The new Turkey
 Mehmet Ali Çelebi.
Zgürlükçü Demokrasi editor

02-Aug-2019 10:38

Case Background: 

The buildings of Pro-Kurdish Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper and the printing press Gün Matbaa in Istanbul were raided by police on March 28, 2018. A government trustee was appointed on the same day only until it was shut down by a decree law (No.701) in June.

The newspaper’s publisher İhsan Yaşar was arrested on March 28, following the police raid on the daily’s offices ordered by the chief public prosecutor’s office. It was followed by the arrest of İshak Yasul, the managing editor of Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper on March 30.

On April 4, 2018, seven more editors and reporters of the newspaper were taken into custody in relation to the same case. While three of them were released on bail, editors Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Reyhan Hacıoğlu, Hicran Urun and reporter Pınar Tarlak were put in pretrial detention.

Newspaper staff was brought to court in Çağlayan Courthouse, Istanbul on April 10, after seven days in detention.

Pınar Tarlak was released, pending trial after the hearing on September 12.

At least 20 printing press workers for Gün Matbaa were arrested on the same day of the raid along with the owner of printing press Gün Matbaa, Kazım Zengin. Workers remain in jail since March 28.

Accusations against the newspaper’s executives and journalists include “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization”, “membership of a terrorist organization” and “making terrorist propaganda”. The case file includes as criminal evidence news articles on Turkey’s military operation in Afrin and words used in those articles such as “resistance”, “occupation”, “massacre”, “martyr”, “Kurdistan”, “vicious attack”. Source


9 July 2019:

Journalist Mehmet Ali Çelebi released

Mehmet Ali Çelebi, an editor for the shuttered Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper, who had been in pre-trial detention in the Silivri Prison since April 2018, was released on 9 July 2019.

The court overseeing the trial of Özgürlükçü Demokrasi staff members had convicted Çelebi of “aiding a terrorist group without being its member” and sentenced him to 3 years and 9 months in prison at the final hearing of the case on 28 June 2019. The court had also ruled for Çelebi’s release, but the journalist remained behind bars, although his co-defendants were freed. His continued detention was due to a previous conviction on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” in last year’s “Özgür Gündem solidarity trial.”


28 June 2019:

The final hearing in the trial of 14 staff members of the shuttered newspaper Özgürlükçü Demokrasion terrorism-related charges took place on 28 June 2019 at the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

The newspaper’s editors Mehmet Ali Çelebi and Reyhan Hacıoğlu and publisher İhsan Yaşar have been in pre-trial detention as part of the case since April 2018. All 14 defendants in the case were accused of “membership in a terrorist group,” “publishing statements by terrorist groups” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group.”

At the end of the hearing, monitored by P24, the court convicted journalists Hicran Urun, Reyhan Hacıoğlu and İshak Yasul of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” and gave each other a prison term of 3 years, 1 month and 15 days. Yasul was also given an additional sentence of 1 year, 6 months and 22 days on the charge of “propaganda.” Mehmet Ali Çelebi was also convicted of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” and given a prison sentence of 3 years and 9 months.

The court ruled to release Hacıoğlu, Çelebi and Yaşar, however, Çelebi was not expected to be released immediately because of a previous conviction in another case.



11 April 2019:


Journalists İshak Yasul and Hicran Urun Released
Journalists İshak Yasul and Hicran Urun from the closed Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper have been released in their fourth hearing. Yasul and Urun have been behind bars since April 2018.

The fourth hearing of 14 workers of Özgürlükçü Demokrasi (Libertarian Democracy) newspaper, which was closed after a trustee was appointed, was held at the İstanbul 23rd Heavy Penal Court yesterday (April 10).

The fourth hearing of the case, where five workers of the newspaper were arrested pending trial, was attended by four arrested defendants, namely Managing Editor of the newspaper İshak Yasul, its Grant Holder İhsan Yaşar and Editors Mehmet Ali Çelebi and Hicran Urun. Being tried without arrest, defendants Ramazan Sola and Pınar Tarlak also appeared in court.

The prosecutor announced its opinion as to the accusations and demanded that Hicran Urun, İhsan Yaşar, Pınar Tarlak, Mehmet Ali Çelebi, İshak Yasul and Reyhan Hacıoğlu be penalized on charges of "being a member of a terrorist organization", "repeatedly printing and publishing the publications of the organization" and "propagandizing for a terrorist organization."

