Musician Ferhat Tunç faces yet another “insult” charge in new indictment; jailed Özgürlükçü Demokrasi journalists İshak Yasul, Hicran Urun released pending trial

Musician Ferhat Tunç faces a new court case for a social media post he shared in 2016. The indictment, issued on 18 March and recently accepted by the Büyükçekmece 16th Criminal Court of First Instance, accused Tunç of insulting former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım on social media.

Deniz Yücel’s trial adjourned until July

The trial of Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yücel, the former Turkey correspondent of the German newspaper Die Welt, resumed on 11 April in Istanbul. Yücel is charged with “disseminating propaganda for FETÖ/PDY and PKK/KCK” and “inciting the public to hatred and animosity.”

Yücel was represented by his lawyer Veysel Ok during the third hearing in the case, overseen by the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul. Representatives from the German Consulate in Istanbul and German media outlets were among those monitoring the hearing, as well as P24.

Ok told the court that Yücel was scheduled to make his defense statement on 10 May in Berlin and requested a continuance until after Yücel’s statement is heard. Accepting the lawyer’s request, the court adjourned the trial until 16 July.

Austrian journalist Max Zirngast appears in first courtroom hearing

The first courtroom hearing in the trial of Austrian journalist and researcher Max Zirngast took place on 11 April in Ankara.

Zirngast was arrested in Ankara in September 2018. He remained in detention on remand for three months before he was released pending trial in late December by the 26th High Criminal Court of Ankara, which is overseeing the trial. The court had imposed on Zirngast and his co-defendants an international travel ban.

Zirngast and his co-defendants Mithatcan Türetken, Hatice Göz and Burçin Tekdemir are accused of “membership in a terrorist group” on the allegation that they are linked with the organization “TKP/Kıvılcım.”

All four defendants and their lawyers were in attendance at the first hearing. Addressing the court for their defense statements, the defendants rejected the accusations.

Issuing an interim decision at the end of the hearing, the court ruled for the continuation of the international travel ban imposed on the defendants and adjourned the trial until 11 September.

Two Özgürlükçü Demokrasi editors released

The fourth hearing in the trial of 14 employees of the shuttered daily Özgürlükçü Demokrasi on terrorism-related charges took place on 10 April in Istanbul.

The pro-Kurdish newspaper’s publisher İhsan Yaşar, responsible managing editor İshak Yasul, editors Mehmet Ali Çelebi and Hicran Urun were in attendance as well as unjailed defendants Pınar Tarlak and Ramazan Sola. The newspaper’s editor Reyhan Hacıoğlu, who has also been jailed pending trial since April 2018, did not attend.

The prosecutor submitted his final opinion of the case during the hearing, asking the court to convict Urun, Çelebi, Tarlak, Yasul, Yaşar and Hacıoğlu of “membership in an armed terrorist organization,” “successively publishing terrorist group publications” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.” The prosecutor requested that Ramazan Sola and Mizgin Fendik be convicted of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.”

The prosecution requested the continuation of the detention of all jailed defendants.

Issuing an interim decision at the end of the hearing, the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled to release Yasul and Urun pending the conclusion of the trial and set 28 June as the date for the next hearing in the case.

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

Court rules for publisher’s release in Özgür Gündem trial

The “Özgür Gündem main trial,” where nine defendants stand accused of “disrupting the unity and integrity of the state” and “membership in a terrorist organization,” resumed on 10 April in Istanbul.

This was the 12th hearing in the case, which is overseen by the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul. Keskin and the newspaper’s jailed publisher Sancılı were in attendance. Sancılı was brought from Edirne, where he is currently serving a previous sentence.

Issuing an interim decision at the end of the hearing, the court ruled for Sancılı’s release. The court also ruled to hand over the case file to the prosecution for the drafting of their final opinion and adjourned the trial until 3 July.

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

Local journalists, politician acquitted in “incitement” case

A trial where journalists from two local newspapers in the Aegean town of Didim stood accused of “inciting the public to hatred and animosity” for publishing a press statement by local representatives from Turkey’s Labour Party (EMEP), resumed on 10 April.

Mustafa Öge, the owner of Didim Özgürses, Ergün Korkmaz, who owns the newspaper Mavi Didim, and Erdem Özden, its reporter, and the district chair of EMEP, Kazım Temiz, were all acquitted at the end of the fourth hearing. The case was overseen by the 1st Criminal Court of First Instance of Didim.

The statement by EMEP that constituted the grounds for the accusation was about Turkey’s military operation on the Syrian city of Afrin.

Jailed publisher Mehmet Ali Genç acquitted in “propaganda” case

Mehmet Ali Genç, the publisher and former managing editor of Varyos Publications, appeared in an Istanbul court on 9 April for the fourth hearing of his trial on the charges of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” and “praising crime or a criminal.” The charges stemmed from an article Genç had penned for the magazine Sosyalist Kadın.

Genç was brought to the Istanbul Courthouse for the 9 April hearing, overseen by the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul. He was accompanied by his lawyer Kader Tonç.

Genç is currently imprisoned in Adana, serving three separate convictions from previous trials where the accusations stemmed from his time as the responsible managing editor of the leftist Atılım newspaper, his lawyer told P24.

Rendering its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to drop the “propaganda” charge against Genç based on the statute of limitations in Turkey’s press law, and acquitted Genç of the “praising crime or a criminal” charge.

Detained journalist Oktay Candemir released

Journalist Oktay Candemir, who was arrested on 5 April during a police raid on his apartment in the eastern province of Van, was released from custody on 7 April. Candemir, who was brought to the Van Courthouse following his interrogation at the local police department, was referred to a court by a prosecutor who requested the journalist to be jailed pending trial on the charge of “terrorist group membership.” The Criminal Judgeship of Peace Candemir was referred to released the journalist under judicial control measures.

Nine more academics convicted of “propaganda”

Istanbul courts convicted nine more academics of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” this week for being among the signatories of 2016’s Academics for Peace petition.

On 10 April, the 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul gave academics Hülya Dinçer and Gülşah Kurt 15 months in prison, and Ömer Faruk Yekdeş and Z.U. 18 months on the grounds that the latter two “did not show remorse.” All four sentences were deferred. Also on 10 April, the final hearing of Koray Çalışkan’s trial took place at the same court, which gave Çalışkan 2 years and 3 months in prison. Çalışkan’s sentence was not deferred.

On 11 April, three other academics were each handed down 15-month prison terms while a fourth academic who “did not show remorse” was sentenced to 1 year, 10 months and 15 days in prison.

List of journalists and media workers in prison

Following the latest release orders, at least 143 journalists and media workers are still behind bars in Turkey, either in pre-trial detention or serving a sentence.

The full list can be accessed here.