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RIGHTS >Cumhuriyet columnists, executives to be heard on Press Freedom Day in Turkey as court accepts indictment

Ayşegül Usta - ISTANBUL

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A trial against daily Cumhuriyet columnists and executives will begin on July 24, Press Freedom Day in Turkey, after an Istanbul court accepted an indictment into a total of 19 suspects on April 18, nearly five months after an investigation was launched.

The Istanbul 27th Court of Serious Crimes accepted the 274-page indictment with the former editor-in-chief of the daily, Can Dündar, named as the prime suspect by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.

The first hearing of the case will be held on July 24 Press Freedom Day at Istanbul’s Çağlayan courthouse as part of a four-day hearing process. Twelve of the suspects are currently in prison while another two are currently abroad. 

The charges directed at the suspects include “membership in an armed terrorist organization” and “helping an armed terrorist organization while not being a member of it.”

The indictment seeks between 7.5 and 15 years in prison sentence for Dündar, Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu, IPI Board Member Kadri Gürsel, Aydın Engin, Bülent Yener, Günseli Özaltay and İlhan Tanır for “helping an armed terrorist organization while not being a member.”

The CEO of the daily, Akın Atalay, Orhan Erinç and Önder Çelik are charged with “helping an armed terrorist organization while not being a member” and “abusing trust” and will face between 11.5 and 43 years in jail.

Bülent Utku, caricaturist Musa Kart, Hakan Karasinir, lawyer Mustafa Kemal Güngör and Hikmet Aslan Çetinkaya face between 9.5 and 29 years in jail on the same charges as those directed at Atalay, Erinç and Çelik. 

In addition, the prosecutor sought between 7.5 and 15 years in prison for journalist Ahmet Şık for “helping and being a member of the PKK and the DHKP/C.”

Separately, the Istanbul 12th Criminal Court of Peace on April 18 ordered the arrest of Yusuf Emre İper, who had been working in the accounting department of the daily, on charges of “being a member of an armed terror organization.”

İper was detained on April 6 for allegedly using ByLock, an encrypted messaging application which came to prominence after it emerged that Gülenists had used it to communicate.

İper’s lawyer Abbas Yalçın said there had been a phone image suggesting that İper did not use the application and that there were no chance of tampering with evidence since his phone had been confiscated.

Meanwhile, Yavuz Yakışkan, who was a motorcycle courier working for the daily, was released on probation two weeks after he was detained. As part of his probation conditions, Yakışkan is banned from traveling overseas.

April/18/2017

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