The prosecutor also demanded that Ramazan Sola and Mizgin Fendik be penalized for "knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization as non-members" and the case files of journalists, against whom an arrest warrant was issued, be separated from others.

Two journalists released on probation

Taking the floor after the statements of arrested defendants İshak Yasul, İhsan Yaşar, Mehmet Ali Çelebi and Hicran Uran, their attorneys Özcan Kılıç and Müslüm Kocaoğlu emphasized that there is no concrete evidence in the trials. They also requested additional time from the court board to prepare their statements of defense as to the accusations.

Announcing its judgement, the court board has ruled that journalists İshak Yasul and Hicran Urun shall be released on probation with an international travel ban. The next hearing will be held on June 28, 2019.



21 February 2019:

Özgürlükçü Demokrasi journalists ordered to remain behind bars

The third hearing of the trial on terrorism-related charges into 14 employees of the shuttered daily Özgürlükçü Demokrasi took place on 21 February at the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

The pro-Kurdish newspaper’s publisher, İhsan Yaşar, responsible managing editor İshak Yasul, editors Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Reyhan Hacıoğlu and Hicran Ürün, and bookkeeper and secretary Pınar Tarlak were jailed pending trial in April. Tarlak was released at the end of the first hearing of the trial in September. The defendants are accused of “membership in a terrorist organization,” “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “publishing terrorist group publications.”

P24 monitored the hearing, where the defendants addressed the court for their defense statements, rejecting the accusations and requesting for their release. The prosecution then requested that all jailed defendants be remanded in detention on the grounds of “strong criminal suspicion” and that the files of six of the defendants against whom there are arrest warrants be separated.

Announcing its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ordered the continuation of the detention of all jailed defendants in the case and adjourned the trial until 10 April 2019. The court also ruled to await the outcome of the arrest warrants in place for six defendants and decided to hand over the case file to the prosecution for the drafting of their final opinion of the case.



6 December 2018

No new releases in Özgürlükçü Demokrasi trial

The second hearing of the trial into 14 employees of the shuttered daily Özgürlükçü Demokrasi on terrorism-related charges took place on 6 December at the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul. 

The pro-Kurdish newspaper’s Istanbul offices were raided by police and the newspaper was appointed a trustee in March before it was closed down in July through an emergency decree. Its publisher, İhsan Yaşar, and responsible managing editor, İshak Yasul, were jailed pending trial on 6 April on terrorism-related charges as part of the investigation. Editors Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Reyhan Hacıoğlu and Hicran Ürün, and bookkeeper and secretary Pınar Tarlak were jailed on 10 April. Tarlak was released at the end of the first hearing of the trial in September. 

The defendants are accused of “membership in a terrorist organization,” “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “printing or publishing terrorist group publications.” News stories featured in the newspaper constitute the grounds for the accusations in the indictment. The other suspects in the indictment are Davut Uçar, Ersin Çaksu, Fırat Benli, Günay Aksoy, Mizgin Fendik, Önder Elaldı, Ramazan Sola and Yılmaz Yıldız. 

P24 monitored the second hearing on 6 December, where the defendants made their defense statements. Rejecting the accusations, the jailed journalists requested to be released pending trial. 

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ordered the continuation of the detention of all jailed defendants in the case. The court also kept the international travel ban imposed on the unjailed defendants in place and ruled to await the execution of the arrest warrants for six other defendants in the case. The next hearing in the trial is set for 21 February 2019. Source


29 November 2018:

Turkish higher court upholds prison sentences for five journalists

A Turkish appeals court approved prison sentences for five journalists who had taken part in a campaign to release other arrested journalists working at pro-Kurdish Özgür Gündem newspaper in 2016, Duvar news site reported on Thursday.

The Istanbul 13th Heavy Penal Court had previously sentenced  Hüseyin Aykol to 3 years and 9 months in prison and Hüseyin Bektaş, Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Ayşe Düzkan and Ragıp Duran to 1 year and 6 months each. But lawyers of the five journalists later appealed to the regional court, which upheld the verdict on Thursday. It said that evidence against the journalists was sufficient, the evaluation made by the lower court regarding the journalists’ acts was correct, and those acts fell under the definition of terrorist propaganda in Turkish criminal law. 

