Acting Editor-in-Chief campaign at Özgür Gündem newspaper, which was closed under a decree with the force of law. HDP Member of Parliament Ahmet Şık, RSF representative Erol Önderoğlu, journalists Hilmi Hacaloğlu, Elif Ilgaz and Candan Yıldız and writer Nevzat Onaran also monitored the proceedings. The hearing commenced with a repetition of the prosecutor’s recommendation seeking the punishment of those charged as defendants for taking part in the Acting Editor-in-Chief campaign on the count of “propaganda.” The defendant’s counsel then submitted individual defences. Saying that solidarity with Özgür Gündem newspaper came within the scope of the freedom of expression and the press, the lawyers sought the acquittal of their clients.

“THIS COUNTRY’S PRESS HISTORY IS FILLED WITH PAIN”

Then one of the journalists undergoing prosecution for taking part in the solidarity campaign, Faruk Eren, made his defence. Saying, “This country’s press history is filled with great oppression and pain,” Eren commented, “Abdi İpekçi, Uğur Mumcu, Metin Göktepe, Musa Anter and Hrant Dink are the names of murdered journalists I can reel off in an instant. Özgür Gündem newspaper is the newspaper to have the greatest number of its staff murdered in this country. Özgür Gündem came under the same old pressure three years ago. The wish was to strangle it through bringing lawsuits. A group of journalists, intellectuals, art world people and scientists became Acting Editor-in-Chief for one day each so as to defend freedom of the press and expression.”

“WE ARE DEFENDING THE FREEDOM OF THE PRESS AND EXPRESSION”

Saying that he had been a journalist for more than thirty years and was general chair of the press union affiliated to the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey, Eren said, “We will continue to defend the freedom of the press and expression. Whatever the price. We are defending the freedom of the press and expression to live in a country where there is a true democracy. We are actually defending our profession, our honour and the freedom of the press and expression. My request of you is for you, too, to defend your profession, the law and justice.”

JOURNALISTS GET FIFTEEN MONTHS

A recess was taken following the defences. After the recess, the court bench sentenced Hüseyin Aykol to three years and nine months on the count of “terrorist organization propaganda.” The bench handed down jail terms of fifteen months to İhsan Çaralan, Faruk Eren, Fehim Işık and Celal Başlangıç and deferred sentencing. The fifteen-month sentence imposed on Celalettin Can, however, was not suspended. Prison terms of fifteen months were handed down to those on trial for the letter they sent from prison.