Reyhan Çapan, a former responsible news editor for the shuttered, pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem, is facing 169 criminal cases related to her work for the newspaper, her lawyer told CPJ. The journalist is accused of “making propaganda of a [terrorist] organization,” “insulting the President,” “violating the Press Law No: 5187,” "disrupting the unity of the state and the integrity of the nation," and "being a member of an armed terrorist organization".
The journalist was taken into custody on May 10, 2018, in the eastern province of Artvin, after an Istanbul appeals court hearing one of the cases upheld a 15-month prison sentence for her conviction of “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization,” referring to the PKK, according to Bianet.
In Turkey, all news outlets are required to have a responsible news editor, who is accountable for all of the outlet’s content. Çapan’s successor, İnan Kızılkaya, was also detained for his work at the paper. He was included in CPJ’s 2016 prison census.
Çapan’s lawyer, Özcan Kılıç, said in an email that of the journalist’s 169 cases, 15 have resulted in sentences; eight cases have been dismissed or Çapan was acquitted; 63 cases are in the appeal stage; and 83 are ongoing.
As well as the 15-month sentence the Istanbul appeals court upheld against Çapan, she has been ordered to pay fines totaling 131,750 Turkish lira (US$25,000) in the other 14 cases where a sentence has been handed down. Kılıç said that the journalist has not paid the fines, which means she will face additional prison time. In Turkey, an unpaid court fine is converted into additional prison time, with every 20 liras equal to one day in prison. In Çapan’s case, her unpaid fines are equal to 6,587 and a half days in prison.
The lawyer said that five of the 63 cases at the appeal stage could result in additional prison sentences for Çapan if the courts uphold the earlier verdicts. If the court upheld all the sentences in these 63 cases, she could face an additional 13 years and six months in prison, and an additional set of fines totaling 353,000 Turkish lira or 17,650 days in prison.
Özcan told CPJ that his client would be eligible for release in April 2019 if not for the fines but “in this situation, she seems to be staying in prison for a long time.”
Çapan is being held in Erzurum prison, in the eastern province of the same name.