Indictment seeks aggravated life sentences for Osman Kavala, Can Dündar, Memet Ali Alabora and 13 others for involvement in Gezi Park protests; 28 academics who signed peace petition convicted of “propaganda”
Twenty-eight academics who had been standing trial on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” for signing 2016’s Academics for Peace petition were given jail terms this week.
The 33rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 21 February convicted all 27 academics whose files it had merged. Thirteen of the academics were imposed prison terms of 1 year 10 months and 15 days, while the remaining 14 were each sentenced to 2 years and 3 months in prison.
Seçkin Sertdemir Özdemir, F.A.A., Gözde Aytemur Nüfusçu, Y.Y., Elif Akçalı, T.D., Yüksel Taşkın, Meltem Ahıska, Ayşe Nilüfer Durakbaşa, Cihan Yapıştıran, İrfan Keşoğlu, Doğan Çetinkaya and N.M. were handed down 1 year 10 months and 15 days. İlkay Yılmaz, Hülya Kirmanoğlu, Eda Aslı Şeran, İsmet Akça, Ahmet Bekmen, Özgür Müftüoğlu, Nihan Aksakallı, Haydar Durak, Aysuda Kölemen, İlkay Özkuralpli, Esra Kaliber, Zeynep Tül Süalp, Öznur Yaşar Diner and Remzi Orkun Güner were handed down 2 years and 3 months on the grounds that they “did not show remorse.”
Sentences under two years were deferred.
Also on 21 February, the 36th High Criminal Court convicted academic Pınar Yolum Birbil of the “propaganda” charge and gave her a 15-month prison sentence. The sentence was deferred.
Nurcan Baysal acquitted of “inciting the public to animosity” charge
Journalist and author Nurcan Baysal was acquitted of “inciting the public to hatred and animosity.” Baysal was on trial for her social media posts.
The 7th Criminal Court of First Instance of Diyarbakır issued its verdict on 21 February. Baysal announced the verdict on her Twitter account.
The hearing was originally set for 18 April but was rescheduled for 21 February at the request of Baysal’s lawyer.
Journalist Derya Okatan briefly detained over social media posts
Derya Okatan, an Ankara-based reporter for the online news platform Artı Gerçek, was taken into custody on 21 February during a police raid on her home.
Okatan was taken to the anti-terror branch of the police department, which released the journalist after taking her statement. Okatan was detained on account of her social media posts, on the allegation that she “disseminated propaganda for the PKK” and was “a member of the MLKP [Marxist Leninist Communist Party].”
Court accepts Çalık’s motion in Paradise Papers case
Journalist Pelin Ünker appeared in an Istanbul court on 21 February for the third hearing of a lawsuit where she is accused of “libel and insult” on account of two news stories she penned for Cumhuriyet daily in November 2017 about the “Paradise Papers” leaks.
The case, filed upon complaints by Minister Berat Albayrak and his brother, Serhat Albayrak, is overseen by the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul.
P24 monitored the hearing, where Ünker, her lawyers and the lawyers representing the plaintiffs were in attendance.
Addressing the court for her defense statement, Ünker explained that 126 politicians’ names appeared in the Paradise Papers leaks, adding that only two politicians filed lawsuits against news coverage of the leaks and that both politicians were from Turkey. Noting that her articles did not include any expressions that could amount to insult or libel, Ünker told the court that the stories also included the statements given by the politicians concerning the leaks and that the newspaper also published the rebuttals to the news stories.
Addressing the court following Ünker, her lawyer Tora Pekin said they would not be making a further defense statement. Instead, the lawyer asserted that the case should be dropped based on the statute of limitations in Turkey’s press law.
In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court accepted a motion for participation in the case filed by businessman Ahmet Çalık and adjourned the trial until 28 March, saying it would rule on the defense lawyers’ request for the dismissal of the case in the next hearing.
“Bakur trial” adjourned until April
The trial of journalist Ertuğrul Mavioğlu and filmmaker Çayan Demirel, the co-directors of the documentary Bakur (North), on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” resumed on 21 February at the 2nd High Criminal Court of Batman.
P24 monitored the third hearing, where both Demirel and Mavioğlu were represented by their lawyers. Demirel’s wife, film producer Ayşe Çetinbaş, was among those monitoring the trial.
Submitting their final opinion of the case during the hearing, the prosecution requested that both Demirel and Mavioğlu be convicted of the “propaganda” charge. The prosecution also requested that the court increase the sentences on the grounds that the offense was carried out through the press.
