General Prosecutor says “coup” charge should be dropped in Altans case; Pelin Ünker, Perihan Mağden, Tunca Öğreten sentenced on “insult” charges; prosecutor gets Eren Erdem rearrested after court rules for his release

The Office of the General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals has requested the reversal of the appellate court’s verdict in the case against jailed novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan, his brother, professor of economics and longtime newspaper columnist Mehmet Altan, veteran journalist Nazlı Ilıcak, and their three co-defendants.

The judicial opinion by the General Prosecutor, submitted on 8 January to the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals, said the Altan brothers and Ilıcak should have been charged with “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member,” instead of the much serious charge of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.”

A report about the judicial opinion can be accessed here.

“KCK press trial” adjourned until May

The “KCK press trial,” part of a series of criminal cases in connection with the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) investigation, resumed on 11 January at the 3rd High Criminal court of Istanbul.

Forty-six journalists and media workers stand accused of “membership in a terrorist group” and “leadership of a terrorist group” in the case.

During Friday’s hearing, monitored by P24, defense lawyer Özcan Kılıç requested that the court inquire about the trial into the officers who conducted the investigation that led to the ongoing case. Accepting Kılıç’s request, the court adjourned the trial until 9 May 2019.

Kibriye Evren remains in pre-trial detention after 2nd hearing

Kibriye Evren, a reporter for the female news collective Jin News, who has been in pre-trial detention since October, appeared before the 5th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır on 10 January for the second hearing of her trial on the charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

Her lawyers requested that Evren be acquitted of the charges and released. The prosecution requested the continuation of her detention.

In its interim ruling, the court ordered the continuation of Evren’s detention and ruled not to hear the anonymous witness “Cesur Yürek” on the grounds that they could not be reached and adjourned the case.

Journalist Rojhat Doğru ordered to remain behind bars

Journalist Rojhat Doğru, who was jailed pending trial on 5 December on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group,” appeared in the first hearing of his trial on 10 January.

The charges against Doğru in the case file are “disrupting the unity of the state” and “willful injury.”

Addressing the 8th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS during the hearing, Doğru rejected the accusations. His lawyer, Resul Tamur, said the accusations against his client were based on Doğru’s journalistic activity and requested his acquittal and release.

The court ordered the continuation of Doğru’s pre-trial detention and adjourned the trial.

Perihan Mağden, Tunca Öğreten fined for “insulting the president”

Author Perihan Mağden and journalist Tunca Öğreten were each fined TL 7,000 for “insulting the president” on 10 January by an Istanbul court.

This was the 13th hearing of the case, where the accusation stemmed from an interview with Mağden, posted on the news portal Diken.com.tr on 14 September 2015.

The Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance did not defer the sentences imposed on Mağden and Öğreten.

Journalists Orhan Şahin and Mehmet Çağlar Tekin, the two other defendants in the case who were on trial for posting the same interview on the website of the Yurt newspaper, were acquitted.

Trial into Meşale Tolu adjourned until May

The trial where 27 people including Etkin news agency (ETHA) reporter Meşale Tolu and her husband, Suat Çorlu, a member of the central executive board of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP), stand accused of terrorism-related charges, resumed on 10 January at the 29th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to hear a secret witness and adjourned the trial until 23 May 2019.

Ferhat Tunç’s trial on insult charge gets under way

A new trial into musician Ferhat Tunç on the charge of “insulting the president” got under way on 9 January at the Büyükçekmece 7th Criminal Court of First Instance. Tunç is accused in the case for his social media posts. The musician did not attend the hearing because he was abroad. The court adjourned the case until 15 April 2019.

11 more academics convicted for signing peace petition 

Eleven more academics who were among the signatories of 2016’s Academics for Peace petition were given jail terms this week on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

On 8 January, the 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul handed down academic Y.A. a prison sentence of 1 year and 3 months. The sentence was deferred.

On 9 January, the same court sentenced academics Haldun Gülalp, Nihal Saban, Egemen Kepekçi, Utku Uraz Aydın, F.K.Ö., Ceren Akçabay, E.Ö., Hediye Esra Arcan and Bülent Eken to 15-month prison terms. All of the sentences were deferred.

Also on 9 January, the 36th High Criminal Court of Istanbul handed down academic Esra Arsan a 15-month prison sentence. The court ruled to defer the sentence by 2 years, during which time Arsan will be subject to probation.

Pelin Ünker given jail term for coverage of “Paradise Papers” leaks

An Istanbul court on 8 January convicted journalist Pelin Ünker of “insulting a public official” and “libel” over the 2017 publication of two news stories about the “Paradise Papers” leaks in the daily Cumhuriyet. The case was filed by the lawyers representing Speaker of the Parliament and former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and his sons.

