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Defendants: 22 journalists

Media Outlet and Position: Özgür Gündem – Journalists, Editors

Accusations:  Resisting a public officer to prevent them from performing their duty, Insulting a public officer

Possible sentence: up to 8 years 4 months

Court: İstanbul 5. Criminal Court

Case Background:

22 journalists of the now-shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper were detained following a police raid on the daily’s office in August 2016 and were released after a brief detention. A public prosecutor filed a case against the journalists on the charges of “insult” and “obstructing police orders through resistance”.

During a hearing on June 29, 2018, the journalists’ lawyers requested the re-possession of their clients’ phones, which were seized during the raid. The court rejected the request and adjourned the case until January 30, 2019, at which time the journalists’ lawyers heard witness testimony from three police officers, who were present at the newspaper’s building during the raid. At the hearing, the judge decided to stay two arrest warrants and issued two others and postponed the case until June 19, 2019.

In July 19 hearing, the prosecutor requested up to 8 years 4 months sentence for each defendant. Digital materials of the journalists confiscated two years ago have not been returned so far. Lawyer Özcan Kılıç asked the court to watch the footage of those materials because they would give an insight on the raid. The trial was adjourned to November 5, 2019, at 9:3o am.

During the hearing on November 5, the court ruled to wait until arrest warrant for four journalists – Amine Demirkıran, Günay Aksoy, Bayram Balcı and Ersin Çaksu – to implemented and adjourned the hearing until February 25, 2020.

A number of editors, journalists, and columnists of Özgür Gündem newspaper were brought to court in separate cases on the charges of “overtly inciting a crime” and “terrorist propaganda” over the daily’s articles and reports.

The journalists are being tried for their participation in the solidarity campaign, “Editors-in-Chief on Watch” for the newspaper Özgür Gündem. There are three other cases against Özgür Gündem employees, where journalists are being tried for their participation in the “Editors-in-Chief on Watch” campaign.

During the hearing on February 25, the court decided to uphold the arrest warrants issued against journalists Amine Demirkıran, Günay Aksoy, Bayram Balcı and Ersin Çaksu. The court also decided to write to Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office asking if any actions on returning the phones of journalists have been taken. Next hearing was adjourned until June 2, 2020.

Due to suspension of all judicial proceedings from early March until June 15 because of COVID-19 pandemic, the June 2 hearing is postponed to October 22, 2020.