Jailed journalist Harun Çümen, Bakur co-directors Çayan Demirel and Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, Sendika.Org editor Ali Ergin Demirhan given jail terms; retrial of “coup” case against Altans and Ilıcak to begin in October
The criminal court that sentenced Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak and three of their co-defendants to aggravated life imprisonment in the “coup” case in 2018 will begin the retrial of the case on 8 October.
The 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which issued its decision for retrial on 18 July, rejected the requests for Ahmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak and their three co-defendants to be released pending trial. All five have been in pre-trial detention for almost three years as part of the case.
The trial court also ruled for Mehmet Altan, who was released pending trial last summer by the appellate court, to be “forcibly brought to the hearing.”
The retrial comes on the heels of a judgment by the Supreme Court of Appeals earlier this month, which overturned the trial court’s 2018 verdict and ordered a retrial.
For further information, see this report.
Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan’s lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu filed two new petitions with the trial court and the next court of first instance this week, objecting to the interim rulings of the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which ordered the continuation of Ahmet Altan’s detention on remand and ruled for Mehmet Altan to be “forcibly brought to the retrial hearing on 8 October.”
Trial of journalist Atakan Sönmez adjourned until November
The fourth hearing in the trial of journalist Atakan Sönmez, the former news director of Cumhuriyet daily’s online edition, took place on 19 July 2019 at the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
Sönmez is charged with “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” over the Cumhuriyet website’s coverage of Turkey’s 2018 military operation on Syria’s Afrin.
P24 monitored the latest hearing, where Sönmez and his lawyer Buket Yazıcı were in attendance. Two of the judges on the panel were on leave and were replaced by two acting judges for this hearing.
Sönmez presented his final defense statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion of the case, submitted during the previous hearing, in which they asked the court to convict the journalist of “systematically disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.”
Sönmez asserted that none of the news stories that form the basis of the accusations included terrorist propaganda or any other criminal intent and requested to be acquitted. Sönmez also asked to be granted exemption from appearance in court.
Sönmez’s lawyer also told the court that the elements of the alleged offense were not present and requested her client’s acquittal.
In its interim ruling, the court granted Sönmez exemption from appearing in court and adjourned the trial until 7 November 2019 for the original panel of judges to review the case file for their verdict.
Journalist Adnan Bilen stands trial for “insulting the president”
Journalist Adnan Bilen’s trial on the charge of “insulting the president” over his social media posts got under way on 19 July 2019 at the 4th Criminal Court of First Instance of Van.
Bilen and his lawyer Haşem Baygümüş were in attendance in the courtroom. In his defense statement, Bilen said the social media posts he is being accused for do not include any insulting remarks. Adding that newspaper columns or news stories about an individual who is both the president of a country and the chairman of a political party at the same time should be deemed political criticism, not insult, Bilen said the posts he is accused for have both been shared on social media by over 1 million people to date. Bilen asked: “Are you going to press charges against all those 1 million people? Is this truly possible?”
Bilen also told the court that he did not want the court to defer or suspend the sentence in the event he is convicted. Bilen’s lawyer requested the court to acquit his client. The court adjourned the trial until 8 November 2019.
Jailed journalist Harun Çümen given 7.5-year prison sentence
Jailed journalist Harun Çümen, the former responsible managing editor of the shuttered Zaman newspaper, was sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” at the final hearing of his trial on 18 July 2019.
The 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled to keep Çümen, who has been in pre-trial detention for the past 16 months, behind bars during the appeal process.
A report about Çümen’s final hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Bakur co-directors convicted in absentia
Journalist Ertuğrul Mavioğlu and documentary filmmaker Çayan Demirel, the co-directors of the documentary Bakur (North), were convicted of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” on 18 July 2019, at what was the final hearing of their trial, where neither the filmmakers nor their lawyers were in attendance.
The defense lawyers had submitted letters of excuse to the court, which the panel ignored. Convicting Mavioğlu and Demirel without hearing their final defense statements, the 2nd High Criminal Court of Batman sentenced both to 4 years and 6 months in prison. The court also imposed international travel bans on both Mavioğlu and Demirel.
A report about the hearing can be accessed here.