Granting additional time for the final defense statements, the court adjourned the trial until 3 April 2019.
Mağden and Ketenciler’s trial on “insult” charge adjourned
A trial where author and columnist Perihan Mağden and journalist İnan Ketenciler stand accused of “insulting the president” resumed on 21 February at the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul.
Mağden is accused because of her remarks in an article in April 2016, in which she likened a contestant in the TV show “Survivor” to President Erdoğan. Ketenciler is standing trial because the article was posted on the news website T24.
P24 monitored the hearing, where both Mağden and Keteciler were represented by their lawyers.
Ketenciler’s lawyer requested a continuance for their final defense statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion of the case. Accepting the request, the court adjourned the trial until 21 March.
Özgürlükçü Demokrasi journalists ordered to remain behind bars
The third hearing of the trial on terrorism-related charges of 14 employees of the shuttered daily Özgürlükçü Demokrasi took place on 21 February at the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
The pro-Kurdish newspaper’s publisher, İhsan Yaşar, responsible managing editor İshak Yasul, editors Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Reyhan Hacıoğlu and Hicran Ürün, and bookkeeper and secretary Pınar Tarlak were jailed pending trial in April. Tarlak was released at the end of the first hearing of the trial in September. The defendants are accused of “membership in a terrorist organization,” “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “publishing terrorist group publications.”
P24 monitored the hearing, where the defendants addressed the court for their defense statements, rejecting the accusations and requesting for their release.
The prosecution then requested that all jailed defendants be remanded in detention on the grounds of “strong criminal suspicion” and that the files of six of the defendants against whom there are arrest warrants be separated.
Announcing 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 10 April 2019. The court also ruled to await the outcome of the arrest warrants in place for six defendants and decided to hand over the case file to the prosecution for the drafting of their final opinion of the case.
Arrest warrant issued for politician Hatip Dicle in Özgür Gündem trial
A trial in which journalists Hüseyin Aykol, Zana Kaya and İnan Kızılkaya — former co-editors-in-chief and managing editor of the shuttered daily Özgür Gündem — and Kurdish politician Hatip Dicle stand accused for the news stories and articles published in the newspaper resumed on 21 February in Istanbul.
The four defendants are accused of “publicly degrading the government, the judiciary or the police force” and “publicly degrading the Turkish nation, the Turkish Republic and the Parliament.”
None of the defendants were in attendance at the hearing, which was the 11th in the case.
Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance ruled to issue an arrest warrant for Dicle and adjourned the trial until 28 March.
Court dismisses “MİT trucks case” against Aydınlık journalists
The trial court overseeing the case in which Aydınlık newspaper’s editor-in-chief Mustafa İlker Yücel and news editor Orhan Ceyhun Bozkurt were charged with “disclosing confidential information relating to the security of the state” on account of the newspaper’s coverage of the alleged transfer of weapons to Syria on trucks operated by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) has issued its verdict.
The 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul dismissed the case based on the statute of limitations in Turkey’s press law. However, the court ruled that charges should be pressed against the defendants on the charge of “obtaining classified information relating to the security of the state.”
The court also ruled to keep in place the international travel ban imposed on the defendants throughout the appeal process.
Indictment seeks aggravated life imprisonment for Osman Kavala, 15 others
A newly drafted indictment seeks aggravated life imprisonment for 16 individuals including the jailed businessman Osman Kavala, journalist Can Dündar and stage and screen actor Memet Ali Alabora on account of their involvement in 2013’s Gezi Park protests.
The indictment, filed with the 30th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 20 February, accuses all 16 names of “attempting to overthrow the Turkish government.”
In addition to Kavala, Dündar and Alabora, Ali Hakan Altınay, Ayşe Mücella Yapıcı, Ayşe Pınar Alabora, Çiğdem Mater Utku, Gökçe Yılmaz, Handan Meltem Arıkan, Hanzade Hikmet Germiyanoğlu, İnanç Ekmekçi, Mine Özerden, Şerafettin Can Atalay, Tayfun Kahraman, Yiğit Aksakoğlu and Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi are also indicted. The 657-page document alleges that the 16 suspects attempted to manipulate and set the protests into motion beginning in 2011; that they “financed” the demonstrations; and were the “top level orchestrators” of the events.
Yiğit Aksakoğlu and Osman Kavala are currently in pre-trial detention as part of the investigation.
