Supreme Court of Appeals overturns life sentences given to Altan brothers and Nazlı Ilıcak; Ahmet Altan, Cengiz Erdinç, Işıl Özgentürk handed down prison terms over their articles; appellate court upholds verdict in Zaman trial
The Supreme Court of Appeals has overturned the 2018 verdict by a criminal court that sentenced Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak and three of their co-defendants to aggravated life imprisonment on the charge of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order,” according to a news report published by the state-run news agency Anadolu late on 5 July 2019.
The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that Mehmet Altan, who was released from pre-trial detention in June 2018 by a decision of the appellate court based on a Constitutional Court judgment back in January 2018, should be acquitted, citing lack of sufficient and credible evidence.
As for Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak, the court said they should face the lesser charge of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.”
A report about the Supreme Court of Appeals’ ruling can be accessed here.
Actor Cenk Dost Verdi released on probation
Stage actor Cenk Dost Verdi, who has been in the Kocaeli F Type Prison since 18 August 2018, serving a 2-and-a-half-year sentence he was given last year for his social media posts, has been released on probation. Verdi was convicted of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group.” Verdi’s theater company Yolcu Tiyatro shared the news of the actor’s release on 5 July 2019 on Twitter.
Jailed journalist Ferhat Parlak’s trial gets under way
Jailed journalist Ferhat Parlak, the Diyarbakır-based publisher and reporter of the shuttered local newspaper Silvan Mücadele, appeared before a court in Diyarbakır on 8 July for the first hearing of his trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group.”
The Diyarbakır 11th Criminal Court of First Instance, which recently accepted the indictment against Parlak, ruled at the end of Monday’s hearing to release the journalist pending the conclusion of his trial. The court imposed on Parlak an international travel ban. Parlak, who was jailed in April 2018, has been in detention on remand for 15 months.
The indictment accuses Parlak based on testimony by a witness who goes by the initials B.C. and five other secret witnesses with the aliases “Takvim,” “Akın,” “Çaylak,” “Akya” and “Veda.” Evidence from previous criminal cases against Parlak that have already been finalized are held as evidence against the journalist in the new indictment.
News reports and footage included in a case file where Parlak was previously convicted of “propaganda” are also included in the new case file. The prosecution seeks up to 15 years in prison for Parlak.
The second hearing of Parlak’s trial will be held on 6 November 2019.
Journalist Cengiz Erdinç given 10-month prison sentence
Journalist Cengiz Erdinç was given a 10-month prison sentence and an additional judicial fine of TL 16,000 over an article he penned for the Yurt newspaper. At the hearing on 4 July 2019, the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance found Erdinç guilty of “damaging the reputation” of Ziraat Bank in his article, titled “Finansal kara delikler” (Financial black holes). The court suspended the sentence on the grounds that Erdinç “has shown remorse.” Erdinç’s lawyer Baran Kaya said he will appeal the verdict.
Columnist Işıl Özgentürk convicted of “inciting hatred”
Işıl Özgentürk, a columnist for Cumhuriyet daily, was given a prison sentence of 1 year and 6 months on the charge of “inciting hatred and animosity or degrading the public” on 4 July 2019. Özgentürk was on trial because of a 13 January 2019 article she wrote for Cumhuriyet, titled “Yeni kuşak türbanlılar” (New generation of hijab wearers).
Özgentürk was represented by her lawyer Fikret İlkiz at the 4 July 2019 hearing.
Issuing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance initially sentenced Özgentürk to 1 year in prison. The court increased the sentence by half on the grounds that “the offense was committed through the press.” Based on a previous deferred conviction against Özgentürk, the sentence was not suspended or deferred because the court was “not of the opinion that the defendant would refrain from committing another offense.”
Prosecutor seeks life imprisonment for jailed journalist Ziya Ataman
The trial of jailed former Dicle news agency (DİHA) reporter Ziya Ataman and 18 others resumed on 4 July 2019 at the Şırnak 1st High Criminal Court.
Ataman, who has been in detention on remand since 11 April 2016, addressed the court from the Van M Type Prison via the video-conferencing system SEGBİS during the hearing.
Submitting their final opinion of the case during the hearing, the prosecution asked the court to convict all nine jailed defendants, including Ataman, of “disrupting the unity and integrity of the state,” “attempting to intentionally kill with premeditation a civil servant because of the public service he performs,” “intentionally killing with premeditation a civil a servant because of the public service he performs,” and “attempting to premeditated murder,” “intentiaonally damaging public property through the use of explosives” and two other charges. The prosecution asked the court to convict Ataman twice of “intentionally killing with premeditation a civil servant because of the public service he performs,” and 32 times of “attempting to intentionally kill with premeditation a civil servant because of the public service he performs.”
Lawyers requested additional time for the preparation of the final defense statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion. The court told Atman, who asked to make his defense statement in Kurdish, to have his interpreter ready at the next hearing for his defense. Ruling to keep all jailed defendants behind bars, the court adjourned the trial until 24 September 2019. The lawyers were not given minutes of the hearing.
Academic Battal Odabaşı taken into custody
Assistant Professor Battal Odabaşı, one of the signatories of 2016’s Academics for Peace petition, was taken into custody on 3 July 2019 in the Konya province. Odabaşı was released the next day after giving his statement at the courthouse.
Trial of journalists Sibel Hürtaş and Hayri Demir adjourned until December
A trial where journalists Sibel Hürtaş and Hayri Demir are among 11 defendants charged with “inciting hatred and animosity” and “disseminating terrorism propaganda” over their social media posts about Turkey’s military operation on Syria’s Afrin resumed on 3 July 2019 in Ankara.
