Assailants attack two journalists in two provinces in one week; appellate court acquits journalist Seda Taşkın of one charge but convicts her of “propaganda”

Local journalist İdris Özyol was attacked by a group of unidentified assailants on 15 May 2019 in Antalya. Özyol was hospitalized following the attack, which took place during evening hours in front of the offices of the local newspaper Akdeniz’de Yeni Yüzyıl, where Özyol works.

Journalist Yavuz Selim Demirağ, a columnist for the Yeniçağ newspaper, also suffered serious injuries from an attack in front of his house in Ankara. The attack took place late on 10 May, as Demirağ was returning home after hosting a political show on TV. The assailants, a group of five or six men, fled the scene in a car after beating up Demirağ using sticks. Demirağ was hospitalized by his relatives. Six people who were arrested during the week in connection with the attack were released after giving their statements before a prosecutor on 13 May.

Journalist İdris Demirel taken into custody in Iğdır

Local journalist İdris Demirel was taken into custody on 17 May during house raids by the Gendarmerie in the eastern province of Iğdır. Demirel was arrested alongside local politician Kemal Çakmak and a citizen named Deniz Kaynar. Reports said Demirel, Çakmak and Kaynar were arrested as part of an investigation into a demonstration that involved human shields, which took place four years ago.

Trial of journalist Mehmet Çakmakçı adjourned until November

The trial of journalist Mehmet Çakmakçı on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group” resumed on 17 May at the 10th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır. Çakmakçı, who uses the pen name Şiyar Dicle, was jailed pending trial in 2017 and was released at the end of the first courtroom hearing of his trial.

The court ruled to wait for the response from the Council of Forensic Medicine concerning the forensic examination of audio tapes in the indictment against Çakmakçı and adjourned the trial until 8 November 2019.

Imprisoned journalist Ayşe Düzkan’s petitions remain unanswered

Imprisoned journalist Ayşe Düzkan’s petitions seeking her transfer to an open prison as per standard legal procedures have been ignored by the prison management.

Düzkan has been imprisoned in the Bakırköy Women’s Closed Prison since January, serving a sentence she was given over her participation in a 2016 solidarity campaign for the shuttered pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem.

Two different petitions Düzkan filed with the prison management remain unanswered. Düzkan’s lawyer Özcan Kılıç has now applied to the Bakırköy Judge of Execution for her transfer to an open prison.

Trial of Özgür Gündem editors and politician Hatip Dicle adjourned

A trial where journalists Hüseyin Aykol, Zana Kaya and İnan Kızılkaya — former co-editors-in-chief and managing editor of the shuttered daily Özgür Gündem — and Kurdish politician Hatip Dicle stand accused for the news stories and articles published in the newspaper, resumed on 16 May at the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul.

The four defendants are accused of “publicly degrading the government, the judiciary or the police force” and “publicly degrading the Turkish nation, the Turkish Republic and the Parliament” under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).

None of the defendants were in attendance at the hearing, where they were represented by lawyer Özcan Kılıç. This was the 13th hearing in the case. P24 monitored the hearing.

Addressing the court for the defense statements, lawyer Kılıç said the accusations were abstract because they were based on news stories and newspaper columns. Kılıç also made a reference to a recent Constitutional Court ruling which found that the right to freedom of expression was violated in the case of Ayşe Çelik, a school teacher who was convicted of “propaganda” and imprisoned because of her remarks on a live TV show. Kılıç said: “The Constitutional Court’s ruling in favor of Ayşe Çelik could be applied in this case, because the top court has ruled that her remarks did not involve violence; that they constituted an exercising of the right to freedom of expression. Similarly, the newspaper articles included in this case file do not speak about violence, they are an exercising of the freedom of the press. Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code, in its current version, is a problematic article and is unforeseeable. Moreover, it is controversial [in the light of] United Nations conventions and the European Convention on Human Rights. Therefore, I request the acquittal of my clients, who had no motive for committing an offense.”

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant against Hatip Dicle and adjourned the trial until 10 October 2019.

