Murat İnceoğlu/Duvar

Lawyers of former employees of daily Cumhuriyet have asked for a repetition of the hearing held on Nov. 21, saying that the court failed to act in accordance with the procedures despite the lawyers’ application for recusal.

The Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court on Nov. 21 upheld its conviction of 12 former Cumhuriyet staff despite their sentences having been overturned by the Court of Cassation in September.

The court acquitted a 13th defendant, journalist Kadri Gürsel, due to a ruling by the Constitutional Court, Turkey’s highest.

In a case that drew global outrage over press freedom in Turkey, 14 employees of Cumhuriyet were sentenced in April 2018 to various jail terms on terrorism charges. 

They were accused of supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as well as the network of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, widely believed to have been behind the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt.

During the hearing, lawyers asked for a recusal, which was branded as an attempt to prolong the hearing by the court, before being rejected.

Following the ruling, lawyer Bülent Utku, who was being tried in the case, and his lawyers appealed for recusal and thus repetition of the hearing, while citing the article preventing the appointment of the same judge in cases of retrial as one of the reasons for their move.

The Cumhuriyet staff have been in and out of jail for the duration of their trials. The 14th defendant, Cumhuriyet accountant Emre İper, was released last month and his case is still under court review.

The Court of Cassation, Turkey’s high court of appeals, had ruled in September for the 13 defendants to be acquitted, with the exception of journalist and politician Ahmet Şık. The court said Şık should be tried for a different crime.