Özgür Gündem newspaper was shut down on 16 August 2016 by the decision of Istanbul 8th Criminal Judgeship of Peace. The newspaper’s grant holder, Kemal Sancılı, was taken into custody on January 2, 2017 and was arrested on January 3. Following the closure decision, newspaper employees and executives had been taken into custody and İnan Kızılkaya, Aslı Erdoğan, Zana Kaya and Necmiye Alpay had been arrested in August 2016. The former editorial director of the newspaper, Eren Keskin, was released on the condition of judicial control.
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’ defends against the opinion.
The hearing of Eren Keskin, Zana Kaya, İnan Kızılkaya and Kemal Sancılı whose files have been separated in line with the time requests, was adjourned until 15 May by the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul due to the measures taken against Covid-19 pandemic (15 May).
At the hearing held on September 9, defense lawyers did not attend by presenting excuses. The next hearing will be on December 24 (9 September).
At the hearing held on December 24, 2020, the trial has been adjourned until February 15, 2021, as the new judge appointed to the court board requested time to examine the file (December 24).
At the hearing held by the İstanbul 23rd High Criminal Court on February 15, 2021, grant holder of Özgür Gündem newspaper Kemal Sancılı and its executives İnan Kızılkaya and Eren Keskin were sentenced to 6 years, 3 months in prison on charge of “being members of a terrorist organization.” Zana Bilir Kaya was sentenced to 1 year, 13 months in prison on charge of “propagandizing for a terrorist organization” (February 15).
In the Özgür Gündem main trial, the appeals court upheld the imprisonment of 20 years, 10 months in total given to the newspaper’s Grant Holder Kemal Sancılı, Managing Editor İnan Kızılkaya, Editor-in-Chief Zana Bilir Kaya and Eren Keskin (April 14).