Cumhuriyet reporter Canan Coşkun handed down 2-year sentence; former Radikal and Habertürk TV reporter Mustafa Gökkılıç jailed pending trial
The emergency rule declared by the Turkish government in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016, has been lifted as of July 19, 2018. However, its impact on freedom of the press and freedom of expression has not ceased.
Throughout the two-year emergency rule, P24 produced a total of 149 reports in English (and 166 reports in Turkish) headlined “Journalists in State of Emergency,” aiming to chronicle violations of freedom of the press and freedom of expression in Turkey in light of information compiled from open sources. Notwithstanding the end of emergency rule, P24 will continue to produce such reports under the headline “Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey.”
Former Radikal reporter Mustafa Gökkılıç jailed pending trial
Mustafa Gökkılıç, a former reporter for Habertürk TV and the now defunct Radikal daily, who had been in custody since last week, was jailed pending trial on July 19 by an Istanbul court.
Gökkılıç was taken into custody on July 12 on grounds of an arrest warrant issued by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. He was among 24 people sought as part of a criminal investigation concerning 2012’s “MİT crisis,” in which the head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and several intelligence officials were summoned to testify in court.
Gökkılıç was arrested alongside five other individuals as part of the investigation. An Istanbul Criminal Judgeship of Peace jailed all six pending trial.
BirGün reporter Zeynep Kuray briefly detained
Zeynep Kuray, an Istanbul-based reporter for BirGün daily, was briefly taken into custody on July 20 in Kadıköy.
Kuray was among several people detained as police dispersed a group who convened in Kadıköy for a demonstration aimed at commemorating the victims of a 2015 suicide bombing in the southeastern town of Suruç, in Urfa. July 20 marked the third year anniversary of the Suruç attack, in which more than 30 civilians, mostly young people, were killed.
Kuray was on the scene to cover the commemoration. Kuray and others who were detained were released from custody later on July 20.
Cumhuriyet reporter Canan Coşkun given 2 years 3 months in jail
An Istanbul court on July 19 sentenced Cumhuriyet newspaper’s court reporter Canan Coşkun to two years and three months in jail for mentioning the witness in a criminal investigation by his name in a news report published in September 2017.
The 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul refused to reduce or postpone the sentence it handed down to Coşkun at the end of the third hearing in the case. The court however did not order Coşkun’s arrest, meaning she will be free pending the outcome of the appeal.
A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Evrensel cartoonist, editor stand trial for Paradise Papers cartoon
Evrensel daily’s cartoonist Sefer Selvi and former responsible managing editor Çağrı Sarı are standing trial in a case filed by former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım on grounds of a political cartoon by Selvi published in the newspaper and its online edition. Yıldırım is seeking TL 40,000 in non-pecuniary damages on grounds that Selvi’s cartoon “violated his personal rights.”
P24 monitored the first hearing of the trial, held on 19 July at the Anadolu 29th Civil Court of First Instance in Istanbul.
Evrensel lawyer Devrim Avcı represented Selvi and Sarı during the hearing. Addressing the court during the hearing, the lawyer said Selvi’s cartoon fell within criticism and humor, and therefore the case should be rejected. Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hering, the court rejected Avcı’s request and adjourned the trial until 8 November.
Zaman columnist Ali Ünal faces aggravated life sentence
Former Zaman columnist Ali Ünal, standing trial on “coup” and “leadership in an armed terrorist organization” charges, appeared before a court in Uşak on 18 July for the fourth hearing of his trial.
The prosecutor submitted his final opinion of the case during the hearing at the Uşak 2nd High Criminal Court, requesting aggravated life sentence for Ünal for “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.” The prosecutor also demanded that Ünal is remanded in prison.
The court ruled to keep Ünal in pretrial detention and adjourned the trial until 5 September for Ünal to prepare his final defense statement.
To read more about the hearing, monitored by P24, click here.
“MİT trucks case” against Dündar, Gül and Berberoğlu adjourned
The 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 18 July held the seventh hearing of a trial publicly known as the “MİT trucks case.”
Can Dündar, former editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet daily, the newspaper’s Ankara representative Erdem Gül, and imprisoned Republican People’s Party (CHP) İstanbul MP Enis Berberoğlu are standing trial in the case for “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” on account of Cumhuriyet’s May 2015 coverage of Syria-bound National Intelligence Agency (MİT) trucks.
At the end of the closed-door hearing, the court adjourned the trial until 10 October for the defendants to prepare their final defense statements.
Erdem Gül acquitted in retrial of MİT trucks case
In the retrial of another case in relation with Cumhuriyet’s coverage of the Syria-bound MİT trucks, the daily’s Ankara representative Gül was acquitted of the charges against him.
The retrial got underway in May, after the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s judgment of 6 May 2016, which had convicted Gül and Dündar for “disclosing confidential documents related to the security of the state” and sentenced both journalists to prison terms. Gül was given a 5-year prison term.
At the end of the first hearing of the retrial in May, the 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled to separate Gül’s file.
Gül and his lawyers were in attendance at the second hearing of his retrial on 16 July at the 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. The prosecutor submitted his final opinion, requesting that Gül be acquitted on grounds that the elements of the alleged crime were not present because Gül’s June 2015 article about the MİT trucks was published later than Dündar’s May 2015 report, after which the MİT trucks ceased being a state secret. The panel then announced its verdict, ruling for Gül’s acquittal.