Turkish prosecutors launched investigations into 50 of 56 journalists who participated in the campaign by acting as editors-in-chief in rotation. The courts ordered lawsuits to be brought against 38 journalists on terrorist propaganda charges.

Özgür Gündem was among 15 Kurdish media organisations officially closed down and seized under a state of emergency decree following a failed coup attempt in 2016.



12 September 2018:

Özgürlükçü Demokrasi trial gets under way

The trial into the owner and employees of the pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, which was raided by police and appointed a trustee in March before it was closed down in July through an emergency decree, got under way on 12 September in Istanbul.

In its interim decision at the end of the hearing, the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul ordered that Pınar Tarlak, one of the six jailed defendants, be released, while ordering the continuation of the detention of the remaining five newspaper employees on trial and set 6 December 2018 as the date for the next hearing. 

The newspaper’s owner İhsan Yaşar and responsible managing editor İshak Yasul were jailed pending trial on 6 April on terrorism-related charges as part of the investigation into Özgürlükçü Demokrasi. The newspaper’s editors Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Reyhan Hacıoğlu and Hicran Urun, and bookkeeper and secretary Pınar Tarlak were jailed on 10 April.

They were indicted — alongside eight other Özgürlükçü Demokrasiemployees — for “membership in a terrorist organization,” “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “printing or publishing terrorist group publications.” News stories featured in the newspaper constitute the grounds for the accusations in the indictment. The other suspects in the indictment are Davut Uçar, Ersin Çaksu, Fırat Benli, Günay Aksoy, Mizgin Fendik, Önder Elaldı, Ramazan Sola and Yılmaz Yıldız.

Jailed defendants Yaşar, Yasul, Tarlak, Hacıoğlu, Urun, and Çelebi, as well as Sola, who is not in detention, and the defence lawyers were in attendance at the first hearing on 12 September, which was monitored by P24.

Yaşar addressed the court first. He said in his statement that he was not a member of any political party or any other institution. When the chief judge asked Yaşar a question concerning several headline stories published in the newspaper, Yaşar told the court that as a rule, he did not intervene in the titles of news stories.

Following Yaşar’s statement, Yasul addressed the court. He said he considered the allegation in the indictment that “the newspaper published news stories upon instruction” to be an insult. Adding that the allegations against him in the indictment did not constitute a crime, Yasul requested for his release.

Editor Urun then addressed the court. “I am a journalist who holds an International Press Card,” Urun said, adding that she was also currently studying for a postgraduate degree in women’s studies and therefore the news stories she covered were mainly in that field. “Despite my field of interest being women and children, I am being held responsible for news stories outside my line of work,” Urun said.

About the news stories the chief judge inquired of all the defendants present in the courtroom, Urun said: “The headlines of those stories include the personal statements of the subjects in those stories. They are not the opinions or statements of an editor or the editor in chief. What the newspaper did was merely reporting on those statements. The indictment is made in its entirety of news stories, which shows that what is being put on trial here is journalism.”

Urun added that the Kurdish songs in her mp3 player were used as evidence against her in the indictment. She said the allegations were unlawful and requested for her acquittal.

Urun’s statement was followed by Tarlak, who told the court that she was a secretary and bookkeeper for the newspaper, and that she was indicted merely because she was registered as an employee there. Tarlak added that the indictment referred to a separate ongoing criminal case against her before a different court, violating her right to presumption of innocence. Tarlak requested for her release.

Ramazan Sola, the only defendant at the hearing who was not in pretrial detention, said he was a driver for the newspaper and his responsibility was to distribute the newspaper, adding that he had no information as to the news stories and requesting for his acquittal.

Editor Çelebi gave his statement next. “A free press is the voice of democracy,” Çelebi said, adding that the newspaper observed the universal principles of journalism.

Hacıoğlu, another jailed editor, spoke next. Speaking about excerpts from interviews she conducted for the newspaper that are held as evidence against her in the indictment, Hacıoğlu said: “As a rule, it is the journalist’s decision to whether or not publish [those statements]. But a journalist is not entitled to amend or twist the statements given to her.”

Hacıoğlu requested her acquittal as she completed her statement. 

After the completion of statements by the defendants in attendance, defense lawyer Özcan Kılıç addressed the court. He said he had been a lawyer for Özgürlükçü Demokrasi ever since the newspaper was founded. He said that before its closure, the newspaper had not even once been pulled off newsstands because of its news coverage. “I have been a lawyer for newspapers for years. A newspaper must first receive a notice requesting a correction or clarification through a notary public. The newspaper did not receive such a notice for the headlines mentioned [in this court]. None of those news stories were denied.”

