Lawyer Eren Keskin is the co-chair of the Human Rights Association, founder of the “Legal Assistance Office Against Sexual Harassment and Rape in Detention,” and an honorary member of the Paris Bar Council. She has received numerous international awards for her peace and human rights efforts and was the recipient of the 2019 Martin Ennals Award in May.
A number of cases have been filed against Keskin, including for “spreading propaganda for an armed terrorist organization,” “denigrating the Turkish nation, the Republic of Turkey, and the institutions and organs of the State,” “insulting the President,” and “failure to publish article corrections demanded by authorities to previous news articles”.
Most of these charges were brought against her for the work she has done as Editor-in-Chief of the Özgür Gündem daily newspaper between 2013 and 2016. She carried out this role at the newspaper to defend the right to freedom of expression and as a symbolic gesture to support the imprisoned editorial staff. Over 100 cases have been lodged against her for news and articles written by other journalists exercising their right to freedom of expression. Moreover, there are ongoing cases against Keskin in which she is being charged with “denigrating the State” for several statements she made on behalf of Human Rights Association and for a speech discussing sexual harassment as a method of torture.
Keskin was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for using the term “Kurdistan” in an article she published in 1995. She was eventually released earlier, spending 6 months in prison. Over the years, she has received many threats through letters, has been targeted in an armed attack in 1994 and 2001, and has been at constant risk of imprisonment
The total number of cases filed against Keskin is 143; yet, since some of these cases have been merged, the final number of cases is 122. Up to now, 10 of these cases have been finalized, resulting in Keskin being sentenced to prison. Of this large number of lawsuits, only 4 were dismissed. In addition to 5 ongoing cases, 103 cases are being reviewed by various appelette courts.
Eren Keskin’s sentences add up to 17 years, 2 months and 20 days in prison. Additionally, she has a high fine of 359,912 TL. A majority of the fine is still being reviewed by the High Court of Appeals. Thus, the total amount of judicial fines upheld is 139,080 TL. Keskin has paid some of this amount and is still paying the rest.
Keskin was given a prison sentence of 3 years and 9 months at the last hearing of the Özgür Gündem Case held on 21 May 2019 before the Istanbul 14th Heavy Penal Court.
On 17 July 2019, in another case before the 13th High Criminal Court, Keskin’s file was separated and merged with the Özgür Gündem Main Case file. The next hearing of this case will be held on 28 November 2019 at 23rd High Criminal Court.
On 16 August 2016, the Özgür Gündem daily was temporarily shut down on charges of “propagandizing for a terrorist organization” by the Istanbul 8th Court of Peace and was closed permanently through the Statutory Decree No. 675 issued on 29 October 2016.
The employees, columnists, and executives of the newspaper are standing trial for “propagandizing for a terrorist organization” and “being members of a terrorist organization.” These cases are under three different categories: The first consists of the case brought against employees of the newspaper, the second is the “Main Case” brought against columnists and executives and the third one is the Editors-in-Chief on Watch Case.
There are 95 ongoing cases against former Editor-In-Chief Eren Keskin and former Managing Editor Reyhan Çapan, in addition to 29 cases that have been filed against the columnists.
The last hearing was held on 22 May at the Istanbul 14th Heavy Penal Court. Eren Keskin and Reyhan Çapan have been sentenced to 3 years and 9 months in prison, Hüseyin Aykol to 2 years and 1 month, Ayşe Batumlu and Reyhan Hacıoğlu to 1 year and 3 months, and Tahir Temel and Hüseyin Güçlü to 1 month 6 months. While, “sentences of imprisonment have not been deferred” for 7 defendants, the sentences of Batumlu and Hacıoğlu have been deferred.
On 16 August 2016, special operation police forces raided the newspaper building following the decision to shut down the newspaper, and 24 journalists including İMC TV and DİHA employees, who had been following up reports at the time, were taken into custody. The homes of Eren Keskin, former editor-in-chief of Özgür Gündem, and columnist Filiz Koçali and journalist Ragıp Zarakolu were raided by the police.
On 22 August 2016, Managing Editor İnan Kızılkaya and Editor-in-Chief Zana Bilir were arrested by the court on duty. Among the columnists and executives of the newspaper, Aslı Erdoğan was arrested on 19 August and Necmiye Alpay on 31 August. Erdoğan and Alpay, who were members to the Publishing Consultancy Board, and former Editor-in-Chief Zana Kaya were released on 29 December 2016. Former Managing Editor İnan Kızılkaya was released after spending 441 days in prison and owner Kemal Sancılı, who spent 301 days in prison, was released on 31 October 2017 in the case known as the “Özgür Gündem Main Case” filed against the Consultancy Board members, executives and writers Necmiye Alpay, Aslı Erdoğan, Ragıp Zarakolu, Filiz Koçali, Eren Keskin, Zana Kaya, Kemal Sancılı, İnan Kızılkaya and Bilge Oykut.
This case is still ongoing before the Istanbul 23rd Heavy Penal Court. The next hearing will be held on 28 November 2019.