Celalettin Can

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Celalettin Can, an author and spokesperson for the activist group the 78’ers Initiative, is serving a 15-month sentence for working as a guest editor for the now-shuttered newspaper Özgür Gündem for one day in 2016. 

The daily Özgür Gündem was a leading pro-Kurdish publication before it was shuttered by authorities in October 2016 due to alleged ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey considers a terrorist organization. The outlet was under constant pressure from the judiciary and the security forces, which led to the solidarity campaign. 

Can turned himself in to the police on August 31, 2023, to begin serving his sentence for participating in the 2016 Özgür Gündem solidarity campaign. 

During the campaign, dozens of volunteers became chief editors for one day to protest the government’s pressure on the paper. Several participants were prosecuted on terrorism charges, including Can, who was sentenced to 15 months in prison in 2019 for “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization.” He had remained free pending appeal, which he lost in August. 

Can’s lawyer asked a court for his release under judicial control in September 2023, but their request was deniedCPJ’s messages to Can’s lawyer did not receive a response. 

The 78’ers initiative is a leftist, pro-democracy citizen group founded in protest of the legacy of the military coup of 1980. Their primary goal was to have the coup leaders put on trial, and abolish the coup constitution. 

Can will serve three-quarters of his 15-month sentence, according to the Turkish laws for incarceration, and should be out in 11 months and 25 days.

Can is 64 years old and didn’t have access to his medications in the early days of his imprisonment, his wife, Nimet Tanrıkulu, told online newspaper Independent Turkey. Tanrıkulu was not allowed to see Can when she went to prison in Istanbul on October 5, independent news website Bianet reported. 

Can was released pending trial on December 19, 2023

CPJ’s email to the Turkish Ministry of Justice on November 1, 2023, did not receive any reply.