Adding that the “membership in a terrorist organization” charge in the indictment was a far-fetched allegation, Kılıç requested for the jailed defendants to be released and the lifting of the arrest warrants against those who were not present at the hearing.

Following the completion of all defense lawyers’ statements, the prosecutor requested the continuation of the detention of defendants on remand.

The court announced its interim decision after a brief recess, ruling for Pınar Tarlak’s release from pretrial detention and ordering the continuation of the detention of the newspaper’s editors and its owner. The court imposed an international travel ban on Tarlak. It also decided to await the execution of the arrest warrants against six other suspects in the case file and adjourned the trial until 6 December. Source


6 April 2018
Journalists Imprisoned

An Istanbul court on April 6 arraigned İhsan Yaşar and İhsak Kabul, the publisher and responsible news editor respectively for the recently seized pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, on charges of "being members of a [terrorist] organization" and "making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization," the daily Evrensel reported.

They will remain in custody until their indictment, according to the report.

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An Istanbul court on April 10 arraigned three editors from the now-shuttered Kurdish newspaper Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, along with three newspaper employees and a former employee on charges of "being members of a [terrorist] organization," the news website Diken reported.

The three editors, Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Reyhan Hacıoğlu, and Hicran Urun, and a newspaper employee Pınar Tarlak will remain in government detention while awaiting trial. The court released newspaper employees Ramazan Solam and Nedim Demirkıran, and former employee Mehmet Beyazıt, on probation pending trial, Diken said.


On March 28 (2018),
police raided the central office of Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper in the district of Beyoğlu in İstanbul and the Gün Printing House, where the issues of the newspaper were printed.

When the attorneys reached the central office of the newspaper, there was someone in suit who said that he was an official from the Saving Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF). Although it was alleged that a trustee was appointed to the newspaper, it could not be officially confirmed.

Were arrested on charge of "being a member of an illegal organization" and propagandizing for a terrorist organization" on April 6.


4 journalists from seized pro-Kurdish daily put in pre-trial detention on terror charges

by  | Apr 18, 2018 | Today in Crackdown

A Turkish court on Tuesday ruled to arrest three editors and one media worker from the pro-Kurdish Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper, which was seized by the Turkish government in late March on the grounds that it has links to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Özgürlükçü Demokrasi is the successor of the Özgür Gündem newspaper, which was closed down by the government in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

On March 28, the headquarters of Özgürlükçü Demokrasi in the Beyoğlu district of İstanbul and its printing house were raided and searched by police teams upon an order from the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. Twenty-two employees of the daily were detained, and 20 were subsequently arrested.

Seven others from the daily were detained in another police operation on April 7.

Of them, editors Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Reyhan Hacıoğlu and Hicran Urun, and media worker Pınar Tarlak, were arrested on Tuesday on charges of membership in a terrorist organization.

The remaining three were released on judicial probation.

20 of the 21 workers from Gün Printing House have been sent to court.

5 April 2018

20 of the 21 workers from Gün Printing House, which was raided by police on March 28, have been sent to court.

Eight of them were arrested, deposition proceeding of the 12 people is ongoing as of 2:55 p.m.

Mezopotamya Agency reported that 20 of those who were detained during the raid were taken taken to İstanbul Courthouse.

Holding an examination on the file, the prosecutor’s office sent all the workers to court for arrest.

Names of those who were sent to court for arrest are as follows:

Owner of Gün Printing House Kasım Zengin, printing house workers Erdoğan Zamur, Cemal Tunç, İhsan Sinmiş, İrfan Karaca, Kazım Göçer, Mehmet Emin Sümeli, Musa Kaya, Sadettin Demirtaş, Necati Hizarcı, Polat Arslan, Mahmut Abay, Cumali Öz, Mehmet Kadir Özkara, Mürsel Demir, Özgür Bozkurt, Kemal Daşdöğen, Süleyman Güneş, Muhammet Özkan, Uğur Selim Kelekçiler.

Cumali Öz, Mehmet Kadir Özkara, Özgür Bozkurt, Kemal Daşdeğen, Süleyman Güneş, Uğur Selman Kelekçiler, Muhammet Özkan and Mürsel Demir were arrested.

