On May 21, seven editors and columnists for the now-shuttered pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem were sentenced to jail terms varying from three years, nine months to 15 months on charges of “spreading terrorist propaganda”.

The International Press Institute (IPI) is appalled at the verdict and condemns the mass targeting of Özgür Gündem journalists and editors-in-chief for articles published in the newspaper.

The case included over 20 defendants. In yesterday’s hearing, an Istanbul court handed down jail sentences to seven, while acquitting eight. The court decided to drop the charges against an additional four journalists – Reyhan Çapan, Eren Keskin, Bülent Alp and Ruhat Kaya – who were tried on the same charges in a separate case. The cases of an additional seven defendants were separated and will continue further.

The sentenced journalists were Eren Keskin, Reyhan Çapan, Reyhan Hacıoğlu, Ayşe Batumlu, Hüseyin Aykol, Hüseyin Güçlü, Tahir Temel. Hacıoğlu and Batumlu’s sentences were suspended.

While the charges in yesterday’s decision related to journalistic content published in Özgür Gündem, staff and editors at the newspaper, as well as other prominent journalists and human rights defenders, are subject to prosecution for participating in the “Editors-in-Chief on Watch” solidarity campaign with the newspaper, which was shut down by decree no. 675 on October 29, 2016. Turkish authorities have accused the newspaper of being the media branch of the outlawed PKK group.

IPI’s Turkey Advocacy Coordinator Caroline Stockford severely criticized the verdict, highlighting the overall unjust environment in judicial proceedings, which worsened after the July 15, 2016 coup attempt.

“IPI is appalled that critical reporting has resulted yet again in such excessive jail terms.”, she said. “The Turkish judiciary must ensure the implementation of standards on freedom of expression set by the European Court of Human Rights.”

Stockford pointed to ECtHR decision handed down in March, Ali Gürbüz v. Turkey, in which the court found that Turkey’s government had systematically initiated criminal proceedings against Özgür Gündem and its former owner, Gürbüz, “regardless of the actual content of the articles.” Although that case dates back several years, Stockford said yesterday’s ruling “appears yet another instance of deliberate targeting and judicial harassment of those associated with Özgür Gündem”.

Eren Keskin – 3 years 9 months
Reyhan Çapan – 3 years 9 months
Hüseyin Aykol – 2 years 1 month
Hüseyin Güçlü – 1 year 6 months
Tahir Temel – 1 year 6 months
Reyhan Hacıoğlu – 1 year 3 months (suspended)
Ayşe Batumlu – 1 year 3 months (suspended)
Ayşe Berktay – acquitted
Celalettin Can – acquitted
Cemal Bozkurt – acquitted
Çetin Ulu – acquitted
Emrullah Kurcan – acquitted
Nuray Özdoğan – acquitted
Ergin Atabey – acquitted
Özlem Söyler – acquitted