Jailed journalist Haydar Ergül released after 15 months in pre-trial detention; nine defendants in Özgür Gündem solidarity trial convicted of “propaganda”
A trial in which Haydar Ergül, an editor with the periodical Demokratik Modernite, who had been in detention on remand since January 2018, is among 19 defendants, resumed on 5 April in Istanbul.
Ergül is charged with “membership in a terrorist group” in the case, which is overseen by the 22nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul. Among Ergül’s co-defendants in the case are members and administrators of People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and the Democratic Regions Party (DBP).
This was the eighth hearing in the trial. P24 monitored the hearing, where Abdullah Geldi, one of the eight jailed defendants in the case, was in attendance in the courtroom as well as three unjailed defendants. Haydar Ergül and his co-defendant Ercan Doğru addressed the court from the Silivri Prison via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS.
Early in the hearing, the prosecution requested the continuation of the detention of all jailed defendants.
Addressing the court for his defense statement during the hearing, Ergül said he was placed in pre-trial detention without any concrete evidence against him. Noting that he has been in prison for 15 months, Ergül said he could not personally attend courtroom hearings due to health-related problems. Ergül requested to be released.
Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to release Ergül, Doğru and Geldi pending the conclusioın of the trial. The court imposed on all three judicial control measures in the form of an international travel ban and reporting to the nearest police station once a month to give their signature. The court set 28 June as the date for the next hearing.
Journalist Sertaç Kayar’s trial adjourned until June
A trial in which freelance journalist Sertaç Kayar faces up to 22 years in prison on the charge of “establishing and leading a terrorist organization” resumed on 5 April at the 10th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır.
P24 monitored the hearing, where Kayar and his lawyer Şivan Cemil Özen were in attendance. Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court adjourned the trial until 26 June, awaiting the testimony of a witness mentioned in the case file, to be heard by a High Criminal Court in the Çorum province.
This was the third hearing in the case, where Kayar is accused based on his coverage of demonstrations and public statements in Diyarbakır.
Journalist Oktay Candemir taken into custody
Journalist Oktay Candemir was taken into custody on 5 April during an early morning police raid on his house in the province of Van. Police searched Candemir’s apartment and took him to the Van Police Department. The grounds for Candemir’s arrest was not immediately available.
Compensation case against Çiğdem Toker to continue in July
Çiğdem Toker, a columnist for the Sözcü daily, appeared before an Ankara court on 4 April for the second hearing of a lawsuit filed by a Turkish mining company, which is seeking a record TL 1.5 million in compensation for a column Toker penned for the Cumhuriyet daily in October 2017.
Toker and her lawyer were in attendance for the hearing at the 13th Civil Court of First Instance of Ankara. In their interim ruling, the court decided to request from the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure the official records of the tender Toker wrote about in her column and adjourned the lawsuit until 9 July.
Alican Uludağ and Duygu Güvenç’s trial adjourned
The second hearing of a trial where journalists Alican Uludağ and Duygu Güvenç stand accused of “publicly degrading the judiciary” took place on 4 April at the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul.
Uludağ and Güvenç are accused on account of their reporting in the Cumhuriyet newspaper on the developments surrounding US pastor Andrew Brunson, who remained in detention in Turkey for two years before being released in October.
The trial was adjourned until 20 June because the judge was on leave.
Nine convicted of “propaganda” in “Özgür Gündem solidarity trial”
An Istanbul court on 3 April convicted nine people of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” in a trial where 13 defendants, most of whom are journalists, were accused because they joined in a solidarity campaign to support the Özgür Gündem daily before it was closed down in 2016.
The 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul convicted journalists Hüseyin Aykol, Faruk Eren, Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, Fehim Işık, Celal Başlangıç, Öncü Akgül, İhsan Çaralan, Celalettin Can and Dilşah Kocakaya of the “propaganda” charge and sentenced them to a total of 14 years and 3 months in prison. The court deferred the sentences of six defendants while Akyol, Can and Kocakaya’s sentences were not deferred.
A detailed report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be found here.
Former publisher of Özgür Gündem faces 14 criminal cases
A total of 14 criminal cases were filed during a single week in March against the former publisher of the shuttered newspaper Özgür Gündem, the Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reported this week.
Ziya Çiçekçi faces a prison term of more than 100 years in the 14 cases combined, MA reported on Friday.
The cases were launched after an appellate court upheld a conviction for Çiçekçi on the charge of “propaganda” in a previous trial, where the accusation stemmed from columns and news stories published in Demokratik Ulus, the weekend supplement of Özgür Gündem.
Çiçekçi is accused of “propaganda” for articles published by Özgür Gündem in 13 of the new cases, while in one case he is charged with “insulting a public official.”
“Bakur trial” to resume on 2 May
The trial into journalist Ertuğrul Mavioğlu and filmmaker Çayan Demirel, co-directors of the documentary Bakur (North), resumed on 3 April at the 2nd High Criminal Court of Batman.
Both Mavioğlu and Demirel are accused of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group,” a charge stemming from their film.
This was the fourth hearing in the case. Lawyers representing Mavioğlu and Demirel submitted to the court letters of excuse for non-attendance. The court adjourned the trial until 2 May, when the panel is expected to render its verdict after hearing the final defense statements.
Evrensel columnist Karataş’s trial adjourned until September
Yusuf Karataş, a columnist for Evrensel daily, appeared in a Diyarbakır court on 3 April for the fifth hearing of his trial on the charge of “establishing and leading a terrorist group.”
Karataş faces up to 22.5 years in prison in the trial, one of many similar criminal cases where the accusations stem from audio recordings of speeches delivered by participants during Democratic Society Congress (DTK) rallies. Karataş was arrested and jailed pending trial in July 2017 as part of an investigation into DTK. He was released pending trial in September 2017.
P24 monitored the hearing at the 9th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır, where Karataş and his lawyer Semir Karadaş were in attendance.
Addressing the court during the hearing, Karataş explained that he was a columnist for Evrensel and a politician with the Emek (Labor) Party. He said his communication with fellow columnists or politicians were made to look in the indictment as though they were conversations with terrorist group members. Karataş requested the court to lift his international travel ban because it prevented him from attending international events he is invited as a politician and a columnist.
In its interim ruling, the court rejected Karataş’s request and adjourned the trial until 11 September, awaiting the completion of the forensic examination of audio tapes by the Council of Forensic Medicine in Istanbul.
Journalist Ayşegül Doğan’s trial adjourned until September
The trial of journalist Ayşegül Doğan, a former program coordinator for the shuttered television station İMC TV, who is also charged with “establishing or leading an armed organization,” also resumed on 3 April at the 9th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır.
This was the second hearing in the case, where Doğan’s interviews as a journalist with DTK administrators are held as evidence against her. The court adjourned the trial until 11 September, awaiting a comparative forensic examination of audio recordings in the case file and a sample of Doğan’s voice.
MA reporter Ahmet Kanbal briefly detained
Mezopotamya news agency reporter Ahmet Kanbal was taken into custody on 3 April in the Nusaybin district of the Mardin province where he was covering a news story. Kanbal was arrested because he had failed to show up to give his statement as part of a court case. Kanbal was released later in the day by the Nusaybin 1st Criminal Court of First Instance, to which he gave his statement.
List of journalists and media workers in prison
Following Haydar Ergül’s release pending trial on 5 April, at least 144 journalists and media workers remain behind bars in Turkey’s prisons, either in pre-trial detention or serving a sentence.
The full list can be accessed here.