İnan Kızılkaya, the former news editor of the shuttered pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem, faces 105 criminal cases, 103 of which had moved to trial by the end of 2016, on charges of terrorism, “disrupting the unity of the state,” insulting the Turkish nation, and insulting the president, according to his lawyer and court documents. If convicted on all counts in all 103 trials, Kızılkaya faces a life sentence and an additional 307 years in prison, plus fines.
Police in Istanbul detained Kızılkaya on August 16, 2016, in a raid on the newspaper’s office, CPJ reported at the time. Istanbul’s 10th Court of Penal Peace on August 22, 2016, arraigned Kızılkaya, alongside Özgür Gündem‘s editor, Bilir Kaya, on charges of being a member of a terrorist organization and ordered them jailed, pending trial.
According court records of the arraignment hearing, which CPJ has reviewed, the state alleged that Özgür Gündem was founded by and financed by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey classes as a terrorist organization. The state alleged that the paper’s editorial policy was evidence of the PKK’s control of the newspaper, and cited in particular the newspaper’s interviews with PKK leaders and articles written by PKK leaders, and charged that the paper sought to establish the grounds for mass demonstrations. As further evidence, the state said that a banned book about jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan was found both in Kızılkaya’s home and in Özgür Gündem‘s office. As “responsible news editor,” Kızılkaya was legally responsible for all the newspaper’s content, the state said.
Kızılkaya denied all the charges against him, the court records show. Kızılkaya said the newspaper was financed by sales and advertisements, and that the PKK had no control over its financing or its editorial policy. He told prosecutors that the newspaper sourced articles by PKK leaders from social media websites and reproduced them so that the Turkish public could be fully informed about current events, court records showed.
According to the court records, Kızılkaya also told prosecutors that police beat him and cursed at him while he was being detained.
Prosecutors submitted an indictment against Kızılkaya and eight other Özgür Gündem journalists and staff to Istanbul’s 23rd Court for Serious Crimes on November 12, 2016, according to press reports. Prosecutors asked the court to sentence the editor and the eight others to life in prison on the charge of “disrupting the unity of the state and the integrity of the nation,” in addition to 17 years and six months in prison for each additional charge of “being a member of an armed terrorist organization,” and “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization,” according to press reports.
On November 23, the court approved the indictment, according to press reports.
Istanbul’s Eighth Court of Penal Peace on August 16, 2016, indefinitely suspended Özgür Gündem at the request of prosecutors beginning an investigation into the newspaper on suspicion was a mouthpiece for the banned organization. The government on October 29, 2016, ordered the newspaper permanently shut down by emergency decree, CPJ reported at the time.
Kızılkaya’s lawyer, Özcan Kılıç, told CPJ that of the 102 other criminal cases against the editor, 92 were on terrorism charges, and were pending before Istanbul’s 13th, 14th, and 22nd courts for serious crimes in late 2016.
The editor also faces four trials before Istanbul’s Second Court of First Instance on charges of “insulting the Turkish nation, the state of the Republic of Turkey,” and Turkish government institutions in connection with Özgür Gündem‘s coverage. If convicted of that charge in each of those trials, Kızılkaya could face a maximum total of an additional eight years in prison. Kızılkaya also faces five criminal cases on charges of “insulting the president,” each of which carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.
As of late 2016, Kızılkaya was jailed in Silivri Prison in Istanbul.