Public Prosecutor seeks criminal investigation against Ahmet Şık

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has filed for the lifting of the parliamentary immunity of People’s Democratic Party (HDP) Istanbul MP Ahmet Şık, seeking a criminal investigation against Şık over two separate allegations.

The Prosecutor’s Office accuses Şık, a former investigative journalist, of “insulting the Turkish Republic, the government and the judiciary” as per Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code based on his remarks in his defense statement in the “Cumhuriyet trial.” The Prosecutor’s Office is separately accusing Şık of “insulting the president” based on two complaints filed with the Presidency Communication Center (CİMER).

Imprisoned journalist İdris Yılmaz faces new charges

Imprisoned journalist İdris Yılmaz is facing terrorism-related charges in a new indictment. Yılmaz is currently imprisoned in the Elazığ No. 1 Maximum Security Prison, serving a combined prison term of nearly 10 years he has been given in various trials over his journalistic work. The new indictment, prepared in light of a witness testimony, accuses Yılmaz of “membership in a terrorist group” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group.” The journalist’s social media posts are held as evidence for the “propaganda” charge.

Court drops charge against Erdem Gül in MİT Trucks case

The final hearing of Cumhuriyet daily’s former Ankara representative Erdem Gül and opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Enis Berberoğlu in “MIT trucks case,” where they were accused of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member,” was held on 15 May 2019 at the 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

In its verdict on Gül, the court ruled that the type of offense had changed and a new charge of “violating the confidentiality of an investigation” arose, but since the four-month statute of limitations for pressing charges had expired, the court ruled to dismiss the case.

Concerning Berberoğlu’s file, the court ruled that there was no need to render a separate verdict on the charge of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” on the grounds of Berberoğlu’s previous conviction in another trial in relation to the same news report for “disclosing confidential information pertaining to the security of the state.” The court also lifted the international travel ban on Berberoğlu.

The retrial of Can Dündar, Cumhuriyet’s former editor-in-chief, on the charge of “disclosing confidential information for espionage purposes” over the same coverage in Cumhuriyet, also resumed on 15 May at the 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. The court decided to wait for the response from German judicial authorities concerning Turkey’s extradition request for Dündar and adjourned the trial until 31 October 2019.

A report about both hearings can be accessed here.

Seda Taşkın acquitted of one charge but convicted of “propaganda”

The appellate court overseeing Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporter Seda Taşkın’s appeal has overturned the trial court’s October 2018 verdict that sentenced the journalist to a total of 7.5 years in prison on two separate charges.

At the end of the second appeal hearing of Taşkın’s trial, held on 15 May 2019, the 6th Criminal Chamber of the Erzurum Regional Court of Justice acquitted the journalist of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” while giving her a prison sentence of 1 year, 11 months and 10 days on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.” The court deferred the sentence.

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

Fatih Polat’s trial on “insulting the president” charge adjourned

The second hearing in the trial of journalist Fatih Polat, the editor-in-chief of Evrensel daily, on the charge of “insulting the president” took place on 14 May at the Bakırköy 31st Criminal Court of First Instance.

Polat is standing trial over an article he wrote on 28 May 2017.

Polat’s lawyer Devrim Avcı submitted to the court an expert opinion concerning Polat’s case that was penned by the London-based human rights organization Article 19. After accepting the documents submitted by the defense lawyers, the court ruled to send a memo to the Journalists’ Association of Turkey (TGC) and the Turkish Journalists Union (TGS), seeking their opinion about the website that was the source for Polat’s article and whether Craig Shaw, the author of the original article, is a journalist or not. The court then adjourned the trial until 17 September 2019.

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

Detained journalist Soner Karabulut released

Journalist Soner Karabulut, a reporter for the newspaper Gazete Fersude, was taken into custody on 14 May in Istanbul during house raids by the police as part of an investigation targeting members of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP). Karabulut and five others were referred to the Istanbul Courthouse on 15 May. The court released Karabulut and four ESP members under judicial control measures.

List of journalists and media workers in prison

As of 17 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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