Hasan Cemal faces investigation on “insulting the president charge”; courts rule to keep jailed journalists in Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, ETHA trials behind bars; university student jailed on “insulting the president” charge

 

Veteran journalist Hasan Cemal, the founding president of P24 Platform for Independent Journalism, on 6 December gave his statement before a prosecutor at the Istanbul Courthouse as part of an investigation where he is accused of “insulting the president.”

The accusation stems from a column by Cemal, published in the online news outlet T24 in July. 

In his oral statement before the prosecutor, Cemal explained that the expressions in his column constituted an exercising of his right to freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and asserted that they did not constitute any offense.

A report about Cemal’s statement can be accessed here.

University student jailed on “insulting the president” charge

Berivan Bila, a senior year student from the Communications Faculty of the Karadeniz Technical University (KTÜ) in Trabzon, was jailed pending trial on Friday on the charge of “insulting the president.”

The grounds for her imprisonment was a 2017 article Bila wrote about freedom of the press, which she also shared on social media. The title of her article, originally written in Turkish, read: “Journalism 101: Journalism Is Not a Crime.”

Bila was arrested during a police raid on 6 December. Her computer, mobile phone, numerous newspaper and magazine copies as well as her books were confiscated during the raid.

No new releases in Özgürlükçü Demokrasi trial

The second hearing of the trial into 14 employees of the shuttered daily Özgürlükçü Demokrasi on terrorism-related charges took place on 6 December at the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

The newspaper’s publisher İhsan Yaşar, responsible managing editor İshak Yasul, editors Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Reyhan Hacıoğlu and Hicran Ürün have been in pre-trial detention since April as part of the case. The defendants are accused of “membership in a terrorist organization,” “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “printing or publishing terrorist group publications.”

The defendants made their defense statements during the hearing. Rejecting the accusations, the journalists requested to be released pending trial.

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ordered the continuation of the detention of all jailed defendants in the case and adjourned the trial until 21 February 2019.

A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.

Trial against Evrensel’s Fatih Polat adjourned until March

The third hearing of a trial where Evrensel daily’s Editor-in-Chief Fatih Polat stands accused of “disclosing the private communication between two individuals” was held on 6 December in Istanbul.

The accusation stems from a news story published in Evrensel on 22 February 2010 — when Polat was the responsible managing editor of the daily. The story covered the leaked tapes of an alleged phone conversation between former Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek and former AKP MP Burhan Kuzu.

The 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul adjourned the trial until 7 March 2019, awaiting an expert report as to when Evrensel reported about the tapes.

“Insulting the president” case against Evrensel columnist adjourned 

The third hearing of a trial where lawyer and Evrensel columnist Kamil Tekin Sürek is accused of “insulting the president” was held on 6 December at the Bakırköy 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance in Istanbul. Sürek’s lawyer Devrim Avcı requested a continuance for the defense statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion. The court agreed to grant additional time, adjourning the trial until 20 December 2018.

Kibriye Evren appears before court on terrorism-related charges

Also on 6 December, jailed reporter Kibriye Evren appeared in the first hearing of her trial on the charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

Evren, a reporter for the women’s news collective Jin News, has been in pre-trial detention since October. She faces up to 22 years in prison if convicted. Evren’s overseas travels and her social media posts are held as evidence against her in the case file.

Making her defense statement during the hearing, Evren told the court that the secret witness testimony against her were false. Evren rejected the accusations and requested for her release pending trial.

The prosecution then requested the continuation of Evren’s detention. In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the 5th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır ordered the continuation of Evren’s pre-trial detention on the grounds of “available evidence” and adjourned the trial until 10 January 2019.

Court dismisses compensation case against Çiğdem Toker 

The Ankara 1st Civil Court of First Instance on 6 December dismissed a compensation case against journalist Çiğdem Toker, filed by the agricultural company Agrobay on account of a column in which Toker wrote about Turkish companies exporting tomatoes to Russia.

Claiming that Toker’s column damaged its public image and commercial standing, Agrobay had been seeking a record TL 1.5 million in non-pecuniary damages for Toker’s column.

Semiha Şahin, Pınar Gayıp remain behind bars at 2nd hearing

Etkin news agency (ETHA) editor Semiha Şahin and reporter Pınar Gayıp, jailed since April on terrorism-related charges, appeared before the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 5 December for the second hearing of their trial.

Addressing the court for their defense statements, both Şahin and Gayıp denied the accusations and said that this case was an attempt at criminalizing journalism.

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to keep Şahin and Gayıp behind bars while releasing two other jailed defendants in the case under judicial control measures. The next hearing in the trial is set for 30 January 2019.

A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.

Mehmet Dursun released from pre-trial detention at his first hearing 

The trial of Van-based journalist Mehmet Dursun, who has been jailed pending trial since April, got underway on 5 December in Van.

