Turkey: Özgür Gündem guest editors’ trial adjourned until March

PEN calls for charges against activist Erol Önderoğlu, writer Ahmet Nesin and human rights defender Şebnem Korur Financı to be dropped

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Caroline Stockford of Wales PEN Cymru reports from Istanbul

The trial of Ahmet Nesin, Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Financı and RSF reporter Erol Önderoğlu took place today at Çağlayan High Criminal Court, İstanbul.

The three acted as guest editors in support of the pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem in association with which Aslı Erdoğan and Necmiye Alpay were recently released on bail from Bakırköy Women’s Prison.

The courtroom of the 13th High Criminal Court was packed with many observers sitting on the floor.

The three were charged with aiding propaganda of a terrorist organisation for their stints as guest editors of Özgür Gündem (Free Agenda).

The case was adjourned until 21 March so that all of the cases associated with Özgür Gündem, which was closed down by a court order in August 2016, can be tried simultaneously.

There was a great show of international solidarity in the court room with representatives and board members from the International Federation of Journalists, the Secretary General of Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), the IRTC Sweden (International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims), People’s Lawyers Against Torrture, IPPN (International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War) Germany,  Wales PEN Cymru,  Amnesty International, People’s Lawyers Against Torture, the Turkish Human Rights Association, Human Rights Watch and others.

Speaking after the short trial, Human Rights and anti-torture activist Prof. Dr Şebnem Korur Financı thanked the international organisations present for their support adding that thousands of supportive messages had been received from all over the world.

Financi said:

The international solidarity shows that we are all struggling together. We will continue this struggle defending the primary human right of freedom of speech.  We thank all our friends.  Feel this support and be powerful!

Erol Önderoğlu of Reporters Sans Frontières added:

With this struggle we are defending the rights that the people of Turkey have had abused for the last 20 years.  We will continue in solidarity with our international support and the struggle for democratic values and human rights will never end.

Christophe Deloire, the Secretary General of Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), ended the press conference outside the court:

It’s wrong that journalists should ever have to risk going to jail.  We are tired of having to come to this courthouse.  Of all of the countries in the world, Turkey worries us most.

The case will continue on 21 March.

Meanwhile in a nearby courtroom Cumhüriyet newspaper’s Can Dündar and Erdem Gül were on trial again for stories regarding the possible smuggling of arms by the state intelligence authorities, published in the paper in the summer of 2015.

Gül said:

The only evidence in our case is journalism.  The media is on trial.  All journalists should be freed immediately from prisons in Turkey.  The only organisation we are members of is the journalists’ organisation.

He finished by quoting poet Can Yücel:

Ne kadar yalansız yaşarsak o kadar iyi.

However much we are able to live without lies, so much the better.

Reports suggest that the prosecutor is now seeking ten years in prison for both Dündar and Gül. The next hearing is scheduled for 1 March.

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