24 Jul 2019 Lvl. 1
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Alert created on: 25 May 2016 n° 61/2016 Turkey

Özgür Gündem Journalists Targeted by Criminal Investigation

Source of threatState
CategoryDetention and imprisonment of journalists
Partner EFJ/IFJ Article 19 AEJ CPJ Index IPI RSF
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Partner EFJ/IFJ Article 19 AEJ CPJ Index IPI RSF
On 18 May 2016 Turkish judicial authorities opened a criminal investigation against six journalists and trade unionists for participating in a solidarity campaign with the Kurdish daily newspaper Özgür Gündem. The journalists include Ertugrul Mavioglu, Faruk Eren, Ayse Düzkan, Mustafa Sönmez, Melda Onur and Erol Önderoglu.

The Co-Editorship-in-Chief campaign was launched by Özgür Gündem daily on 3 May 2016 for World Press Freedom Day (#WPFD) where up to 16 journalists participated.Requests have been filed for the journalists and trade unionists to testify for articles that are being considered "terrorist propaganda" and an "incitement to crime" which were published whilst they participated in the solidarity campaign.

On 20 June 2016, a prosecutor issued a warrant for the pre-trial arrest of Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Erol Önderoğlu and Ahmet Nesin. Following a court decision, all three journalists were arrested. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, and Erol Önderoğlu, were released conditionally on 30 June 2016. On 1 July 2016, Ahmet Nesin was released pending trial.

On 26 June 2016, journalists Nadire Mater, Yıldırım Türker, Tuğrul Eryılmaz and Faruk Balıkçı were the next four editors of Özgür Gündem to be questioned on "terrorist propaganda" charges for participating in the solidarity campaign with the newspaper.

On 16 August 2016, a court in Istanbul ordered the closure of Özgür Gündem newspaper for spreading alleged "propaganda on behalf of the outlawed terrorist organisation". Shortly after the announcement of the newspaper’s closure by authorities, police raided its office in İstanbul’s Beyoğlu district. During the police raid, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief Zana Kaya, journalists Günay Aksoy, Kemal Bozkurt, Reyhan Hacıoğlu, Önder Elaldı, Ender Önder, Sinan Balık, Fırat Yeşilçınar, İnan Kızılkaya, Özgür Paksoy, Zeki Erden, Elif Aydoğmuş, Bilir Kaya, Ersin Çaksu, Mesut Kaynar, Sevdiye Gürbüz, Amine Demirkıran, Bayram Balcı, Burcu Özkaya, Yılmaz Bozkurt, Gülfem Karataş, Gökhan Çetin, Hüseyin Gündüz and Aslı Erdoğan were taken in custody by the authorities. Media freedom organisations condemned the violence of the detentions.
(The total number of staff members detained had risen to 24, P24 reported on 16 August.)

