May 21 2019

Staff of shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper handed jail sentences in Turkey

Former editors and staff of the shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper received prison sentences from a Turkish court on Tuesday.

Özgür Gündem, an Istanbul-based daily newspaper that was printed in Turkish and Kurdish and was associated with the Kurdish political movement, was closed down in 2016 by a state of emergency decree.

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government called the state of emergency shortly after a coup attempt in July 2016.

The AKP blames the Gülen religious movement for orchestrating the coup attempt, but opponents including the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and other Kurdish organisations were also heavily targeted during the two-year state of emergency.

The Özgür Gündem journalists have been charged with a range of crimes including making propaganda for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, an armed group that resumed its decades long fight against the Turkish state for Kurdish self-rule after the breakdown of peace talks in 2015.

Seven of the defendants received jail sentences, while eight were acquitted, German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported.

Among those to receive prison sentences was Eren Keskin, the newspaper’s former co-chief editor and the head of Turkey’s Human Rights Association, who received a sentence of three years and nine months.

Keskin is a suspect in 47 separate trials, the Media and Law Studies Association reported on May 8.

Her fellow co-chief editor, Hüseyin Akyol, received a 25-month sentence. Akyol is being tried in 38 different cases.

Managing editor Reyhan Çapan was hit with a three-year-and-nine-month sentence, while journalists Hüseyin Güçlü and Tahir Temel received 18 months, and Ayşe Batumlu and Reyhan Hacıoğlu 15 months.

Seven other defendants will be tried separately, Turkish independent news outlet Diken reported.