Journalist and author Murat Çelikkan, who joined ‘the Editor-in-Chief on Watch’ campaign in solidarity with the pro-Kurdish Özgür Gündem daily, which was later shut down by the Justice and development Party (AKP) government, has been given a jail sentence of 18 months by an İstanbul court.
The same court has also sentenced academic Beyza Üstün to 15 months of imprisonment. While the court has deferred Üstün’s jail sentence, journalist Çelikkan’s sentence was not suspended over the pretext that “he did not show remorse.”
Court hearing in the case against participants of ‘the Editor-in-Chief on Watch’ campaign in solidarity with the Özgür Gündem newspaper is being held in İstanbul’s 13th High Criminal Court. Academic Beyza Üstün and journalist Çelikkan are prosecuted separately for the same alleged crime.
After Çelikkan’s defense, his lawyers demanded his release. However, the court has sentenced Çelikkan to one year in prison for “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” and increased the sentence to 18 months for “committing the crime through the press and media.”
Closed Özgür Gündem daily’s ‘Editor-in-Chief on Watch’ campaign was launched on May 3, 2016 and ended on August 7, 2016. 56 journalists and intellectuals joined the campaign. 50 of the campaign participants faced prosecution. Of the prosecuted, files of the 38 have been turned into cases. Among these editors, Erol Önderoğlu, Ahmet Nesin and Şebnem Korur Fincancı were detained in June 2016 and kept under custody for 10 days.
The members of Özgür Gündem’s Board Consultants, executives and writers Necmiye Alpay, Aslı Erdoğan, Ragıp Zarakolu, Filiz Koçali, Eren Keskin, Zana Kaya, İnan Kızılkaya, Kemal Sancılı and Bilge Oykut stand trial as part of the main trial of Özgür Gündem daily. Journalists Kızılkaya and Sancıl were arrested and are still in jail.
Turkey is the leading jailer of journalists in the world with one third of arrested journalists across the globe being held in Turkish jails. Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has documented that 237 journalists are now in jails, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 215 are arrested pending trial, only 22 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons.
An outstanding detention warrants remain for 103 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey. Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the coup attempt.
May 16, 2017