The 35th Istanbul Court of Serious Crimes on June 29, 2018, ordered Eren Erdem, a politician and journalist, to be imprisoned pending trial, according to reports. The state-owned Anatolia Agency reported on May 25 that the court accepted an indictment against Erdem.
The charges against Erdem relate to his position as chief editor of the opposition daily Karşı and his role as a parliamentary deputy for the main opposition the Republican People’s Party (CHP) between 2015 and 2018.
Karşı published only 66 editions between February and April 2014, before closing due to what it described at the time as low circulation and financial problems.
According to a May 7, 2018, indictment viewed by CPJ, Erdem is accused of trying to manipulate the newspaper for the benefit of exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen’s Hizmet Movement, with the ultimate goal of toppling the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). He is also accused of “revealing a secret government witness” while he was a politician. The journalist is charged with "knowingly and willingly helping a [terrorist] organization without being involved in the organization’s hierarchical structure," “violating secrecy by means of exposing [a] secret witness” and “violating the secrecy of an investigation,” according to the indictment.
The indictment includes testimony from former co-workers of Erdem’s and news reports published in Karşı, particularly those based on leaked tapes that alleged government corruption. The leaked tapes were a prominent news story in 2014, and Erdoğan referred to it at the time as a “judicial coup.”
The indictment said that prosecution in the case against Erdem was paused while he was a parliamentary deputy.
Erdem denies the charges. Erdem is quoted in the indictment as saying that the books and columns he published before his role at Karşı were openly and harshly against the Gülenists. He said in his testimony that Karşı published news critical of the Gülenists, including the headline of the paper’s first edition.
The witness whom Erdem is accused of exposing is Turan Ababey, the former owner of Karşı who is allegedly a secret witness against his former employees in a separate trial, according to reports. CPJ documented how Ababey and other former Karşı employees were investigated for alleged Gülenist links in 2016. The indictment against Erdem lists Ababey as a suspect and a witness.
While he was a parliamentary deputy for the CHP in April 2016, Erdem publicly said that he believed Ababey was a secret witness code named “Sunflower,” who was mentioned in reports about the Karşı investigation.
Prosecutors requested that Erdem’s case be merged with a bigger trial being heard by the 23rd Istanbul Court of Serious Crimes, according to reports from August 2018. A higher court ruled in September 2018 that Erdem’s trial would be merged with the Karşı trial, according to reports.