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
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.
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