Özgür Gündem newspaper was shut down on 16 August 2016 by the decision of Istanbul 8th Criminal Judgeship of Peace. Aslı Erdoğan, a member of the Advisory Board of the newspaper and writer, was taken into custody on August 17, 2016 by a police raid on her home. Erdogan testified regarding the allegations of “membership of the organization”, “organizational propaganda” and “provoking the public” in the investigation, where her position in the newspaper and the published articles were considered as evidence. She was arrested on August 19. Managing editor of the newspaper, İnan Kızılkaya and editor-in-chief Zana Kaya were arrested on 22 August, and Advisory Board writer / linguist Necmiye Alpay was arrested on 31 August. Former Co-Editor-in-Chief Eren Keskin was released with the “judicial control measure”.
On 23 November 2016, the 23rd High Criminal Court in Istanbul accepted the indictment against the employees of Özgür Gündem Newspaper. In the 31-page indictment prepared by Istanbul Public Prosecutor Umut Tepe, Aslı Erdoğan, İnan Kızılkaya, Zana Kaya, Necmiye Alpay, Eren Keskin, Filiz Koçali, Ragıp Zarakolu, Kemal Sancılı and Bilge Aykut are suspect. The indictment demands defendants to be convicted with the following charges, 302/1 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) titled “Disrupting the unity of the state and the integrity of the country”, 314/2 titled “membership in an armed (terrorist) organization” and 220/1,2 and 8 stipulating crimes in relation to establishing an armed (terrorist) organization.
At the first hearing on 29 December 2016, Erdoğan, Alpay and Kaya were released. The court has lifted the international travel ban imposed on Necmiye Alpay and Aslı Erdoğan in June 2017.
Kızılkaya and Kemal Sancılı were released pending trial with an international travel ban on 31 October 2017.
The arrest warrant against publisher journalist Zarakolu was lifted at the hearing on 6 March 2018, as he reported that he was open to participate to the trial from Sweden. At the same hearing, the continuation of the arrest warrant against Koçali was ordered. While it was decided to continue the prohibition of Eren Keskin to go abroad, it was decided to exempt Necmiye Alpay from the hearings.
The court, which decided to return the digital materials whose examination was finished at the hearing on October 10, 2018, postponed the trial until 17 January 2019 for the defendants and lawyers to examine the digital examination reports.
At the 15th hearing of the trial on 13 January 2020, the prosecution submitted its opinion regarding the judgement.
Public Prosecution Office requested managing editor İnan Kızılkaya, the owner Kemal Sancılı and former editor-in-chief Eren Keskin to be punished by “being a member of a terrorist organization”. Zana (Bilir) Kaya was requested to be punished with “propagandizing successively for a terrorist organization by means of media” due to the articles and news published in the newspaper during the period when he was the Co-Editor. The prosecutor, who demanded a prison sentence for the allegation of “propagandizing for a terrorist organization” in terms of writer Aslı Erdoğan, demanded the acquittal of Necmiye Alpay and Bilge Aykut from all charges. The prosecutor requested that the files of the other defendants, Filiz Koçali and Ragıp Zarakolu, be separated.
The trial was postponed to 14 February for lawyers’ defend against the opinion.
In the hearing held on February 14, the court has ruled that the files of Zana (Bilir) Kaya, İnan Kızılkaya, Kemal Sancılı and Eren Keskin shall also be separated as time has been requested for their statements of defense as to the accusations. The court has ruled for the acquittal of Necmiye Alpay and Bilge Aykut.
Pronouncing its judgement on Aslı Erdoğan, the court has ruled that she shall be acquitted of “disrupting the unity and territorial integrity of the state” and “membership of a terrorist organization.” The charge of “propagandizing for a terrorist organization” brought against Erdoğan has also dropped as the four-month period stipulated by the Press Law has been exceeded (14 February).
In the Özgür Gündem trial, the appeals court overturned the court ruling dropping the charge of “propagandizing for a terrorist organization” filed against writer Aslı Erdoğan. Finalizing the appeal of the prosecutor’s office against the ruling of the İstanbul 23rd High Criminal Court, which dropped the related charges, the appeals court reversed the judgement and ruled that the file should be sent to the first instance court so that it would be examined again. The appeals court argued that as the related article of Erdoğan was published on a website, the charge could not be dropped as per the related article of the Press Law stipulating a four-month period for the statutory limitations (June 18).
At the hearing of the retrial held on December 16, 2021, the court ruled that the URLs of the articles indicated to have been published by Aslı Erdoğan on the Internet should be asked from the Cyber Crimes Bureau. Having spent over four months behind bars after being arrested on August 19, 2016 and now facing 7 years, 6 months in prison, Erdoğan will have her next hearing on February 10, 2022 (December 16).
At the hearing held on February 10, 2022, it was indicated that the articles requested at the previous hearing could not be identified. Accordingly, the court board concluded that the elements of the crime were not constituted and ruled that Aslı Erdoğan should be acquitted (February 10).
The acquittal of Erdoğan on charge of “propagandizing for a terrorist organization” (TMK 7/2) was upheld by the 27th Penal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice. The Court of Appeals did not find it appropriate to overturn the ruling based on the reasons put forward by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, stating that the evidence against Erdoğan was not sufficient for her conviction (May 31).