On 17 August 2016, following the closure of Özgür Gündem, the authorities raided the house of its advisory board member Ragip Zarakolu, a journalist, writer and editor known for his publishing work on minority rights in Turkey. The writer was not home but his books about Armenian, Pontus and Assyrian genocides have been confiscated by the authorities. Houses of journalists Eren Keskin and Filiz Koçali have also been raided by the police for similar purpose.
Updates
18 Jul 2019
On 17 July 2019, a Turkish court acquitted Erol Önderoğlu, the Turkey representative for press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and journalist Ahmet Nesin of terrorism charges.
13 Jun 2019
On 11 June 2019, Ayşe Düzkan was conditionally released from Eskişehir Prison.
04 Apr 2019
On 3 April 2019, the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court, convicted Faruk Eren, Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, Fehim Işık, Celal Başlangıç, Öncü Akgül, İhsan Çaralan, Celalettin Can and Dilşah Kocakaya to one year and three months on charges related to "terrorist propaganda". Hüseyin Aykol, former editor-in-chief of Özgür Gündem, was sentenced to three years and nine months on similar charges.
28 Feb 2019
On 27 February 2019, the prosecutor asked the court to convict Erol Önderoğlu and co-defendants Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Ahmet Nesin on charges of “terrorist propaganda,” “condoning crime” and “inciting crime”.
30 Jan 2019
On 29 January 2019, Ayşe Düzkan surrendered to authorities to serve an 18-month prison sentence handed down for serving as the symbolic editor-in-chief of Özgür Gündem.
10 Dec 2018
On 30 November 2018, the court of appeal upheld sentences of journalists Ayşe Düzkan, Ragıp Duran, Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Hüseyin Bektaş and Hüseyin Aykol for “terrorism propaganda” in the Özgür Gündem trial.
12 Oct 2018
On 10 October 2018, the Istanbul 13th Heavy Criminal Court adjourned the trial of three defendants (Erol Önderoğlu, Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Ahmet Nesin) for the seventh time in nearly two years to wait for the execution of Ahmet Nesin's arrest warrant. The next hearing is scheduled for 28 January 2019, at which the prosecution is finally expected to present its summing-up and announce the sentences it wants the court to impose. On 11 October 2018, the trial of the other 11 defendants in the case was postponed to 17 January 2019. At the hearing, the Istanbul 23rd Heavy Penal Court ruled to lift the travel ban that had been imposed on Erin Keskin and decided to extend Kemal Sancılı’s detention pending trial.
08 Mar 2018
On 6 March 2018, the 23rd High criminal court of Istanbul lifted the arrest warrant against Özgür Gündem advisory board member Ragıp Zarakolu on grounds that the court had been notified of his address of residence in Sweden where he now lives in exile. The trial was adjourned to 4th June.
19 Jan 2018
On 16 January 2018, the 13th High Criminal Court in İstanbul convicted Ragıp Duran, Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Ayşe Düzkan and Hüseyin Bektaş to 18 months in prison for spreading “propaganda for a terrorist organization”. The Court convicted Hüseyin Aykol to three years and nine months.
31 Oct 2017
On the fifth hearing in the main trial of Özgür Gündem daily held on 31 October 2017, the Court decided to release the managing Editor İnan Kızılkaya pending trial. The Court also placed him under an international travel ban. The next hearing will be on 6 March 2018.
08 Sep 2017
On 7 September 2017, Aslı Erdoğan was given back her passport, after the travel ban imposed on her was lifted in June 2017.
28 Aug 2017
Eren Keskin, former editor-in-chief of the Özgür Gündem daily, was released on 25 August 2016 after being referred to a court by prosecutors. She was then placed under a travel ban.
09 Jun 2017
The fourth hearing in the Özgür Gündem solidarity campaign trial took place at the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court on 8 June 2017. Önderoğlu and Fincancı were in attendance, while Ahmet Nesin, who is abroad, was not present in the courtroom. The court adjourned the session until 26 December 2017 to wait for the implementation of the arrest order for Nesin and to obtain his defense statement.
29 Dec 2016
On 29 December 2016, Aslı Erdoğan was released and a travel ban was imposed on her pending trial.The hearing is set for 22 June 2017. Zana Kaya was also released.
14 Nov 2016
