Three facing terrorism charges pledge to defend free speech
by Steve Sweeney and Caroline Stockford in Istanbul
THE trial of three prominent Turkish writers was adjourned in Istanbul on Wednesday as the defendants vowed to defend the “basic human right of freedom of speech.”
Ahmet Nesin, Professor Sebnem Korur Fincanci and Reporters Sans Frontieres journalist Erol Onderoglu appeared at the Caglayan High Criminal Court in Istanbul on Wednesday, charged with “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation” — namely the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
The three had acted as guest editors of the pro-Kurdish newspaper Ozgur Gundem as a symbolic act of solidarity with Asli Erdogan and Necmiye Alpay, who were recently released on bail.
A packed courtroom, with international writers’ and solidarity groups from Germany, Italy and Welsh PEN present, heard the judge adjourn the trial until March, when the case will be heard alongside others related to Ozgur Gundem.
Following the adjournment, the defendants addressed people gathered outside the court. Prof Fincanci said: “We are here to defend the basic human right of freedom of speech. There can be no freedom for us while journalists are still in prison.
“Our solidarity struggle is to create a better environment both in Turkey and the world. International solidarity shows that we are all struggling together.
“We thank all of our colleagues from abroad and we have had thousands of messages of support from people saying that we are in their hearts. So feel this support and feel powerful.”
Newspaper Evrensel editor-in-chief Fatih Polat said: “There is not much difference in being inside or outside prison for journalists in Turkey at the moment.”
Earlier, in the same Istanbul court, the trial of Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Can Dundar and journalist Erdem Gul was also adjourned.
They face charges over a story in 2015 in which they alleged to have uncovered the smuggling of arms to Syria by intelligence services.
Mr Dundar did not appear at the court as he is in exile in Germany.
But Mr Gul remained defiant, stating: “The only evidence in our case is journalism. The media is on trial.
“All journalists should be freed immediately from prisons in Turkey. The only organisation we are members of is the journalists’ organisation.”
He finished by quoting the words of poet Can Yucel: “However much we are able to live without lies, so much the better.”
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