The indictment says arrest warrants have been issued for Dündar, Memet Ali Alabora, Ayşe Pınar Alabora, Gökçe Yılmaz, Handan Meltem Arıkan and Hanzade Hikmet Germiyanoğlu.
Trial of Ali Sönmez Kayar adjourned until May
The third hearing of a trial where Etkin news agency (ETHA) reporter Ali Sönmez Kayar and nine other defendants are accused of “membership in a terrorist group” resumed on 19 February at the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ordered to keep the international travel ban on the defendants who are not in pre-trial detention in place and adjourned the trial until 28 May.
Trial of journalist Murat Güreş adjourned
The trial in which Gaziantep-based journalists Murat Güreş, Furkan Gökşen and Metin Aybey stand accused of “violating the confidentiality of an investigation” resumed on 19 February.
The Gaziantep 9th Criminal Court of First Instance adjourned the trial until 20 June.
“Paradise Papers” case against Evrensel journalist Çağrı Sarı adjourned
The fifth hearing in a case where journalist Çağrı Sarı, the former responsible managing editor of the daily Evrensel, is accused of “libel and insult” for the newspaper’s coverage of “Paradise Papers” leaks, was held on 19 February in Istanbul.
The case was filed upon a complaint by Minister Berat Albayrak and his brother, Serhat Albayrak.
Sarı and her lawyer Devrim Avcı Özkurt were in attendance during the hearing at the Bakırköy 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance as well as the Albayraks’ lawyer Ferah Yıldız.
Addressing the court for Sarı’s defense statement, lawyer Devrim Avcı said the news articles were an exercising of the right to freedom of the press and freedom of expression. She requested for Sarı’s acquittal.
The plaintiffs’ lawyer claimed that the news stories were aimed at manipulating public opinion and a smear campaign against Serhat Albayrak.
Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court adjourned the trial until 19 March for a review of the written defense statement submitted to the court on behalf of Sarı.
Evrensel’s former managing editor acquitted in first hearing
Also on 19 February, another former responsible managing editor for Evrensel, İsmail Cem Şimşek, appeared in the same court for the first hearing of his trial on the charge of “libel” for two news stories and one opinion piece published in August 2018 in the newspaper in relation with rights violations in the Tarsus Prison.
Issuing its verdict following Şimşek and his lawyer’s defense statements, the Bakırköy 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance ruled for Şimşek’s acquittal.
Berna Laçin acquitted of “insulting religious beliefs” charge
A court case where actress Berna Laçin was accused of “publicly insulting religious beliefs held by a part of the society” in a Twitter post resumed on 19 February in an Istanbul court.
The Istanbul Anadolu 59th Criminal Court of First Instance acquitted the actress of the charge.
Appellate court upholds convictions in Cumhuriyet trial
An appellate court on 18 February upheld the trial court’s verdict in the “Cumhuriyet trial,” paving the way for eight of the defendants in the case to return to prison to serve the remainder of the sentences they were given.
The 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice said in its ruling that it rejected the appeals against the Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court’s verdict since it had not found “any substantial or procedural violations” in the verdict nor any “shortcomings in the evidence or proceedings.”
The eight defendants are former Cumhuriyet columnists Kadri Gürsel and Hakan Kara, lawyer Bülent Utku, former Cumhuriyet ombudsman Güray Öz, cartoonist Musa Kart, former Cumhuriyet Foundation Executive Board members Mustafa Kemal Güngör and Önder Çelik and the newspaper’s accounting department employee Emre İper, who were given prison terms between 2.5 and 4.5 years on the charge of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.”
A detailed report about the appellate court’s ruling can be accessed here.
Journalist Özgür Paksoy given jail term over social media posts
Journalist Özgür Paksoy was given a prison sentence of 3 years, 1 month and 15 days in a trial where he was accused of “propaganda” for his social media posts.
The hearing took place on 15 February at the Şırnak 2nd High Criminal Court. Paksoy addressed the court via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS for his defense statement during the hearing, where he rejected the accusation and requested for his acquittal.
Submitting their final opinion of the case, the prosecution then requested that Paksoy be convicted of the “propaganda” charge.
Paksoy’s lawyer requested for additional time for the final defense statement in response to the prosecution’s final opinion, however the court refused to grant continuance and went on to issue its verdict, sentencing Paksoy to 3 years, 1 month and 15 days in prison. The court did not defer the sentence.
List of journalists and media workers in prison
As of 22 February 2019, at least 155 journalists and media workers are in prison in Turkey, either in pre-trial detention or serving a sentence.
For the full list, click here.