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Defendants: Ömer Çelik, Çağdaş Kaplan, Hamza Gündüz, Selman Çiçek, A. Vahap Taş, İnan Kızılkaya, Kemal Sancılı

Media Outlet and Position: Dicle News Agency (DİHA), Özgür Gündem – Editors, reporters & executives

Status: Imprisoned (names in bold)

Facility: Silivri Prison, İstanbul

Accusations: Targeting those who participated in anti-terror operations

Possible sentence: 1 up to 5 years

Court: Diyarbakır 9. High Criminal Court

Case Background:

Seven journalists and executives of now-shuttered Dicle News Agency and Özgür Gündem newspaper are charged with “targeting those who participated in anti-terror operations” in an article published in February 2016.

Journalists are being prosecuted in particular for sharing the news article on their social media accounts. The news article, “Name of the siege: Flag 12, Person in charge: Musa Çitil”, is cited as criminal evidence in the indictment for targeting an individual.

Musa Çitil, who was then-Gendermarie Regional Commander of Diyarbakır province, is the complainant in the case. He is requesting sentences from one to three years of imprisonment for each defendant. Çitil was promoted later in 2016 to Deputy Commander General.

Selman Çiçek, one of the defendants, is also facing charges in the same case for “spreading terrorist propaganda”. Prosecutors have asked for additional sentence from one to five years imprisonment in his case.

Kemal Sancılı, the publisher of the now-closed daily Özgür Gündem, is the only defendant who has remained in prison since January 3, 2017. Although he was released from pre-trial detention in October 2017, he was detained again on May 11, 2018.

Defendants Ömer Çelik, Çağdaş Kaplan and İnan Kızılkaya were also in pre-trial detention, and face charges in other cases for their journalistic work at DİHA.

After the first hearing on October 3, 2018, journalists argued that sharing news articles is not a crime, it is a journalist’s job to inform the public. They also stressed that Musa Çitil was a well-known figure in the region, therefore the allegation that he was targeted is baseless. The prosecutor asked for missing documents in the file to be included.

During a hearing on January 16, 2019, the court agreed to allow complainant Musa Çitil’s to attend the next hearing, which took place on May 8, 2019.

During the fifth hearing on October 2, 2019, the only defendant under arrest Kemal Sancılı attended the hearing via video-conference system (SEGBIS).  The prosecution requested the defendant Çiçek to be also sentenced on the charges of “making terrorist propaganda” on the grounds of his social media posts. Defense lawyers requested additional time to prepare their statements.

The court accepted the request and adjourned the hearing until December 18, 2019.