The İstanbul 13th Heavy Penal Court has not defied the ruling of the appeals court which previously overturned the acquittals of Korur-Fincancı, Önderoğlu and Nesin. The retrial will be held, as ruled by the appeals court.
After the court of appeals overturned the acquittals of Erol Önderoğlu, Şebnem Korur-Fincancı and Ahmet Nesin and ruled for their retrial in the Özgür Gündem case, they had their first hearing at the İstanbul 13th Heavy Penal Court in Çağlayan today (February 3).
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Representative to Turkey Erol Önderoğlu, Turkish Medical Association (TTB) Central Council Chair Prof. Şebnem Korur-Fincancı and writer Ahmet Nesin were previously acquitted by the local court in the lawsuit filed against them for joining the “Editors-in-Chief on Duty” campaign for the closed Özgür Gündem newspaper.
However, the appeals court has overturned the acquittals.
CLICK – Appeals court overturns verdict of acquittal
Before the hearing started, rights defenders came together in front of the İstanbul Courthouse and expressed their support and solidarity for Önderoğlu, Korur-Fincancı and Nesin. Representatives from civil society organizations and MPs also attended the press statement.
While Nesin was not present at court as he was abroad, Korur-Fincancı and Önderoğlu, their attorneys Meriç Eyüboğlu, Tora Pekin, Efkan Bolaç, Levent Pişkin, Ümit Dede and Esra Kılıç attended the hearing.
Following the identity checks, Presiding Judge Mesut Özdemir asked Erol Önderoğlu and Şebnem Korur-Fincancı about their opinions as to the verdict of reversal given by the court of appeals.
Taking the floor first, Önderoğlu said that “he did not accept the ruling of reversal of the appeals court.” He noted that they, as the defendants, found it important that the local court gave a ruling of acquittal by expressing an opinion in favor of turning over a new leaf in Turkey. “I think that the reversal of the appeals court is a verdict against this intention,” said Önderoğlu.
He also reminded the court board and the audience that 38 of 100 people who participated in the Özgür Gündem Solidarity Campaign were investigated. “It is the first time that the court of appeals has overturned a ruling given about this issue,” Önderoğlu said, adding that he found both the timing of the reversal and the argument made in the reversal “meaningful”.
Önderoğlu did not accept the suspension of the pronouncement of the verdict in the event that he was penalized at the end of the trial.
“I have been a journalist for 25 years. Since the very first day, I have been of the opinion that this procedure is objectionable for those working with opinions and leads to self-censorship. For this reason, I do not accept the deferment of the pronouncement of the verdict,” he noted.
Speaking after Önderoğlu, his attorney Tora Pekin indicated that it was now impossible to expect a lawful verdict from the court of appeals (3rd Penal Chamber of the İstanbul Regional Court of Justice).
He said that the verdict of reversal was a political verdict and reiterated that they did not accept the reversal of acquittals.
Afterwards, TTB Chair Şebnem Korur-Fincancı shared her opinion on the appeals court. “There are several court cases where the rule of law is completely eliminated and the right to a fair trial is violated. Özgür Gündem trials are among these cases,” she said and added:
“Freedom of expression is a civil responsibility of us all and I fulfilled this responsibility. I am not surprised at the related ruling of reversal. The timing of this ruling is not surprising, either. The ruling has been overturned nearly a year after the ruling of acquittal was given.
“The related reversal was made to coincide with the aftermath of my election as the Chair of Turkish Medical Association Central Council. TTB was making efforts to inform the public about coronavirus. An impression was made as if I had been elected from a terrorist organization to the top of TTB. For this reason, the timing of the ruling of reversal is meaningful.”
Indicating that freedom of expression is the most fundamental right, Şebnem Korur-Fincancı said, “We will keep struggling for this.” Noting that the deferment of the announcement of the verdict is an act of admitting the crime, she said that she did not accept the deferment.
Meriç Eyüboğlu, the attorney of Korur-Fincancı, also underlined that her client was targeted after she was elected the Chair of the TTB.
“We complain about the politicization of the judiciary. This verdict is one of those given with this motivation,” said Eyüboğlu, raising concerns that “political terms were used in the ruling of reversal” given by the court of appeals. “The legal elements of the crime did not arise, we do not accept the reversal,” added Eyüboğlu and requested that the court defy the reversal.
Announcing its ruling after the statements, the court board abided by the reversal of the appeals court and ruled that a letter shall be addressed to the related authority so that the files of Korur-Fincancı, Önderoğlu and Nesin will be merged with the file of the Özgür Gündem main case heard by the İstanbul 23rd Heavy Penal Court where Eren Keskin, Zana Kaya, İnan Kızılkaya and Kemal Sancılı are standing trial.
The next hearing is on May 6 at 2 p.m.
