Prosecution submits final opinion in Sözcü trial; prosecutor seeks conviction for Hasan Cemal on “propaganda” charge; Turkey ranks 157th in RSF World Press Freedom Index

Turkey ranked 157th in the latest World Press Freedom Index, a list published every year since 2002 by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in which 180 countries around the world are ranked in accordance with the level of freedom available to journalists. Turkey again ranked 157th in the previous year’s list.

RSF’s latest report report also highlighted that fact that Turkey was the only country in the world where a journalist has been the subject of criminal prosecution in connection with their reporting on the “Paradise Papers” leaks.

Prosecutor seeks conviction for eight defendants in “Sözcü trial”

The seventh hearing in the “Sözcü trial,” where a total of nine columnists, executives and editors of the newspaper stand accused of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” took place on 18 April at the 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

The judges announced that the prosecution submitted their final opinion of the case on 17 April, one day before the hearing. In the 17-page document, the prosecutor is seeking up to 10 years in prison for Emin Çölaşan, Necati Doğru, Gökmen Ulu, Metin Yılmaz, Mustafa Çetin, Yücel Arı and Yonca Yücekaleli for “knowingly and willingly aiding the ‘FETÖ/PDY’ without being part of its hierarchical structure.” The prosecution asked the court to apply “effective remorse” provisions in the sentence they sought for Mediha Olgun. The prosecutor lastly requested the court to separate the file against Burak Akbay, the former publisher of Sözcü, on the grounds that he had yet to make his defense statement.

In its interim decision, the court rejected the defense lawyers’ requests for further investigation; ruled to keep the arrest warrant for Akbay in place; and adjourned the trial until 14 June.

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

Reporter Ahmet Kanbal faces new investigation

A criminal investigation has been launched into Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporter Ahmet Kanbal based on his social media posts concerning the ongoing hunger strikes in Turkey’s prisons. Kanbal is accused of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” in the investigation, launched by the Mardin Public Prosecutor’s Office. The journalist gave his statement last week at the anti-terror branch of the Mardin Police Department as part of the investigation.

Shuttered TV station’s former executives freed after 16-month detention

Veli Haydar Güleç and Veli Büyükşahin, two former executives of the TV station TV10, who had been in pre-trial detention in the Silivri Prison since January 2018, were released under judicial control measures at the end of the first hearing of their trial.

TV10 was closed down under an emergency decree. Büyükşahin, the president of TV10’s executive board, and Güleç, a member of the station’s broadcasting board, are both charged with “membership in a terrorist group” in the case, where they are among 43 defendants. The case is overseen by the 22nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

School teacher Ayşe Çelik sent to prison

Ayşe Çelik, a school teacher who was convicted of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” and given a 15-month prison sentence in 2017 for televised remarks, was sent to prison on 17 April after her six-month probation ended.

Çelik was convicted because of her remarks on a live TV show in 2016, when she said, “Don’t let children die,” regarding the curfews and sweeping military operations across Turkey’s southeastern provinces back then.

Journalists İdris Yılmaz and Erhan Akbaş acquitted

Imprisoned journalist İdris Yılmaz and his colleague Erhan Akbaş were acquitted in a trial where they were accused of “insulting a public official.” The final hearing of their trial took place on 17 April at the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Erciş. Yılmaz, who is imprisoned in the Elazığ No 1 High Security Prison, did not attend. The journalists were accused for their news coverage concerning the government-appointed trustee of the local Erciş municipality in Van.

Prosecutor seeks sentence for Hasan Cemal

On 16 April, P24’s Founding President and T24 columnist Hasan Cemal appeared in an Istanbul court for the second hearing of his trial on the charge of “propaganda” for a column he wrote on 4 December 2015.

Submitting his final opinion, the prosecutor requested Cemal to be convicted for the alleged crime of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

Accepting the request by Cemal and his lawyer for a continuance to prepare their final defense statement, the 36th High Criminal Court of Istanbul adjourned the trial until 7 May.

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

“Redhack trial” into 6 journalists adjourned until September

The “RedHack trial,” where six journalists stand accused of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization,” “hindrance or destruction of a data processing system,” “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” and “terrorist group membership” for their coverage concerning the emails of Minister Berat Albayrak leaked by RedHack, resumed on 16 April at an Istanbul court.

