Constitutional Court rejects applications of Ahmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak and 5 former Cumhuriyet journalists; 11 doctors convicted of “propaganda” in “TTB trial”

Turkey’s Constitutional Court on 3 May 2019 rejected the individual application of jailed novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan, finding no rights violations in his file that had been pending before the court since November 2016. The court also rejected the application of Nazlı Ilıcak, Altan’s co-defendant in the “coup” case.

Altan and Ilıcak’s files were among 10 individual applications by journalists reviewed by the top court’s Plenary over two days, on 2 and 3 May. The other applications were those filed on behalf of former Cumhuriyet staff members Murat Sabuncu, Ahmet Şık, Akın Atalay, Kadri Gürsel, Bülent Utku and Önder Çelik, former Zaman columnist Ali Bulaç and journalist Murat Aksoy.

The court ruled that Kadri Gürsel, Murat Aksoy and Ali Bulaç’s rights to personal liberty and security had been violated.

A report about the Constitutional Court rulings can be found here.

The top court also ruled on the individual application of jailed reporter Ziya Ataman recently. The court rejected Ataman’s application, finding his claim that his right to personal liberty and security to be “ill-founded” and his claim that his right to a fair trial was violated inadmissible because “all legal remedies have not been exhausted.”

Mezopotamya news agency reporter taken into custody

Barış Polat, an intern reporter for the Mezopotamya news agency, was taken into custody on 3 May at the entrance of the Şanlıurfa Courthouse, where he was covering a news story. Polat was detained on the grounds that he was taking photographs inside the courthouse.

11 doctors convicted in Turkish Medical Association trial 

The trial of 11 members of the Turkish Medical Association’s (TTB) 2016-2018 Central Committee on charges of “inciting the public to hatred and animosity” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” on account of an anti-war declaration they issued in January 2018, concluded on 3 May 2019.

The 32nd High Criminal Court of Ankara convicted all 11 defendants in the case of “inciting the public to hatred and animosity” and gave each defendant two 10-month prison sentences. The court convicted one defendant of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” for her social media posts and gave her a prison term of 1 year, 6 months and 22 days. The court did not defer the sentences.

The case stemmed from the TTB Central Committee’s declaration issued on 24 January 2018 and titled “War is a public health problem,” in response to Turkey’s military operation on the Syrian city of Afrin. 

Former TV10 staff members’ trial adjourned

The second hearing of the trial of two former employees of the shuttered TV station TV10, camera operator Kemal Demir and staff member Kemal Karagöz, took place on 2 May in Istanbul. Both Demir and Karagöz are charged with “membership in a terrorist group” in the case, overseen by the 28th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

Demir and Karagöz were taken into custody in December 2017. At the end of the detention period, Demir was jailed pending trial while Karagöz was released under judicial control measures. The first hearing of their trial took place on 3 July 2018, but the 28th High Criminal Court of IStanbul ruled at the end of the hearing to send the case file to a criminal court in Mersin on the grounds that it had no jurisdiction over the case. However, the Mersin court also ruled that it had no jurisdiction and the case file ended up at the Supreme Court of Appeals, which ruled that the original trial court had jurisdiction. The 28th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, reevaluating the case file after the Supreme Court of Appeals’ decision, ruled on 8 February 2019 for Demir’s release pending trial.

P24 monitored the second hearing, where both Demir and Karagöz were in attendance, accompanied by their lawyers. Rebecca Harms, a German Member of the European Parliament (MEP), and Caroline Stockford, Turkey Advocacy Coordinator at International Press Institute (IPI), were among those observing the hearing to support Demir and Karagöz.

Both Demir and Karagöz addressed the court during the hearing, rejecting the accusations. Karagöz’s lawyer Hüseyin Çalışçı asked the court to lift the judicial control measure imposed on his client. Demir’s lawyer Seyit Demir asked the court to lift his client’s international travel ban because it prevented him from seeing his relatives who live abroad. 

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled for the continuation of Demir’s travel ban while lifting the judicial control measure imposed on Karagöz. The court granted both defendants exemption from personal appearance in the courtroom and adjourned the trial until 10 September 2019. 

