Six Kurdish media workers sentenced on ‘terrorism-related’ charges / BIANET

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The journalists were initially sentenced in 2019 but appealed the verdict, leading to a retrial. A court has sentenced five journalists and a newspaper distributor associated with the now-defunct pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgürlükçü Demokrasi to prison terms on charges of « aiding a terrorist organization without being members. »

Bianet English, May 13, 2024

The İstanbul 23rd Heavy Penal Court decision comes as part of a retrial following the overturning of a previous verdict by an appeals court in March 2021.

The court handed down sentences of three years and nine months to former editor Mehmet Ali Çelebi, and three years, one month, and fifteen days to Reyhan Hacıoğlu, Hicran Urun, owner İhsan Yaşar, and responsible managing editor İshak Yasul. Meanwhile, distributor Mizgin Fendik was acquitted, and the case of staff member Pınar Tarlak was separated due to other ongoing legal proceedings.

The defense attorney, Sercan Korkmaz, criticized the lack of substantial evidence and the problematic nature of the investigation from its inception. Korkmaz argued that the only legal discussion that could be had was regarding the charge of propaganda, suggesting that the case reflects a broader judicial trend against the press.

The newspaper, which began publication on August 23, 2016, following the closure of Özgür Gündem, was shut down by a statutory decree during the state of emergency declared after the failed coup attempt in 2016. The aftermath of the attempted coup saw a widespread crackdown on the pro-Kurdish media in Turkey. The police raid on the newspaper and its printing house occurred on March 28, 2018, leading to the arrest of 33 journalists and printing house workers, including Yaşar and Yasul. Subsequently, 20 individuals were detained on various charges related to terrorism.

The initial verdict on June 28, 2019, resulted in prison sentences for the journalists on the grounds of « aiding a terrorist organization, » with additional time for Yasul on propaganda charges and a fine for Yaşar for possessing an unlicensed firearm. However, this verdict was appealed, and the subsequent retrial has led to the latest round of sentences.

The case has drawn international attention and criticism, highlighting concerns over press freedom and the treatment of journalists in Turkey. The Committee to Protect Journalists has called on Turkish authorities not to contest the appeals of the convicted journalists and to end the judicial onslaught against Kurdish media in the country.

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