Dursun is accused of “membership in a terrorist organization” on account of his phone conversations with his sources. 

Addressing the 4th High Criminal Court of Van for his defense statement during the hearing, Dursun denied the accusations and requested his acquittal.

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to release Dursun under judicial control measures and set 15 May 2019 as the date for the next hearing in the case.

Rojhat Doğru jailed pending trial on terrorism charge

A Diyarbakır Criminal Judgeship of Peace on 5 December jailed journalist Rojhat Doğru pending trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group.” 

Doğru was taken into custody in Istanbul as part of an investigation launched in Diyarbakır. He gave his statement to the 5th Criminal Judgeship of Peace of Diyarbakır on 5 December. The journalist denied the allegations and requested to be released pending trial.

The judgeship jailed Doğru on the grounds of “strong suspicion” on account of his Facebook posts.

Appellate court rules to release former Zaman ad exec 

An appellate court in Istanbul on 5 December ruled to release Beytullah Demir, a former advertising executive for the shuttered Zaman daily who had been jailed at the Silivri Prison for the past 21 months.

The ruling for Demir’s release came after the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals reversed the 7.5-year prison sentence imposed on Demir and sent his file back to the Regional Court of Justice in Istanbul, an appellate court.

Arrest warrants issued for Can Dündar and Memet Ali Alabora

Arrest warrants were issued for Can Dündar, the former editor-in-chief of the daily Cumhuriyet, and stage and screen actor Memet Ali Alabora, on the charge of “attempting to overthrow the government.”

The arrest warrants were issued as part of an ongoing investigation into the nationwide Gezi Park protests of 2013. Osman Kavala, the executive board chairman of Anadolu Kültür Inc., has been jailed pending trial without and indictment for more than a year as part of the investigation.

Top court finds violation of press freedom in Bianet case 

The Constitutional Court has found a violation of the right to freedom of the press in an access ban order for a 2006 news story published by Bianet.

In its unanimous ruling rendered on 30 October and published in the Official Gazette on 4 December, the Constitutional Court ruled that “the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press, enshrined in articles 26 and 28 of the Constitution, have been violated” and ordered a retrial for the elimination of the violation.

Three printing house employees released in Gün Matbaacılık case

The trial into the 21 employees of Gün Matbaacılık, the company that printed the shuttered newspaper Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, resumed on 3 December in Istanbul.

The defendants are charged with “knowingly and willingly aiding and abetting a terrorist organization,” “membership in a terrorist organization” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

The 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled at the end of the second hearing to release three jailed employees of the printing company — Mürsel Demir, Polat Arslan and Kazım Göçer — and adjourned the trial until 14 January 2019.

Kasım Zengin, the owner of the printing company, and employees Cemal Tunç, Erdoğan Zamur, İhsan Sinmiş, İrfan Karaca, Mahmut Abay, Mehmet Emin Sümeli and Musa Kaya remain in pretrial detention.

Eight other employees of the printing company had been released from pre-trial detention at the end of the first hearing of the case.

Çağdaş Kaplan gives defense statement in “Musa Çitil case” 

Çağdaş Kaplan, the editor-in-chief of the daily Yeni Yaşam, gave his defense statement on 3 December before an Istanbul court as part of an ongoing trial in Diyarbakır.

Kaplan and six other journalists are charged with “making those involved in the fight against terrorism a target” in the case, where senior gendarmerie commander Maj. Gen. Musa Çitil, who was cited in a news report published in February 2016 by the shuttered DİHA news agency, is the plaintiff. The journalists are accused because they shared the news story on social media.

Kaplan told the court during his statement that journalism was being put on trial in this case. He argued that Çitil was actually making journalists a target through this court case. Rejecting the accusation, Kaplan said he shared the news story for the public’s right to information.

The next hearing in the case, overseen by the 9th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır, is set for 16 January 2019.

Three more academics convicted for signing peace petition 

Three more academics charged with “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” for signing 2016’s Academics for Peace petition were convicted this week.

On 6 December, Gülhan Balsoy was given a 15-month prison sentence at the end of the third hearing of their trial at the 28th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. The sentence was deferred.

The same court on 4 December sentenced Yonca Güneş Yücel to 18 months in prison. Yücel was sentenced in absentia. The court deferred her sentence. Yücel will be subject to probation for the next two years.

Also on 4 December, the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul convicted academic S.B. at the end of the first hearing of the case. The defendant did not request a continuance after the prosecution submitted their final opinion of the case, so the court went on to issue its verdict, sentencing the academic to 1 year, 10 months and 15 days in prison on the grounds that “the offense was committed successively.” The court then reduced the sentence to 1 year, 6 months and 22 days in consideration of the defendant’s conduct in court. The sentence was deferred.

List of journalists and media workers in prison 

As of 7 December 2018, at least 170 journalists and media workers are in prison in Turkey, either in pre-trial detention or serving a sentence.

The full list can be accessed here.