Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates its call for the acquittal of its Turkey representative, Erol Önderoğlu, human rights defender Şebnem Korur Fincancı and the writer Ahmet Nesin. RSF will attend the Istanbul court hearing on 15 April when a verdict may finally be delivered in their emblematic trial, which has dragged on for more than two years.
The prosecutor has requested prison sentences for Önderoğlu and his two co-defendants, who are accused of “terrorist propaganda,” “condoning crime” and “inciting crime” by demonstrating their solidarity with a Kurdish newspaper that was being harassed by the authorities.
#SupportErolSign the petitionIn a show of support for the defendants, an international RSF delegation and many other observers are expected to travel to Istanbul to attend the 15 April hearing, at which the court could issue its verdict after the final defence speech.
The RSF delegation will consist of RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire, RSF Germany director Christian Mihr, RSF UK bureau director Rebecca Vincent and Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.
“Erol Önderoğlu is known throughout the world for his tireless and resolute defence of press freedom,” Deloire said. “Convicting him of an imaginary crime would be an enormous injustice and would bring disgrace on the Turkish authorities. Acquitting our representative and his colleagues would be the only legitimate decision.”
Önderoğlu, Fincancı and Nesin are being tried for taking part in a campaign of solidarity in which they and some 50 other well-known figures symbolically took turns at being Özgür Gündem’s “editor for a day” in mid-2016 because it had been the victim of judicial persecution. The newspaper ended up being forcibly closed in August 2016.
Önderoğlu and his two colleagues were the only ones to be placed in pre-trial detention for their role in the campaign. That was in June 2016, when their arrest caused an international outcry, with even UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon calling for their swift release. They were freed conditionally after being held for ten days.
The already worrying situation of Turkey’s media has become critical since an abortive coup in July 2016. Many media outlets have been closed summarily, without any effective form of recourse, mass trials are being held and Turkey now holds the world record for the number of professional journalists in prison. It is ranked 157th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.