Ahmet Altan, Perihan Mağden convicted of “insulting the president”; journalist Mehmet Baransu ordered to remain behind bars in Taraf trial 

The trial of former executives of the shuttered daily Taraf and its reporter Mehmet Baransu resumed on 22 March at the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

The accusations in the case stem from the alleged publication of a document called “Egemen War Plan.”

Baransu, the only imprisoned defendant in the case, who is in pre-trial detention in the Silivri Prison, was in attendance to continue with his defense statement.

As he wrapped up his statement on the second day of the hearing, Baransu said he would continue with his statement in the next hearing, but requested the next hearing to be held in a courtroom where he can make a digital presentation.

The lawyers representing Baransu and his co-defendants Yasemin Çongar, Ahmet Altan and Yıldıray Oğur, who are exempt from personal appearance in court, said they would not make any statements at this point. 

Plaintiff Dursun Çiçek requested the expansion of the investigation in the light of the coup attempt of 15 July 2016 and that Baransu be additionally charged with “leading a terrorist organization.”

The prosecution requested the continuation of Baransu’s detention on remand. 

In its interim ruling at the end of the two-day hearing, the court ruled to keep Baransu behind bars and set July 10 and 11 as the dates for the next hearing.

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

Journalist Semra Turan released after 3 days in custody

Semra Turan, a reporter for the Mezopotamya news agency, who had been taken into custody on 19 March in the Tunceli province, was released on 22 March after giving her statement at the Ankara Courthouse.

Turan and five others who were detained as part of the same operation were released by a court after giving their statements to a prosecutor.

Perihan Mağden sentenced for “insulting the president”

A trial in which author and columnist Perihan Mağden and journalist İnan Ketenciler were accused of “insulting the president” concluded on 21 March at the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul.

The court found Mağden guilty of “insulting the president” and gave her a judicial fine of TL 7,000. The court acquitted Ketenciler.

Mağden was 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 was accused because the article was posted on the news website T24.

Fikret Başkaya appears in court in “propaganda” case

The first hearing in the trial of writer and academic Fikret Başkaya on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” over an article published in 2016 took place on 21 March in Ankara.

Başkaya faces up to five years in prison in the case, overseen by the 21st High Criminal Court of Ankara.

Başkaya and his lawyers were in attendance at the hearing. In his defense statement Başkaya rejected the accusation.

After the completion of the defense statements, the prosecution requested additional time for the drafting of their final opinion. The court agreed to grant additional time and adjourned the trial until 10 September.

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

Demirer appears in court for remarks in Suruç commemoration

Writer and activist Temel Demirer appeared in an Istanbul court on 21 March over his remarks in a 2017 demonstration in Kadıköy to commemorate those killed in the deadly Suruç bombing of 2015.

Demirer is accused of “praising a crime or a criminal” in the case, overseen by the Istanbul Anadolu 33rd Criminal Court of First Instance.

Demirer rejected the accusation and requested to be acquitted.

Following the completion of the defense statements, the court issued an interim ruling in which it lifted the international travel ban imposed on Demirer and set 9 July 2019 as the date for the next hearing. 

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

Journalist Salih Turan handed down 15-month sentence, released

The court overseeing the case of journalist Salih Turan, who was jailed pending trial in February on the charge of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist group” on social media, rendered its verdict at the end of the first hearing of the case, held on 21 March.

The 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul convicted Turan of the propaganda charge and gave him a prison sentence of 15 months. The court deferred the sentence and ruled to release Turan pending appeal. Turan was released from the Silivri Prison in Istanbul later that day.

Trial of 11 rights defenders adjourned until July

The trial of 11 human rights defenders, including Taner Kılıç, the chairman of Amnesty Turkey, resumed on 21 March at the 35th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

This was the seventh hearing in the case, publicly known as the “Büyükada trial.”

Kılıç and 10 other rights defenders who were arrested during a meeting in Büyükada in July 2017 are indicted in the case for terrorism-related charges. Kılıç was arrested a month before the Büyükada meeting participants as part of a separate investigation. Their files were later merged. 

The indictment seeks up to 15 years in prison for Kılıç on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” and up to 10 years in prison for the other defendants on the charge of “aiding a terrorist organization.” Kılıç spent more than a year in pre-trial detention as part of the case before being released pending trial in August 2018.

Defendants Günal Kurşun, İlknur Üstün, Nalan Erkem and Taner Kılıç were in attendance during the hearing, as well as defense lawyers.

The presiding judge informed those in attendance that the court had just received the results of the forensic examination of digital equipment confiscated from the defendants. The prosecution then requested a continuance for the drafting of their final opinion. The court agreed to grant additional time and adjourned the trial until 16 July.

Journalist Seda Taşkın appears before appellate court

The first appeal hearing of Mezopotamya news agency reporter Seda Taşkın, sentenced to a total of 7.5 years in prison for “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member,” was held on 20 March.

Seda Taşkın addressed the 6th Criminal Chamber of the Erzurum Regional Court of Justice from the 21st High Criminal Court of Ankara via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS.

After hearing the defense statements, the prosecution submitted their final opinion, requesting the court to reject the appeal.

Accepting the request for additional time for defense lawyers to prepare their statements against the prosecutor’s opinion, the court adjourned the trial until 15 May. 

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

Court accepts motion of non-jurisdiction in Baskın Oran case 

Academic Baskın Oran appeared in an Istanbul court on 20 March for the first hearing of his trial on the charge of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” for signing 2016’s Academics for Peace petition.

P24 monitored the hearing at the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, where Oran and his lawyer, Oya Aydın, were in attendance.

Lawyer Aydın requested that the court dismiss the case on the grounds that it has no jurisdiction over the file. The prosecution also requested that the court rule for non-jurisdiction.

