Journalist Canan Coşkun acquitted, video-activist Kazım Kızıl convicted of “insulting the president” charge; jailed journalist Harun Çümen ordered to remain behind bars


Hakkı Boltan faces “insulting the president” charge

The Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has pressed charges against Hakkı Boltan, the spokesperson of the Free Journalists Initiative (ÖGİ), accusing Boltan of “insulting the president” and “insulting a public official.”

The indictment accuses Boltan for his remarks in a public statement he delivered in Kurdish concerning Azadiya Welat newspaper’s former managing editor Rohat Aktaş, who was murdered in the basement of a building in Cizre in 2016. Boltan faces a combined prison term of up to 6 years on both charges.

The first hearing of Boltan’s trial will take place on 14 November 2019 at Diyarbakır 12th Criminal Court of First Instance.

Jail term sought for Yeni Yaşam editor Osman Akın

The responsible managing editor of Yeni Yaşam newspaper Osman Akın appeared before the 28th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 20 June 2019 for the first hearing of his trial on the charge of “successively disseminating terrorist propaganda.”

The prosecutor submitted his final opinion of the case, arguing that Akın had “systematically disseminated propaganda.” Akın’s lawyer requested time for the preparation of Akın’s defense statement. Accepting the request, the court adjourned the trial until 22 October 2019.

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

Journalist Canan Coşkun acquitted in “insult” case

Journalist Canan Coşkun appeared before the Istanbul 40th Criminal Court of First Instance on 20 June 2019 for the second hearing of her trial on the charge of “insulting the president.” The court acquitted Coşkun of the charge.

Coşkun, a former reporter with the Cumhuriyet daily, was on trial for a November 2015 news story about the arrests of the newspaper’s former Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar and Ankara representative Erdem Gül.

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

Rights defenders appear in court for supporting Academics for Peace

The trials of rights defenders Bülent Deniz and Arat Dink on the “disseminating terrorist organization propaganda” charge got under way on 20 June 2019 at the 36th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

Dink and Deniz were among 18 rights defenders who turned themselves in to the authorities in support of academics who are being prosecuted for signing 2016’s Academics for Peace petition. The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has issued separate indictments against all 18.

The court rejected the requests for Bülent Deniz and Arat Dink’s immediate acquittal and adjourned both trials until October.

A report about both hearings, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.

Detained ETHA employees released

Five employees of the Etkin news agency (ETHA), who were taken into custody on 15 June as part of an investigation into a supplement issued by the weekly newspaper Atılım, have been released under judicial control measures.

The five ETHA employees were among a group of 14 people that also included administrators from the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP), who were arrested as part of the investigation. All 14, who were taken into custody on the allegation of “inciting the public to hatred and animosity,” were brought to the Istanbul Courthouse on 19 June 2019 to give their statements to a prosecutor.

The prosecutor referred all 14 to a Criminal Judgeship of Peace after the completion of their testimonies.

The judgeship ruled to release İsminaz Temel, Havva Cuştan, Serdal Işık, Deniz Bakır, Ozancan Sarı, Gülçin Aykul and Mehmet Acettin, but imposed travel bans on all seven. Şahin Tümüklü, Ezgi Bahçeci, İlknur Çetin, Özge Doğan, Zeynep Güler Gerçek, Yaren Tuncer and Hüseyin İldan will have to report to the nearest police station once every 15 days in addition to being banned from traveling abroad.

Lawsuit against Ahmet Altan launched upon the complaint of late president adjourned

A lawsuit against imprisoned novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan resumed on 19 June 2019 at the Anadolu 10th Criminal Court of First Instance.

Filed upon the complaint of the late former President Süleyman Demirel, the lawsuit seeks the punishment of Altan for “not publishing a correction and refutation” over a 2010 article in shuttered Taraf newspaper titled “Ölüm babanın emri” (Death is the father’s command).

P24 monitored the second hearing. Ahmet Altan addressed the court from the Silivri Prison via the video-conferencing system SEGBİS. Altan’s lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu was in attendance in the courtroom. The court determined that some heirs of the accuser, Süleyman Demirel, were not notified about the case. Altan and his lawyer told the court that they would not make any statements at this point. The court decided to inform Demirel’s heirs before proceeding and adjourned the trial until 30 October 2019.

“Taraf MGK report trial” adjourned until September

The trial of Mehmet Baransu, the former reporter of shuttered Taraf newspaper and the paper’s former responsible managing editor Murat Şevki Çoban resumed on 19 June 2019.

Baransu and Çoban stand accused of “acquiring documents related to the security of the state,” “exposing documents related to the security of the state” and “exposing documents of the National Intelligence Agency (MİT)” over a news report published in November 2013, titled “Gülen’i bitirme kararı 2004’te MGK’da alındı” (Decision to finish off Gülen was taken by MGK in 2004). Both face possible prison terms of 25 to 52 years.

P24 monitored the 19th hearing overseen by the Anadolu 10th High Criminal Court. Baransu was brought to the courtroom in handcuffs by the gendarmerie from Silivri Prison. In attendance were Baransu’s lawyer Yahya Engin, Çoban’s lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu and the lawyer representing MİT and the National Security Council, Serhat Karğın.

The hearing took off with the prosecutor informing that he has recently been appointed to the case and he requested the case file to be sent to the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for changes to be made in the final opinion. Karğın requested the trial to be finalized in accordance with the final opinion submitted back in 2016.

Baransu told court that he was tried and acquitted on the same charge before and he requested the case to be rejected. He added: “A similar case was launched into Erdem Gül and the trial court convicted him. However the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that the case should be dismissed due to the expiry of the statute of limitations for pressing charges.”