A person whose name couldn’t be found out was released following the deposition.

What happened?

Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper and Gün Printing were raided by police on March 28 and it was reportedly transferred to the Saving Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) and a trustee was appointed.

25 people including Grant Holder of Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper İhsan Yaşar and Owner of Gün Printing House Kasım Zengin were taken into custody during and after the raid.

The total number of detentions became 33

Names of those who were detained as of today (April 4) are as follows:

Grant Holder of Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper İhsan Yaşar, Owner of Gün Printing House Kasım Zengin, Managing Editor İshak Yasul, newspaper staff Reyhan Hacıoğlu, Nedim Demirkıran, M. Ali Çelebi , Ramazan Sola Pınar Tarlak, Hicran Ürün, gazetenin eski çalışanı Mehmet Beyazıt, Gün Matbaası Sahibi Kasım Zengin, matbaa çalışanları Erdoğan Zamur, Musa Kaya, Cemal Tunç, Kemal Daşdöğen, İrfan Karaca, Mehmet Emin Sumeli, İhsan Sinmiş, Uğur Selman Kelekçiler, Kazım Göçer, Necati Hızarcı, Mahmut Abay, Mehmet Özkara, Cumali Öz, Mürsel Demir, Polat Arslan, Süleyman Güneş, Cenk Kale, Cengiz Kaya, İsmail Ergene, Semih Tamay, Özgür Bozkurt, Sadettin Demirtaş and Muhammet Özkan. (EA/TK) Source

 
Detained during the operation launched against staff of Özgürlükçü Demokrasi to

11 April 2018

Detained during the operation launched against staff of Özgürlükçü Demokrasi to which a trustee was appointed, journalists Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Reyhan Hacıoğlu, Hicran Urun and Pınar Tarlak have been arrested.

Seven editors and workers who were taken into custody on April 4 as part of the investigation launched in the wake of a trustee being appointed to Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper and Gün Printing House, were taken to İstanbul Courthouse yesterday (April 10).

According to Newspaper Karınca, the prosecutor didn’t take their statements. Newspaper’s editors Çelebi, Hacıoğlu and Urun, and the staff Tarlak and Sola were sent to 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace for arrest.

The prosecutor demanded that newspaper staff Nedir Demirkıran and former staff Mehmet Beyazit be released on probation.

While Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Reyhan Hacıoğlu, Hicran Urun and Pınar Tarlak were arrested on charge of “being a member of an illegal organization”, the other three figures were released on probation.

What happened?

On March 28, police raided the central office of Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper in the district of Beyoğlu in İstanbul and the Gün Printing House, where the issues of the newspaper were printed.

When the attorneys reached the central office of the newspaper, there was someone in suit who said that he was an official from the Saving Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF). Although it was alleged that a trustee was appointed to the newspaper, it could not be officially confirmed.

During the raids on March 28 and the house raids on the following days, 33 people from the Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper and Gün Printing House were taken into custody, including the Grant Holder of Özgürlükçü Demokrasi İhsan Yaşar, its Managing Editor İshak Yasul and the owner of Gün Printing House Kasım Zengin.

On April 5, eight people were arrested on charge of "aiding an illegal organization knowingly and willfully as non-members." 12 other people, including the owner of Gün Printing House Kasım Zengin were also arrested on charges of "membership of an illegal organization" and "propagandizing for a terrorist organization."

Grant Holder of Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper İhsan Yaşar and its Managing Editor İshak Yasul were arrested on charge of "being a member of an illegal organization" and propagandizing for a terrorist organization" on April 6.

Detained during the operation launched on March 28, 20 workers of Gün Printing House were arrested by the court they stood trial.

About Özgürlükçü Demokrasi Newspaper

After Özgür Gündem newspaper was closed on August 16, 2016, Özgürlükçü Gündem newspaper started to be published on August 23, 2016.

Started to be published by Nesrin Media, Publishing and Distribution, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi was recently published and distributed by Engin Media, Publishing Industry and Trade Limited Company.

The newspaper reported the arrests of Özgür Gündem's Executive Editor Zana Kaya and its Editor-in-Chief İnan Kızılkaya in the subheading of its first issue. Kaya and Kızılkaya were arrested on August 22, 2016. Kaya was released on December 29, 2016 and Kızılkaya on November 1, 2017. (BK/TK) Source

 
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