At the end of the hearing, the court decided to send the case file to an Ankara court on the grounds that it had no jurisdiction over Oran’s case.

Journalist Esra Solin Dal acquitted in first hearing

On 20 March, journalist Esra Solin Dal appeared before a court in Diyarbakır for the first hearing of her trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group.”

Dal and her lawyer Resul Tamur were in attendance at the hearing overseen by the 9th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır.

Addressing the court for her defense statement, Dal said all of the allegations in the indictment were based on her journalistic work and requested to be acquitted.

Submitting their final opinion of the case following defense statements by Dal and her lawyer, the prosecution also requested Dal’s acquittal.

In its unanimous verdict issued at the end of the hearing, the court acquitted Dal of the charges.

The indictment into Dal came on the heels of an investigation into the journalist on the allegation of “membership in the KCK/TM.” Dal was taken into custody in October during a sweeping operation targeting more than 140 journalists and politicians across nine provinces as part of the investigation.

The indictment accused Dal of “anti-government journalism” and “making harsh accusations against the Turkish Armed Forces” and sought up to 15 years in prison for the journalist.

Journalist Canözer appears in court on terrorism related charge

Journalist Beritan Canözer also appeared before the 9th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır on 20 March for the first hearing of her trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group.”

Canözer and her lawyer Resul Temur attended the hearing. Witnesses who allegedly testified against Canözer, Mehmet Salih Ateş and Baran Aslan, addressed the court via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS.

In her defense statement, Canözer told the court that she had not known the people who were said to have testified against her. She also rejected the allegations made by another witness, Canan Ceylan who had claimed that as a journalist she worked under instruction from an organization called Kongreya Jinên Azad (KJA). Canözer asserted that she was a journalist and she had no links with any organization.

Testifying before the court via SEGBİS, both Ateş and Aslan said they had not known Canözer and that they had been made to give false testimony against Canözer. 

The prosecution then requested that the court wait for the statement by Canan Ceylan from the 4th High Criminal Court of Van.

In its interim ruling, the court decided to wait for the response from the 4th High Criminal Court of Van and postponed the trial to a later date.

Ahmet Altan sentenced over 2016 article 

Jailed novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan on 19 March appeared in the final hearing of his trial on the charge of “insulting the president,” where the accusation stemmed from his article titled “Yeni Ergenekon” (the new Ergenekon), which was published on P24’s website in May 2016.

Altan addressed the court for his defense statement via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS from the Silivri Prison in Istanbul.

At the end of the hearing, the 30th Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul sentenced Altan to 11 months and 20 days in prison on the “insult” charge, which it commuted to a fine of TL 7,000.

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

Journalist’s trial on “propaganda” charge awaits Justice Ministry approval

The third hearing in the trial of Mezopotamya news agency reporter Ahmet Kanbal on the charge of “successively disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” took place on 19 March in Izmir.

Kanbal and his lawyers addressed the 2nd High Criminal Court of Izmir from Mardin via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS.

The prosecution reiterated the charges in the indictment.

Defense lawyers responding to the accusations said the social media posts for which Kanbal is indicted should be deemed an exercising of the rights to freedom of the press and freedom of expression and requested Kanbal’s acquittal.

In its interim decision at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to put the trial on hold, awaiting approval from the Justice Ministry for the case to proceed under the new charge of “publicly denigrating the Turkish nation, the state of the Turkish Republic, or the institutions and organs of the state” under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).

The prosecution had until March 26th to object to the trial court’s interim decision. Depending on the response from the Justice Ministry, the court will set a new date for the next hearing in the case.

One day after this hearing, on 20 March, Kanbal and another journalist, JinNews reporter Rojda Aydın, were taken into custody in Mardin as they were covering a news story. Both journalists were released after giving their statements at the Mardin Police Department, where they were interrogated about their news coverage concerning prisons and prison conditions faced by inmates.

Çağrı Sarı acquitted in “Paradise Papers” case

The final hearing in a trial where journalist Çağrı Sarı, the former responsible managing editor of the Evrensel daily, was accused of “libel and insult” over the newspaper’s 2017 coverage of the “Paradise Papers” leaks, took place on 19 March in an Istanbul court.

The Bakırköy 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance acquitted Sarı of the charge.

Trial of Boğaziçi students adjourned until July

The third hearing in the trial of 30 Boğaziçi University students on the charge of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist group” on the grounds that they participated in an anti-war demonstration on the school campus took place on 19 March in an Istanbul court.

Defense lawyers requested that the digital equipment confiscated from their clients be returned since the footage of the demonstration was present in the case file. The lawyers said they would present their detailed defense statements after the prosecution submits their final opinion of the case.

The lawyers also requested that the court hear Dean of Students Zeynep Uysal, who was in attendance at the hearing, as a witness.

The 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul rejected the defense lawyers’ requests and adjourned the trial until 16 July.

Trial of Kazım Kızıl adjourned until June

The latest hearing in a trial where video-activist and documentary maker Kazım Kızıl and 23 others stand accused of “insulting the president” and “violating the Law on Assembly and Protest Marches” took place on 18 March in Izmir. 

Kızıl and his co-defendants were taken into custody in April 2017 in Izmir during a demonstration held in protest of Turkey’s constitutional referendum results.

Addressing the court during the hearing, defense lawyers said the alleged offenses were not documented in the footage of the protest. The footage was also examined by an expert. The lawyers said the footage was insufficient in making conclusive decision on the alleged offenses and requested the acquittal of defendants Baran Ateş, Kazım Kızıl and Özgür Mert.

The 33rd Criminal Court of First Instance of Izmir adjourned the trial until 19 June 2019. The court is expected to deliver its verdict at the end of the next hearing.

List of journalists and media workers in prison 

As of 22 March 2019, at least 145 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.

 

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