The 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul sentenced Ünker to a prison term of 1 year, 1 month and 15 days for “libel” and an additional fine of TL 8,660 in non-pecuniary damages for the “insult” charge.

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

Mehmet Gündem ordered to remain in pre-trial detention 

Jailed journalist Mehmet Gündem, a former columnist for the daily Milliyet, appeared in an Istanbul court on 8 January for the third hearing of his trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group.”

P24 monitored the hearing at the 35th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

The prosecution requested at the beginning of the hearing that the court await the outcome of the forensic examination on Gündem’s digital equipment and the continuation of his detention on the grounds of “strong suspicion of crime.” Gündem is accused of using ByLock, an encrypted mobile messaging application purported to be exclusively used by the members of the Fethullah Gülen movement, which the government accuses of orchestrating the failed coup of July 2016.

Addressing the court for his defense statement following the prosecutor, Gündem rejected the accusations and requested to be released.

Gündem’s lawyers also requested for their client to be released pending trial. Macit Ceylan, one of the defense lawyers, also told the court that ByLock allegation against his client was full of contradictions and not based on substantial evidence.

Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ordered the continuation of Gündem’s pre-trial detention and adjourned the trial until 14 March 2019.

Journalist Harun Çümen remains behind bars after 1st hearing

Harun Çümen, the former responsible managing editor of the shuttered daily Zaman, on 8 January appeared before an Istanbul court for the first hearing of his trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group.”

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul ordered the continuation of Çümen’s pre-trial detention and set  28 March 2019 as the date for the next hearing in the case.

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

“RedHack trial” adjourned until April

The trial into journalists Tunca Öğreten, Mahir Kanaat, Ömer Çelik, Metin Yoksu, Derya Okatan and Eray Sargın on account of their coverage of Minister Berat Albayrak’s emails that were leaked by the hacker group Redhack resumed on 8 January at the 29th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

Öğreten, Okatan, Kanaat and their lawyers were in attendance in the courtroom during the hearing, which was monitored by P24. Çelik and Yoksu, who were not in Istanbul, addressed the court via SEGBİS.

The prosecution requested the continuation of the judicial control measures imposed on the journalists. Addressing the court following the prosecutor, the journalists requested for their digital equipment confiscated during the investigation to be returned, their international travel ban to be lifted, and to be granted exemption from personal attendance in court.

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court rejected the requests and adjourned the trial until 16 April, awaiting an expert report concerning the digital equipment.

Eren Erdem rearrested after court overseeing “Karşı trial” orders his release

The “Karşı newspaper trial,” where 11 defendants, including the former publisher of the shuttered daily, Turan Ababey, and the newspaper’s former employees, including its one-time editor-in-chief Eren Erdem, stand accused of various criminal charges on account of their work with the newspaper, resumed on 7 January in Istanbul.

Erdem, who is also a former main opposition CHP MP, has been jailed pending trial since late June as part of this case. The case, overseen by the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul, is the outcome of an investigation into Karşı that was launched on the grounds that the newspaper had revealed leaked tapes as part of the graft probes targeting the government in 2013, publicly known as “17-25 December.”

Erdem addressed the court during the hearing from the Silivri Prison via SEGBIS.

The prosecution submitted their final opinion of the case during the hearing, requesting that Erdem be given up to 19 years in prison in total on the charges of “aiding an armed terrorist organization without being its member” and “violating the confidentiality [of an investigation] by way of revealing the identity of an anonymous witness.” They also requested the continuation of Erdem’s detention on remand.

Requesting the acquittal of defendants Turan Ababey, Kutlu Esendemir and Mehmet Bozkurt of the charge “knowingly and willingly aiding an armed terrorist organization,” the prosecution also asked that the files of defendants Değer Özergün, Ufuk Emin Köroğlu, Mehmet Aydoğmuş, Murat Kazancı and Emrah Direk, whose statements have yet to be taken because they are at large, be separated.

Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to release Eren Erdem under judicial control measures and adjourned the trial until 1 March for the final defense statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion to be prepared.

However, the Office of the Chief Public Prosecutor of Istanbul filed an objection to Erdem’s release pending trial the same day and the 24th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, the next court of first instance, issued an arrest warrant against Erdem.

On 8 January, the 24th High Criminal Court held an interim hearing, where Erdem and his lawyers gave their statements in response to the arrest warrant. The court ruled with a majority opinion at the end of the hearing to send Erdem back to prison.

Jail sentence sought for publisher of shuttered Kurdish daily

A newly drafted indictment seeks that Ramazan Ölçen, the former publisher of the shuttered Kurdish language daily Azadiya Welat, be given 15 years in prison on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group.”

The indictment, accepted by the 11th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır, accuses Ölçen of “acting in line with the objectives of a terrorist group under the guise of legitimate activity.”

List of journalists and media workers in prison 

As of 11 January 2019, at least 162 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.