Alpay, a writer, linguist, and member of the shuttered daily newspaper Özgür Gündem‘s advisory board, was detained on August 31, 2016, after she testified to prosecutors in Istanbul. Istanbul’s Eighth Court for Serious Crimes arraigned her on the same day and ordered her held on terrorism and separatism charges stemming from the newspaper’s coverage on the day she symbolically acted as co-editor of Özgür Gündem to protest the persistent judicial harassment of the newspaper’s staff.
CPJ reviewed the records of Alpay’s interrogation by prosecutors and the court’s order for her detention pending trial. In both, she testified that her position on the board was symbolic, and that she had never attended a board meeting or published a column in the newspaper. She testified that she was opposed to violence and terrorism.
Her lawyers unsuccessfully argued that Alpay could not be held responsible for the newspaper’s content and editorial policy since Turkey’s press laws stipulate that editors-in-chief and responsible news editors are accountable for the newspaper’s content. The court disagreed, and ordered her jailed pending trial on charges of “disrupting the unity of the state and the integrity of the country” and “being member of an armed terrorist organization,” court documents show.
According to the documents, the court considered Özgür Gündem a propaganda outlet of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey lists as a terrorist organization, and connection to the newspaper is sufficient grounds for arrest and trial on charges of terrorism and separatism.
Prosecutors submitted an indictment against Alpay 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 Alpay 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, 2016, however, the same court dropped two of the charges against Alpay and retained only the charge of membership in a terrorist organization, according to press reports.
A court ordered Özgür Gündem closed on August 16, 2016, on charges of propagandizing for the PKK, incitement to insurrection, and publishing articles that threaten the security and territorial integrity of the state, CPJ reported at the time.
As of late 2016 no date has been set for Alpay’s trial, her lawyer told CPJ.