P24 monitored the hearing, where both Hürtaş and Demir were in attendance as well as defense lawyers.
The presiding judge of the Ankara 15th High Criminal Court told those in attendance that the Justice Ministry had yet to respond to the prosecution’s request for the proceedings to continue under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) -- “insulting the government of the Republic of Turkey, the judicial bodies of the state, the military or security organizations.”
Hürtaş’s lawyer Nuray Özdoğan then addressed the court. “My client is a press member and her international travel ban has turned into a punishment,” Özdoğan said. The lawyer also asked the court to lift the judicial control measures imposed on all 11 defendants.
Alişan Şahin, another defense lawyer, requested the court to file an application with the Constitutional Court for the annulment of TCK Article 301 on the grounds that the provision is against the principle of equality and the right to freedom of expression.
Announcing its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court rejected the requests to file for the annulment of TCK Article 301 and to lift the judicial control measures imposed on the defendants. The court set 3 December 2019 as the date for the next hearing.
Özgür Gündem main trial adjourned until November
The Özgür Gündem main trial, where the former editors, columnists and members of the editorial advisory board of the shuttered newspaper are accused of “disrupting the unity and integrity of the state” and “membership in a terrorist group” resumed on 3 July 2019.
This was the 13th hearing in the case, overseen by the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
P24 monitored the hearing, where two of the defendants, lawyer Eren Keskin and linguist Necmiye Alpay were in attendance as well as defense lawyers.
The presiding judge informed those in attendance that another file against Keskin overseen by the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul has been sent to the trial court to be merged with the ongoing case.
Erdal Doğan, the lawyer representing writer Aslı Erdoğan, a former member of the newspaper’s advisory board, asked the court to acquit all nine defendants.
The prosecutor, who was expected to submit his final opinion of the case at this hearing, requested a continuance because of the vast content of the case file. Granting additional time for the preparation of the final opinion, the court adjourned the trial until 28 November 2019.
Ahmet Altan given prison term over 2010 article
Jailed novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan’s trial over an article he wrote in 2010 in the shuttered daily Taraf resumed on 2 July 2019 at the Anadolu 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.
Altan was accused of “publicly insulting the memory of Atatürk” for his article titled “CHP,” which was a critical piece about the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Altan, who has been in pre-trial detention in the Silivri Prison since September 2016, addressed the court via the judicial video-conferencing system SEGBİS during the hearing, monitored by P24. Altan’s lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu was in attendance at the court.
“In a developed country, no writer would stand trial in a case similar to this one,” Altan told the court in his defense statement. He added: “In politics, there are no sacred figures. If you make a figure part of day-to-day politics, then you are acknowledging that this figure is not sacred and is debatable. In case a figure is thought to be sacred and therefore non-debatable, then that figure should not be part of politics. You cannot make a person part of the political discourse and then tell others ‘this person is non-debatable.’ [...] The legal system is based on facts, it relies on factual evidence. If one tries to keep a figure within the political field and at the same time keep it free from criticism, this amounts to political ploy.”
Addressing the court following Altan, lawyer Çalıkuşu said the accusation in the case file was based on the prosecutor’s interpretation. “The alleged offense can only be present in the event of intent. There is no intent to ‘insult’ in Ahmet Altan’s article,” Çalıkuşu said. She requested Altan’s acquittal.
Announcing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court convicted Atan of “publicly insulting the memory of Atatürk” and gave him a 1-year prison sentence. The sentence was increased by half on the grounds that it had been “committed through the press.” The court suspended the sentence.
Former Zaman journalist Şirin Kabakçı’s trial adjourned until October
Şirin Kabakçı, the former Konya bureau chief of the shuttered newspaper Zaman, appeared before the 35th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 2 July 2019 for the sixth hearing of his trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group.”
Kabakçı and his lawyer Cumali Aydemir were both in attendance at the courtroom for the hearing, monitored by P24.
The presiding judge informed Kabakçı and those in attendance that testimony against Kabakçı by a witness who asked to benefit from effective remorse provisions had been submitted to the court in between courtroom hearings.
Kabakçı’s lawyer told the court they needed additional time to examine the testimony. Kabakçı also said he would like to give his statement in response to the witness testimony after examining it.
In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to begin the procedures for taking the testimony of the witness and adjourned the trial until 15 October 2019.
Appellate court upholds verdict in Zaman trial
An appellate court has upheld the verdict rendered last year in the “Zaman trial,” where 11 former columnists and editors of the shuttered newspaper were accused of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” and “membership in a terrorist group.”
The 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice upheld the trial court’s verdict on 25 June 2019. The prosecutor has appealed against the appellate court’s ruling at the Supreme Court of Appeals.
A report about the appellate court’s ruling can be accessed here.
Humor writer Demirci to stand trial for “insulting the president”
Humor writer Cihan Demirci will stand trial on the charge of “insulting the president” for his social media posts. The first hearing in Demirci’s trial is set for 10 October 2019 at the Istanbul Anadolu 26th Criminal Court of First Instance.
Binali Yıldırım files compensation case against Evrensel daily
Binali Yıldırım, who ran as the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) candidate for Istanbul mayor in June, has filed a lawsuit against Evrensel daily, seeking TL 25,000 in non-pecuniary damages for a news story about the mayoral election published in the newspaper’s online edition. The Istanbul Anadolu 12th Civil Court of First Instance has accepted the lawsuit, filed on 21 June 2019 by Yıldırım’s lawyer.
List of journalists and media workers in prison
As of 8 July 2019, at least 139 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.