Journalists Derya Okatan, Tunca Öğreten, Mahir Kanaat, Eray Sargın, Metin Yoksu and Ömer Çelik stand accused in the case, overseen by the 29th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

The presiding judge announced during the hearing that a case file relating to an investigation launched against Çelik in 2015 by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has been merged with the present case and a new indictment has been issued despite Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office’s request to drop charges against Çelik. In the new indictment, Çelik is accused of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” for his social media posts in 2015.

In its interim ruling, the court accepted Yoksu and Okatan’s requests to be held exempt from appearing in court, but rejected the same request from Ömer Çelik on the grounds that he had yet to make his defense statement in relation to the new case file. The court set 24 September as the date for the next hearing.

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

Journalist Kibriye Evren ordered to remain behind bars

The trial into jailed journalist Kibriye Evren on terrorism-related charges resumed on 16 April in a Diyarbakır court.

This was the fourth hearing in the case, overseen by the 5th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır. Evren, who is jailed in the Diyarbakır Prison and has been in a hunger strike for 122 days, did not attend the hearing.

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ordered the continuation of Evren’s pre-trial detention and adjourned her trial until 7 May.

Özgür Gündem solidarity trial adjourned

The 10th hearing in a trial where Professor Şebnem Korur Fincancı, the president of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), Erol Önderoğlu, the Turkey representative of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and journalist-writer Ahmet Nesin stand accused of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization,” “incitement to commit crime” and “praising crime and criminals” for joining in the “substitute editor-in-chief” campaign for the shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper, was held on 15 April.

Erol Önderoğlu made his defense statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion during the hearing.

In their interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul granted additional time for the preparation of the remaining defense statements; accepted Önderoğlu’s request to be held exempt from appearing in court, and adjourned the trial until 17 July.

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

Özgür Gündem trial to resume in July

One of many ongoing criminal cases into the shuttered pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem resumed on 15 April in an Istanbul court. The newspaper’s former Co-Editor-in-Chief Eren Keskin and its former responsible managing editor Reyhan Çapan are among the defendants in the case, where the accusations are “publicly inciting crime,” “praising crime or a criminal” and “propaganda”

This was the 10th hearing in the case, overseen by the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. Lawyer Özcan Kılıç, who is representing Keskin and Çapan in this case, reiterated his request to merge the case file with the ongoing Özgür Gündem main trial, which is overseen by the 23rd High Criminal Court. The court adjourned the trial until 17 July, awaiting the 23rd High Criminal Court’s response to their memo concerning the request to merge both cases.

Court merges “insulting the president” cases against Ferhat Tunç

The latest hearing in a trial where musician Ferhat Tunç is accused of “insulting the president” on social media took place on 15 April at the Büyükçekmece 7th Criminal Court of First Instance. In its interim ruling, the court decided to merge the case file with a similar case against Tunç, overseen by the Büyükçekmece 14th Criminal Court of First Instance. The merged cases will continue to be overseen by the latter court.

Journalist Öner given 10-month sentence on “propaganda” charge

The final hearing of a trial where journalist Gökhan Öner, a former reporter for the shuttered Dicle news agency (DİHA), was accused of terrorism related charges, took place on 15 April in Denizli.

The prosecutor submitted their final opinion of the case during the hearing, in which they requested Öner to be acquitted of the “terrorist group membership” charge due to insufficient evidence, but asked the 2nd High Criminal Court of Denizli to convict the journalist of the “propaganda” charge on account of his reporting for DİHA.

Issuing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the 2nd High Criminal Court of Denizli acquitted Öner of the “membership” charge but found him guilty of “propagandası” and sentenced him to 10 months in prison. The court deferred Öner’s sentence by five years.

List of journalists and media workers in prison

As of 19 April 2019, at least 141 journalists and media workers are behind bars in Turkey, either in pre-trial detention or serving a sentence.

The full list can be accessed here.

Pineapple
This website has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this website are the sole responsibility of P24 and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.