Court upholds Özgür Gündem sentences
A local appeals court in Istanbul on November 29 upheld the earlier prison sentences handed to five of the participants of a solidarity campaign with the daily Özgür Gündem, the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya Agency reported.
The court ordered Hüseyin Aykol, chief editor of Özgür Gündem, to serve three years and nine months in prison, and campaign participants Ayşe Düzkan and Ragıp Duran, former Özgür Gündem columnist Hüseyin Bektaş, and former Özgür Gündem editor Mehmet Ali Çelebi to each serve one year and six months in prison. As of November 29, none of the journalists had been taken into custody. Çelebi is already in prison as part of a separate trial, but as of November 29 the other four journalists had not been taken into custody.
Journalists, politicians, and activists participated in the campaign in 2016 to raise awareness of the government oppression on the pro-Kurdish newspaper. Each participant acted as the symbolic chief editor for a day, attended the morning news meeting, and wrote a column for the next day’s edition.
CPJ has previously documented how prosecutors questioned all the participants in the campaign, and charged at least 38 with “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization.” Three participants were jailed briefly in 2016.
Journalist taken into custody
At the hearing in March, the court convicted Aksoy and journalist Atilla Taş alongside 27 other defendants, of “knowingly and willingly aiding a [terrorist] organization.” Aksoy and Taş were sentenced to 25 months and 37 months respectively in prison, CPJ reported at the time. The court ruled that they should be released on time served, but at the hearing in October the court ruled that both needed to return to prison, according to reports.
Aksoy is being held in Metris Prison, according to reports. The journalists’ lawyer, Yaman Akdeniz, said the legal team were looking into parole options for Aksoy, according to reports.