Jailed journalist İdris Yılmaz given prison term in “libel” case
Jailed journalist İdris Yılmaz was given a prison sentence on 17 July in a case where he was charged with “libel” for his reporting based on footage showing a group of village guards in the eastern town of Erciş harassing a child.
Yılmaz, who is in pretrial detention in the Elazığ Maximum Security Prison as part of another case, addressed the Erciş 1st Criminal Court of First Instance via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS during the fourth hearing of the “libel” case.
In his defense statement, Yılmaz told the court that his report was part of his responsibility towards the public as a journalist. Adding that his coverage was based on recorded footage and eyewitness accounts, Yılmaz requested for his acquittal.
Announcing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court convicted Yılmaz of “defamation and insult” and gave the journalist a prison term of 1 year and 3 months in line with the prosecutor’s final opinion.
ETHA reporter Cuştan released, editor Temel remains behind bars
An Istanbul court on 17 July ruled to release Havva Cuştan, a reporter for the Etkin news agency (ETHA), after nine months in pretrial detention, while ordering to keep her colleague, editor İsminaz Temel, in jail.
Both journalists were appearing in the first hearing of their trial alongside 21 other defendants on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization.”
The 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul set 29 November 2018 as the date for the next hearing.
A report about the first hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
“Paradise Papers” case against Cumhuriyet journalists adjourned
Cumhuriyet daily’s finance desk editor Pelin Ünker appeared before an Istanbul court on 17 July for the second hearing of a lawsuit filed by former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and his sons.
Yıldırım and his sons are seeking TL 500,000 in non-pecuniary damages in the lawsuit, claiming that two reports published in Cumhuriyet concerning the “Paradise Papers” leaks “violated their personal rights.”
P24 monitored the hearing at the Anadolu 24th Civil Court of First Instance, where Ünker and her lawyer Abbas Yalçın attended. Yıldırım and his sons were represented by lawyer Tuba Kılıç.
Kılıç reiterated the plaintiffs’ claims during the hearing. Yalçın said the defense statement in response to the allegations would be submitted in written form, as is the rule in such lawsuits, and the judge postponed the trial until 6 September.
Ünker is standing trial alongside Cumhuriyet Foundation Executive Board Chairman Orhan Erinç in the case.
Özgür Gündem solidarity trial adjourned until October
The eighth hearing of the trial of journalists who joined in a solidarity campaign for the shuttered Özgür Gündem daily was held on 16 July at the 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
The prosecutor had submitted his final opinion of the case during the previous hearing, seeking prison terms for 12 of the 13 defendants — Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, Celal Başlangıç, İhsan Çaralan, Fehim Işık, Öncü Akgül, Faruk Eren, Celalettin Can, Ömer Ağın, Veysel Kemer, Dilşah Karakaya, Yüksel Oğuz and Özgür Gündem’s former co-editor-in-chief Hüseyin Aykol — on the charge of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization.” The prosecutor did not request a prison sentence for the 13th defendant, Mehmet Şirin Taşdemir, on grounds that he has already been convicted in another case.
P24 monitored the hearing on 16 July, where none of the defendants were in attendance. Defense lawyers addressing the court for the final defense statements requested that the investigation be expanded. The lawyers also raised objection of unconstitutionality.
Rejecting the lawyers’ requests and objections, the court adjourned the trial until 10 October for the rest of the final defense statements to be ready.
Mezopotamya agency reporter briefly detained
Hacı Söylemez, a reporter for the Mezopotamya news agency, was taken into custody on 16 July in front of the Council of Forensic Medicine in Izmir, where he was covering a developing news story. Söylemez was detained after a police officer searched his mobile phone. Söylemez was released from custody later that day.
Other freedom of expression cases of the past week
- Onur Hamzaoğlu, an academic and public health specialist, and socialist politician Fadime Çelebi appeared before the 29th High Criminal Court of Ankara on 19 July along with nine others for the first hearing of their trial on charges of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “inciting the public to hatred and animosity.’’ Both Hamzaoğlu and Çelebi were released at the end of the trial after five months in pre-trial detention over a press statement critical of Turkey’s military operation on Syria’s Afrin. To read more about the hearing, monitored by P24, click here.
- Three academics standing trial on “propaganda” charges for signing 2016’s Academics for Peace declaration were given suspended prison sentences on 17 July. The Istanbul 32nd High Criminal Court heard 10 academics cases on 17 July. The court convicted three of the academics and gave each academic 1 year and 3 months in prison and deferred the sentences.
- President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has filed a complaint against CHP Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and 72 other CHP MPs on grounds that they shared on social media a cartoon that caused four university students in Ankara to be jailed pending trial on the charge of “insulting the president.” The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor has also launched an investigation into Kılıçdaroğlu with the accusation of “insulting the president” after he shared the said cartoon on social media in protest of four Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) students being jailed because they carried a banner featuring the said cartoon during their school’s graduation ceremony.
List of journalists and media workers in prison
As of 21 July 2018, at least 178 journalists and media workers are in prison in Turkey, either in pretrial detention or serving a sentence.
The full list can be accessed here.