On 10 November 2016, a prosecutor in Istanbul asked for life sentences for nine journalists and executives from Özgür Gündem. All nine defendants in the case, author Aslı Erdoğan, linguist Necmiye Alpay, journalists Ragıp Zarakolu, Bilge Contepe, Filiz Koçali, editor-in-chief Bilir Kaya, the holder of the newspaper’s publication rights, Kemal Sancılı, the paper’s Responsible Managing Editor İnan Kızılkaya and lawyer and former co-editor-in-chief Eren Keskin, are charged with “membership in a terrorist organisation,” “damaging the unity of the state,” “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organisation” and “establishing an organisation for the purpose of committing crime.”
18 Oct 2016
On 23 August 2016, Özgür Gündem daily’s Editor-in-Chief Zana Kaya and Chief Editor İnan Kızılkaya were arrested on charge of being a member of an illegal organization. Kaya and Kızılkaya who denied the accusations have filed complaints against the police officers for having beaten them during their six-day detention.
22 Aug 2016
23 staff members of Özgur Gündem Daily have been released, according to EFJ. Journalist Aslı Erdoğan is the only one to be kept in detention to date.
18 Aug 2016
A court in Istanbul ordered on 16 August 2016 the closure of Özgür Gündem newspaper for spreading alleged "propaganda on behalf of the outlawed terrorist organisation". Shortly after the announcement of the newspaper’s closure by authorities, police raided its office in İstanbul’s Beyoğlu district. During the police raid, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief Zana Kaya, journalists Günay Aksoy, Kemal Bozkurt, Reyhan Hacıoğlu, Önder Elaldı, Ender Önder, Sinan Balık, Fırat Yeşilçınar, İnan Kızılkaya, Özgür Paksoy, Zeki Erden, Elif Aydoğmuş, Bilir Kaya, Ersin Çaksu, Mesut Kaynar,Sevdiye Gürbüz, Amine Demirkıran, Bayram Balcı, Burcu Özkaya, Yılmaz Bozkurt, Gülfem Karataş, Gökhan Çetin, Hüseyin Gündüz and Aslı Erdoğan were taken in custody by the authorities. Media freedom organisations condemned the violence of the detentions. Following the closure of Özgür Gündem, the authorities raided the next day (17 August) the house of Ragip Zarakolu, a journalist, writer and editor known for his publishing work on minority rights in Turkey. The writer was not home but his books about Armenian, Pontus and Assyrian genocides have been confiscated by the authorities. Houses of journalists Eren Keskin and Filiz Koçali have also been raided by the police for similar purpose. The total number of staff members detained had risen to 24, P24 reported on 16 August.
01 Jul 2016
On 1 July 2016, Ahmet Nesin was freed. His release is also conditional. Charges against him are still outstanding.
30 Jun 2016
Turkey Human Rights Foundation (TİHV) Chair Şebnem Korur Fincancı, and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Turkey Representative Erol Önderoğlu, who were arrested on charge of "terrorist propaganda" for participating in Özgür Gündem daily's Editor-in-Chief solidarity campaign were released conditionally on 30 June 2016. Charges are still outstanding and indictments (propagandizing for a [terrorist] organization and praising a crime and criminals) have been accepted by Istanbul 13th Heavy Penal Court. The first hearing is to be held on 11 November 2016.
29 Jun 2016
On 26 June 2016, journalists Nadire Mater, Yıldırım Türker, Tuğrul Eryılmaz and Faruk Balıkçı were the next four editors of Özgür Gündem to be questioned on "terrorist propaganda" charges for participating in the solidarity campaign with the newspaper.
Follow-ups
24 Jul 2019
OSCE Media Freedom Representative welcomes acquittal of Turkish journalists Erol Önderoğlu, Ahmet Nesin and human rights defender Şebnem Korur Fincancı.
04 Apr 2019
OSCE Media Freedom Representative says sentencing journalists to prison greatly damages media freedom in Turkey following Özgür Gündem trial.
04 Apr 2019
Sentencing journalists to prison greatly damages media freedom in Turkey, says OSCE Media Freedom Representative.
10 Dec 2018
OSCE Representative is alarmed that Turkey appeals court upheld sentences of journalists Ayşe Düzkan, Ragıp Duran, Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Hüseyin Bektaş and Hüseyin Aykol for “terrorism propaganda” in the Özgür Gündem trial. Journalistic activities and solidarity are not crimes.
20 Apr 2018
OSCE Media Freedom Representative declared that interim decision to prolonge trial of Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem editors, including Erol Önderoglu, Ahmet Nesin and Sebnem Korur Fincanci means chilling effect these trials impose on journalists will continue in Turkey and urged for acquittal so they can continue their work freely.
15 Feb 2017
Human Rights Commissioner : Urgent measures are needed to restore freedom of expression in Turkey
20 Jun 2016
CoE Commissioner for Human Rights appalled by detention of human rights defenders in Turkey will take this up with the authorities.
20 Jun 2016
OSCE Representative appalled by imprisonment of two journalists and a human rights activist in Turkey, urges their release
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