Addressing court after Baransu, Çoban’s lawyer Çalıkuşu said that her client cannot be held responsible for the article because they byline was clearly stated in the report and the indictment was submitted after the expiry of the four-month statute of limitations for pressing charges. Çalıkuşu informed the panel that Çoban’s final defense statement would be presented at a later time.

The court decided to send the case file to the prosecution for the preparation of the final opinion and adjourned the trial until 24 September 2019.

Harun Çümen remains behind bars in 3rd hearing

The third hearing in the trial of jailed journalist Harun Çümen, the former responsible managing editor of shuttered Zaman newspaper, took place on 19 June 2019 at the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

Çümen is one of four defendants in the case and he is charged with “membership in a terrorist group.”

Two of Çümen’s co-defendants were in attendance in the courtroom while Çümen addressed the court via SEGBİS from the Balıkesir Prison, where he has been imprisoned for more than a year.

P24 monitored the hearing. The presiding judge asked Çümen about the digital forensics report, which claimed that messaging concerning a plan to flee the country were found on Çümen’s phone.

Çümen said he was arrested along with seven or eight other people and added that the mobile phones that were confiscated during their arrest might have been mixed-up. Çümen rejected the allegation in the report.

Çümen also asked the court to be released pending trial, saying: “I have been jailed over FETÖ membership allegations for a total of 473 days. I was only doing journalism. I do not have the characteristics of a ‘FETÖ member.’ The reason I had a Bank Asya account was because I was working for Zaman newspaper.”

Çümen’s lawyer Gökçen Yaşar said the digital forensics report was incorrect. Asserting that the text messages in the report did not belong to his client, Yaşar said, “My client is no way associated with a terrorist organization” and requested the court to release Çümen pending trial.

The prosecutor requested the continuation of Çümen’s detention on remand. In its interim ruling, the court ordered the continuation of Çümen’s pre-trial detention and adjourned the trial until 18 July 2019.

Kazım Kızıl convicted of “insulting the president”

The trial of documentary maker and video activist Kazım Kızıl on the charges of “violating the Law on Demonstrations and Protest Marches” and “insulting the president” resumed on 19 June 2019 at Izmir’s 33rd Criminal Court of First Instance.

Kızıl and his lawyers were in attendance during the hearing, which was the 11th in the trial. Announcing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court acquitted Kızıl of the “violating the Law on Demonstrations and Protest Marches” charge but convicted him of “insulting the president,” handing down a prison sentence of 1 year, 3 months and 16 days. The court did not defer the sentence but ruled that Kızıl would not go back to prison, given the time he spent in pre-trial detention in the earlier stages of the trial.

Kızıl was arrested on 17 April 2017 during a demonstration in Izmir in protest of the 16 April 2017 constitutional referendum results. He remained in pre-trial detention for three months before being released in July 2017 by a decision of the trial court.

Trial of journalists arrested in Özgür Gündem raid adjourned

The trial of 22 journalists beaten and arrested during a 2016 police raid on the offices of the Özgür Gündem newspaper on the charges of “insult” and “resisting a public officer” resumed on 19 June 2019 at Istanbul 5th Criminal Court of First Instance.

P24 monitored the fourth hearing, where none of the journalists were in attendance. They were represented by their lawyers.

Özcan Kılıç, the lawyer representing a number of defendants, requested the return of the materials confiscated by the Beyoğlu District Police Department during the raid. Kılıç said: “During the raid both İMC TV was on air and the police camera was recording. Police have the İMC TV footage. We request you to examine that footage before you render a decision.”

Announcing its interim decision at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to inquire of the Beyoğlu District Police Department about the processing of the confiscated cell phones and requesting an urgent response concerning where the confiscated materials are currently located. Also deciding to wait for the execution of the arrest warrants issued for defendants Amine Demirkıran, Günay Aksoy, Bayram Balcı and Ersin Çaksu, the court adjourned the trial until 5 November 2019.

Prosecutor seeks conviction for journalist Atakan Sönmez

Atakan Sönmez, the former news director of the online edition of Cumhuriyet newspaper, appeared before the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 18 June 2019 for the third hearing of his trial on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

Sönmez is accused because of Cumhuriyet website’s coverage of Turkey’s 2018 military operation on Syria’s Afrin.

P24 monitored the third hearing attended by Sönmez and his lawyer Buket Yazıcı.

In their final opinion of the case, which they had submitted in between courtroom hearings, the prosecution requested conviction for Sönmez on the charge of “successively disseminating terrorist propaganda.”

Sönmez’s lawyer Yazıcı said that they had just obtained the final opinion on the day of the hearing and he requested additional time for the preparation of the final defense statement. Accepting the request, the court adjourned the trial until 19 July 2019. 

Journalist Ozan Kaplanoğlu released on probation 

Ozan Kaplanoğlu, the editor of the online news outlet, who was sent to prison late May, was released on probation on 15 June 2019. 

Kaplanoğlu was imprisoned after an appellate court upheld the journalist’s “insulting the president” conviction. He was sent to prison on 31 May to serve the remainder of the 11-month prison sentence he had been given by the trial court. Kaplanoğlu had remained in pre-trial detention for three months in 2017 as part of the case.

Court lifts travel ban on Adil Demirci

The international travel ban on Turkish-German journalist Adil Demirci has been lifted.

Demirci, a Germany-based reporter and translator for the Etkin news agency (ETHA), is one of the defendants in an ongoing trial on terrorism-related charges that is overseen by an Istanbul court. Demirci remained in pre-trial detention for 10 months as part of the trial before being released in February under a travel ban.

List of journalists and media workers in prison 

As of 21 June 2019, at least 142 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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