“Bakur trial” adjourned until July

A trial where journalist Ertuğrul Mavioğlu and filmmaker Çayan Demirel are charged with “propaganda” for a documentary they co-directed titled Bakur (North) resumed on 2 May at the 2nd High Criminal Court of Batman.

Both Mavioğlu and Demirel, as well as their lawyers, were in attendance at the sixth hearing in the trial, monitored by P24. MPs Ayşe Acar Başaran and Ahmet Şık, representatives from the Association of Documentary Filmmakers of Turkey, journalists from the Altyazı film magazine, academics, filmmakers and stage actors were among those who came to Batman to observe the hearing and lend support to Mavioğlu and Demirel.

At the beginning of the hearing, the judges announced that it had recently come to their attention that a separate criminal investigation into Mavioğlu on the charge of “propaganda” was under way in Ankara. 

In their interim decision, the court ruled to inquire of the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office about the investigation into Mavioğlu and ask for a copy of the investigation file. The court also decided to grant additional time to the defendants for their statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion of the case and adjourned the trial until 18 July. 

Musician Ferhat Tunç faces new arrest warrant

A new arrest warrant has been issued for musician Ferhat Tunç as part of an ongoing trial where he stands accused of “membership in an armed terrorist group” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group.” The 5th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır issued the warrant at the end of the latest hearing of the trial on 2 May, where Tunç was represented by his lawyer. Tunç, who now lives abroad, was not in attendance. The court adjourned the trial until 17 October 2019.

Court keeps Adil Demirci’s travel ban in place 

Etkin news agency (ETHA) reporter Adil Demirci on 30 April appeared before an Istanbul court for his trial on the charges of “membership in a terrorist group” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group.” This was the fifth hearing in the case, overseen by the 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. 

P24 monitored the hearing, which was also observed by representatives from the German Consulate-General in Istanbul.

Demirci is among 23 defendants in the case. Of the 23, four are in pre-trial detention. Demirci was released at the end of the previous hearing. 

The prosecutor asked the court to release the remaining jailed defendants based on available evidence and the time they spent in detention.

During the hearing, the presiding judge asked Demirci about a criminal intelligence report alleging that Demirci “went to Syria and Iraq as a courier.” Demirci denied the allegation and told the court that he has never been to Syria or Iraq. Demirci requested the court to lift his travel ban.

Demirci’s lawyer Keleş Öztürk then addressed the court. He said the intelligence report about Demirci was an unlawfully drafted document and should therefore be removed from the case file. Öztürk also asked the court to lift the travel ban on Demirci, who holds dual German and Turkish citizenship and whose relatives live in Germany. 

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to release all four detained defendants pending trial. The court refused to lift the judicial control measures imposed on Demirci and adjourned the trial until 15 October 2019. 

Yurt newspaper chief editor briefly detained 

Ali Avcu, the editor-in-chief of Yurt newspaper, was taken into custody on 30 April at the Alibeyköy Police Station in Istanbul. Avcu was later referred to the Kartal Courthouse, where he was released after giving his statement. Avcu was detained on the grounds of a book he wrote in 2018. 

Compensation case against journalist Uludağ sent to commercial court

A compensation case filed against journalist Alican Uludağ by the market chain BİM, seeking TL 250,000 in non-pecuniary damages for a news report Uludağ penned for the Cumhuriyetdaily, got under way on 30 April in an Istanbul court.  

P24 monitored the hearing. BİM is accusing Uludağ of damaging the company’s brand through his report and two social media posts.

Uludağ’s lawyer addressed the Anadolu 9th Civil Court of First Instance for Uludağ’ defense during the hearing, explaining to the court that Uludağ’s tweets and his report were part of the freedom of the press.

At the end of the hearing, the Anadolu 9th Civil Court of First Instance ruled that it had no jurisdiction over the case and sent the case file to a commercial court. 

List of journalists and media workers in prison  

As of 3 May 2019, at least 146 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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