CLICK – Özgür Gündem’s Editors in Chief on Watch; Önderoğlu, Nesin, Korur Fincancı Arrested
CLICK – Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Erol Önderoğlu Released
Özgür Gündem TrialsThe Editors-in-Chief on Watch campaign of Özgür Gündem daily began on May 3, 2016 and ended on August 7, 2016. The newspaper was closed by the Statutory Decree No. 675 issued under the State of Emergency.Investigations were filed against 49 of 56 editors-in-chief on watch, 11 of them have ended in verdicts of non-prosecution and 38 files have turned into lawsuits.Relying on the Articles 7(2) and 6(2) of the Anti-Terror Law No. 3713, the 38 Editors-in-Chief on Watch stood trial on the charge of “propagandizing for a terrorist organization” and for “publishing and spreading statements of terrorist organizations.Cases in which court ruled no prosecutionİhsan Eliaçık, Sebahat Tuncel, Ahmet Abakay, Eşber Yağmurdereli, Hasip Kaplan, Işın Eliçin, Kemal Can, Mustafa Sönmez, Melda Onur, Uğur Karadaş, Nurcan Baysal.1 of 38 cases droppedLawsuits were filed against 38 people, one of them has dropped. That is, as the charges brought against Deniz Türkali violated statutory limitations, they have been dropped.188 months, 15 days in prison and 67 thousand TRY fineIn the trial of Editors-in-Chief on Watch, the court has announced its ruling on 34 people, namely: Şanar Yurdatapan, İbrahim Bodur, Cengiz Baysoy, Hüseyin Tahmaz, Çilem Küçükkeleş, Nadire Mater, Yıldırım Türker, Hasan Cemal, Faruk Balıkçı, Dicle Anter, Derya Okatan, Kumru Başer, Ayşe Batumlu, Jülide Kural, Murat Uyurkulak, Murat Çelikkan, Beyza Üstün, Nevin Erdemir, Hakkı Boltan, Hasan Hayri Şanlı, Tuğrul Eryılmaz, Hüseyin Aykol, Ayşe Düzkan, Ragıp Duran, Öncü Akgül, İhsan Çaralan, Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, Celal Başlangıç, Celalettin Can, Fehim Işık and Faruk Eren.7 acquittalsThe court has given a ruling of acquittal for the following 7 people: Erol Önderoğlu, Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Ahmet Nesin, Hasan Hayri Şanlı, Nevin Erdemir, Hüseyin Tahmaz and Hakkı Boltan.27 people sentenced to 293 months, 15 days in total27 people have been sentenced to 67 thousand TRY and 293 months and 15 days.Murat Çelikkan, whose prison term was not deferred, entered Kırklareli Prison on August 14, 2017, was transferred to open prison on October 14, 2017 and released on October 21, 2017.Ayşe Düzkan, the editor-in-chief on watch whose prison term was not deferred, was imprisoned on January 29, 2019 as the Court of Appeal upheld her prison sentence. Taken to Bakırköy Women’s Prison, Düzkan was released on June 12.Özgür Gündem Editor-in-Chief Hüseyin Aykol was arrested on July 12, 2019 as he was convicted and sentenced to 3 years, 9 months in prison. Aykol was released on October 25, 2019.Editors-in-Chief on Watch Erol Önderoğlu, Ahmet Nesin and Şebnem Korur Fincancı were arrested on June 20, 2016. They were released 10 days later.Cases of 3 people still continueCan Dündar, Said Sefa and Veysi AltaKızılkaya’s casesÖzgür Gündem Managing Editor İnan Kızılkaya is defendant in all 38 cases. His case was separated from the others in the trials together with the other Editors-in-Chief on Watch. İstanbul 23rd Heavy Criminal Court is combining Kızılkaya’s case with the main trial.Lawsuits against 9 columnistsLawsuits were filed against the columnists of the newspaper Ömer Ağın, İmam Canpolat, İlham Bakır, Mehmet Şirin Taşdemir, Veysel Kemer, Yüksel Oğuz, Dilşah Kocakaya, Mehmet Ali Çelebi and Hüseyin Bektaş.Dilşah Kocakaya, İmam Canpolat and İlham Bakır have been sentenced to 15 months in prison each. While the prison term of Bakır has been deferred, those of Canpolat and Kocakaya have not been. Mehmet Ali Çelebi and Hüseyin Bektaş have been each sentenced to 1 year, 6 months in prison. The prison sentences have not been deferred.Özgür Gündem main trialIn the main trial, Özgür Gündem Consultant Board members Necmiye Alpay, Aslı Erdoğan, Ragıp Zarakolu, Filiz Koçali, Eren Keskin, Editors-in-Chief Zana Kaya, İnan Kızılkaya, Kemal Sancılı and Bilge Oykut are standing trial.In the hearing of the main trial held on April 10, 2019, the board of the İstanbul 23rd Heavy Penal Court ruled that Kemal Sancılı, the Grant Holder of the newspaper, should be released as he was convicted and sentenced to prison in another trial heard by the İstanbul 13th Heavy Penal Court. Sancılı is still behind bars.Moreover, while Eren Keskin is standing trial in 47 cases as the former permanent Editor-in Chief of Özgür Gündem, Hüseyin Aykol is standing trial in 38 cases as the former permanent Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper.