Photojournalist Çağdaş Erdoğan was detained on 2 September 2017 while taking photographs in a park in Istanbul’s Kadıköy district. He was accused of allegedly taking photographs of a social facility for the employees of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and was arrested 11 days later, on 13 September, on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization (PKK/KCK).”
The prosecutor issued a confidentiality order regarding Erdoğan’s file during the investigation.
As a result, the allegations against the 24-year-old Erdoğan were not known until the indictment against him was accepted on November 20. In the indictment Erdoğan was also accused of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.” Erdoğan faces up to 22.5 years in prison for the accusations in the indictment.
Evidence for the allegations levelled against Erdoğan consist exclusively of photographs he has taken and his posts on both his social media account and on his personal website.
The photographer’s work has been published internationally by a number of well-known media outlets, including Getty Images, Agence France-Presse, The Associated Press, BBC, The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel. Erdoğan has also exhibited his work in Greece and Italy. His photographs of night life in Istanbul have been compiled in a book.
Erdoğan appeared in the first hearing of the trial against him on 13 February 2018 and addressed the 33rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul for his defense statement.
In its interim ruling at the end of the first hearing, the court ruled to release the photojournalist pending the conclusion of the trial and imposed on him an international travel ban. The court set 1 June 2018 as the date for the next hearing.
At the second hearing on 1 June, Erdoğan said he had been unable to attend four exhibitions where his work was on display during his time in prison and added that he was now invited to four other exhibitions over the next two months, asking the court to lift his travel ban. At the end of the hearing, the court accepted requests from Erdoğan and his lawyer and lifted the international travel ban imposed on Erdoğan and exempted him from attending future hearings. The court set 2 November 2o18 as the date for the next hearing.
Erdoğan, who is exempt from personally appearing in the courtroom, was not present at the third hearing in the trial on 2 November. Announcing its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court adjourned the trial until 26 March 2019, awaiting the outcome of the forensic examination of digital material belonging to Erdoğan, and the response from the Gendarmerie General Command concerning an inquiry by the court.
Erdoğan and his lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu were in attendance at the fourth hearing of the case on 26 March. P24 monitored the hearing.
Çalıkuşu told the court that Erdoğan had been unable to retrieve his passport despite the international travel ban imposed on her client to have been lifted in June 2018. The presiding judge said there were no judicial control measures in connection with Erdoğan’s passport in place and that the problem must be in connection with an administrative decision. The presiding judge then informed those in attendance that the court had just received the documents they had been awaiting and set 7 May 2019 as the date for the next hearing.
The fifth hearing of Erdoğan’s trial took place on 7 May at the 33rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul. P24 monitored the hearing, where Erdoğan and his lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu were in attendance.
The prosecution submitted their final opinion of the case during the hearing, seeking conviction for Erdoğan on the charge of “propaganda” as per Article 7/2 of Turkey’s anti-terror law (TMK). The prosecution requested Erdoğan’s acquittal of the second charge in the indictment. Lawyer Çalıkuşu requested a continuance for Erdoğan’s final defense statement. Granting additional time for the defense, the court adjourned the trial until 13 June 2019.
Erdoğan’s trial resumed on 13 June 2019 at the 33rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul. This was the sixth hearing in the case. Erdoğan’s lawyers requested additional time. Accepting the lawyers’ request, the court adjourned the trial until 5 September 2019.
The final hearing in Erdoğan’s trial was held on 5 September 2019 at the 33rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul. Erdoğan, who was not in attendance, was represented by his lawyer. Announcing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court acquitted Erdoğan of “membership in a terrorist group” but sentenced him to 1 year and 8 months in prison on the charge of “systematically disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” as per the prosecutor’s final opinion. The court deferred the sentence.
Another case was opened against Erdoğan on the charge of “insulting the president” on social media.
The first hearing of this trial took place on 16 January at the 13th Criminal Court of First Instance of Bursa.
The photojournalist and his lawyer were in attendance at the first hearing. Erdoğan submitted a written defense statement to the court, where he responded to the allegation and explained to the court that the said social media post was not about the president.
Issuing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court ruled for Erdoğan’s acquittal.