Expression Interrupted

Journalists and academics bear the brunt of the massive crackdown on freedom of expression in Turkey. Scores of them are currently subject to criminal investigations or behind bars. This website is dedicated to tracking the legal process against them.

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 175

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 175

İdris Sayılğan given 8-year prison sentence; Nazlı Ilıcak convicted of “disclosing classified information crucial to the security of the state”; “insulting the president” case against Canan Coşkun gets under way

Jailed journalist İdris Sayılğan, who has been in pre-trial detention for over two years, was given an 8-year prison sentence at the end of the sixth hearing of his trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group.”

The hearing took place on 25 January at the 2nd High Criminal Court of Muş. Sayılğan, who has been in detention on remand since 24 October 2016, was brought to the courtroom from the Trabzon Prison.

A report about the hearing can be accessed here.

“Insulting the president” case against journalist Canan Coşkun begins

A trial where journalist Canan Coşkun is accused of “insulting the president” on account of a news story she penned for the Cumhuriyet daily in 2015 got under way on 24 January in Istanbul.

P24 monitored the hearing at the 40th Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul, where Coşkun was represented by her lawyer Abbas Yalçın.

Addressing the court during the hearing, Yalçın said his client was a former courthouse reporter for Cumhuriyet and that the decision on whether to publish the news stories she wrote belonged to the newspaper’s editorial board. Yalçın added that likewise, a reporter had no responsibility in the online publication of a news story.

Based on the time elapsed since the publication of the news story, Yalçın requested that the court dismiss the case by reason of the statute of limitations in Turkey’s Press Law.

The lawyer also told the court that the expressions in relation with the news story that are the basis of the accusation against the journalist were published on the newspaper’s front page and that the decision as to how to feature any news item on the front page belonged to the executives of the paper.

Yalçın requested for Coşkun’s acquittal.

Issuing an interim ruling, the court decided to hear directly from Coşkun, who didn’t attend the hearing, before considering the request for her acquittal. The panel of judges set 20 June 2019 as the date for the next hearing and demanded Coşkun’s attendance.

Two academics given prison terms for signing peace petition 

Two more academics who had been charged with “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” for signing 2016’s Academics for Peace petition were given prison sentences this week.

The 28th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 24 January convicted academic Yonca Demir of the charge of “disseminating propaganda for the armed terrorist organization PKK/KCK” and sentenced the academic to 3 years in prison. This marked the longest prison sentence imposed to date in the academic trials.

Demir did not accept the deferring of her sentence. The court did not grant any reduction in Demir’s sentence on the grounds of “the defendant’s negative behavior following the offense and throughout the proceedings in court.” The defense will appeal the verdict before an appellate court.

On 23 January, the 36th High Criminal Court of Istanbul convicted C.E. of the “propaganda” charge and gave the academic a prison sentence of 1 year and 3 months. The sentence was deferred.

Nazlı Ilıcak given 5-year sentence in “espionage case”

An Istanbul court on 22 January gave imprisoned journalist Nazlı Ilıcak a prison sentence of 5 years and 10 months on the charge of “disclosing information relating to the security and political interests of the state” as per Article 329/1 of the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK). 

This verdict has nothing to do with the ongoing incarceration of Ilıcak, who was arrested back in August 2016 on coup-plotting charges which carry a life sentence without parole. The Supreme Court of Appeals is expected to rule on the appeal of those charges in a matter of months.

As for the most recent ruling against Ilıcak, the original indictment was based on the alleged “disclosure of confidential information crucial to the state’s security for espionage purposes” as per Article 330/1 of the TCK, which is punishable by life imprisonment.

The accusation stemmed from a newspaper column by Ilıcak published on 2 January 2015 in the shuttered Bugün daily.

P24 monitored the fifth hearing, where Ilıcak addressed the court from the Bakırköy Prison via SEGBİS.

Although Ilıcak requested additional time to be able to consider newly introduced evidence against her and present a more comprehensive defense statement to the court in a future hearing, the court rejected Ilıcak’s request and went on to issue its verdict.

Özgür Gündem trial adjourned until May

A trial into the former co-editors-in-chief of the shuttered newspaper Özgür Gündem, Eren Keskin and Hüseyin Aykol, as well as the paper’s former managing editor Reyhan Çapan and journalist Hasan Başak resumed on 22 January at an Istanbul court.

This was the ninth hearing in the case, overseen by the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. News stories and columns published by the newspaper are held as evidence for the charges.

None of the defendants attended the hearing, where defense lawyer Özcan Kılıç requested that this case file be merged with the other ongoing cases into the defendants that are also being overseen by the same court.

The prosecution then addressed the court, demanding that the court rule on Kılıç’s request in the next hearing and the continuation of the arrest warrant that had been issued for Hasan Başak. Accepting the prosecution’s requests, the court adjourned the trial until 7 May.

Evrensel reporter Kemal Özer released pending trial

Kemal Özer, a reporter for the Evrensel daily who had been in pre-trial detention for more than a year, was ordered to be released pending trial by the court overseeing his trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group.”

The 1st High Criminal Court of Tunceli issued the release order at the end of the fifth hearing of the case on 21 January.

Özer had been in pre-trial detention since mid-September 2017.

Court rejects objection to Eren Erdem’s re-arrest

An Istanbul court on 21 January rejected an objection against the re-arrest of Eren Erdem, who was ordered to be released pending trial as part of the “Karşı newspaper trial” but was sent back to prison after the prosecution objected to the trial court’s interim ruling.

Erdem, a former main opposition CHP MP and the former editor in chief of the now-defunct Karşı newspaper, has been in pre-trial detention as part of the case since June.

The 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul had ruled for Erdem’s release pending trial at the end of the second hearing of the case on 7 January. However, after the prosecution objected to Erdem’s release, the 24th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, the next court of first instance, issued an arrest warrant for Erdem. On 8 January, the 24th High Criminal Court held an interim hearing, at the end of which it ruled to send Erdem back to prison.

Erdem’s lawyers filed an objection to his rearrest with the 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which rejected the objection.

List of journalists and media workers in prison 

As of 25 January 2019, at least 159 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.