Next hearing in Birgun journalists’ trial for ‘insulting’ Erdogan set for Dec. 10

Managing Editor Berkant Gultekin, Responsible Manager Can Ugur and journalist Barıs İnce attended the first hearing in the trial that is being heard at the İstanbul Courthouse in Caglayan on Tuesday due to a news report published by the daily in February.

The headline of Birgun’s main story on Feb. 17 read “Thief, killer Erdogan.” The news story was published in criticism of insult cases filed by Erdogan against many people who, during protest meetings across the country in February, chanted slogans that described Erdogan as a “thief” and “killer.”

The daily said the slogan cannot be used as a pretext to file cases against people and arrest them. In a bid to show solidarity with the people arrested for chanting the slogan, the daily also published the same slogan and said: “We are one of the 35 million you hate. We committed the same crime as well.”

The İstanbul 2nd Court of First Instance has set the next hearing in the trial for Dec. 10. The three journalists are facing a jail sentence of from one to four years.

Giving his defense in court on Tuesday, Gultekin said the trial launched against him and his colleagues is politically motivated. Gultekin said calling Erdogan a murderer or thief is just political criticism, adding that policies being sought by Erdogan are the main reason behind such negative slogans emerging against him. “The fact that such slogans are political criticism was proved in decisions made by the European Court of Human Rights [ECtHR]. We do not really understand what circumstances Erdogan depends on to launch such cases [against critics]. The motivation for this trial is completely political. A slogan shouted by millions is now the focus of a criminal trial.”

After Gultekin, Ugur took the floor at the hearing. He said both citizens and journalists have the right to criticize Erdogan.

İnce said Turkey has been going through very difficult times. He referred to the fact that the Cumhuriyet daily’s Editor-in-Chief Can Dundar and the paper’s Ankara representative, Erdem Gul, were arrested on charges of membership a terrorist organization and espionage on Thursday and paid tribute to them. İnce also said they have shown all of Turkey that this slogan against Erdogan can be broadcast by declaring it on a front page.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies Ali Seker, Onursal Adıguzel, Aykut Erdogdu, Mahmut Tanal and Eren Erdem; Cumhuriyet columnist Ceyda Karan; Evrensel Editor-in-Chief Fatih Polat; TV presenter İrfan Degirmenci; Yurt Managing Editor Sibel Koklu; and lawyers came to the courthouse to show their solidarity with the Birgun journalists.

Turkish Armenian columnist Hayko Bagdat has also been summoned to testify as part of an investigation launched against him on the charge of insulting Erdogan.

Posting tweets on Monday night, Bagdat announced that he was called by the prosecutor to testify. Bagdat went to the İstanbul Courthouse on Tuesday to give his testimony before the prosecutor.

Nine hearings held at the İstanbul Courthouse on Tuesday were “insult” cases based on charges of insulting Erdogan or his family members. Six of those hearings were held as part of trials launched on the charge of insulting President Erdogan, the other three were held regarding charges of insulting members of Erdogan’s family, such as his son Bilal Erdogan and his daughter Sumeyye Erdogan.