Osman Kavala remains behind bars as Gezi Park trial resumes
The “Gezi Park trial,” where 16 people, including the jailed businessperson Osman Kavala, stand accused of “attempting to overthrow the government” over allegedly “financing” and “orchestrating” 2013’s nationwide Gezi Park protests in Turkey, resumed on 18 July 2019 at a courtroom in Silivri.
The 30th High Criminal Court of Istanbul heard defense statements by lawyers during the hearing, monitored by P24. Kavala also addressed the court as the only jailed defendant in the case. Asserting that no substantial evidence supporting the accusations against him has been presented to the case file since his arrest in November 2017, Kavala asked to be released pending trial.
In its interim ruling announced at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to keep Kavala in detention on remand and adjourned the trial until 8 and 9 October 2019. The court rejected requests by the lawyers representing İnanç Ekmekçi and Can Dündar for the statements of their clients to be taken abroad and ruled for the continuation of the arrest warrants in place for six of the defendants.
Supreme Court prosecutor: Verdict in Cumhuriyet trial should be quashed
The Office of the General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals has requested the reversal of the verdict in the Cumhuriyet trial, which convicted former Cumhuriyet journalists and executives Orhan Erinç, Akın Atalay, Murat Sabuncu, Hikmet Çetinkaya, Aydın Engin and Ahmet Şık of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.”
The Office of the General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals said in their judicial opinion that all defendants except Şık should have been acquitted of all charges, while Şık should have been charged with “praising a [terrorist] group and violence” and “propaganda,” facing a combined sentence between 3.5 and 13.5 years.
The prosecutor asked the Supreme Court to reject the appeals filed by Emre İper and Ahmet Kemal Aydoğdu.
The prosecutor also sought the reversal of the verdicts for five former Cumhuriyet staffers who are currently in prison because they were handed down prison sentences less than five years.
The case file will be overseen by the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals.
Journalist Kibriye Evren ordered to remain behind bars
Jailed journalist Kibriye Evren, a reporter for the female news collective JinNews, appeared before a Diyarbakır court on 18 July 2019 for the sixth hearing of her trial on the charges of “membership in a terrorist group” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group.”
P24 monitored the hearing, where Evren and her lawyers Resul Tamur and Pirozhan Karali were in attendance.
The prosecution had submitted their final opinion of the case during the previous hearing, requesting the court to convict the journalist of both charges. During the latest hearing, the prosecution requested the completion of the case file and the continuation of Evren’s pre-trial detention.
Addressing the 5th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır for her defense statement, Evren said she has been jailed for the past 10 months based on statements by two secret witnesses and on her social media posts. Rejecting the accusations, Evren asked to be acquitted.
Evren’s lawyers also told the court that they were of the opinion that their client would eventually be acquitted of both charges and requested the court to release her pending trial.
In its interim decision, the court ruled to inquire of the Şanlıurfa Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office about a 2016 investigation file against Evren on the allegation of “terrorist group membership.” The court ruled to keep Evren behind bars and adjourned the trial until 24 September 2019.
Can Dündar’s trial adjourned
One of numerous ongoing trials against journalist Can Dündar resumed on 18 July 2019 at a criminal court in Istanbul. Dündar is accused in this case because he participated in a 2016 campaign for solidarity with the shuttered pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem. The 22nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant against Dündar and adjourned the trial until 28 November 2019.
Court of Appeals upholds Zuhal Olcay’s conviction
The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals has upheld a 2018 appellate court verdict that sentenced singer and actress Zuhal Olcay to 11 months and 20 days in prison for “insulting the president” during an onstage performance. The court rendered its verdict unanimously.
Rights defenders acquitted in “Özgür Gündem solidarity trial”
An Istanbul court on 17 July 2019 acquitted 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 of all charges against them. All three were charged with “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization,” “incitement to commit crime” and “praising crime and criminals” because they had participated in the “substitute editor-in-chief” campaign for the shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper in 2016.
A report about the final hearing in the case, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Eren Keskin’s file separated in Özgür Gündem trial
The 12th hearing in the trial of Eren Keskin and Hüseyin Aykol, the former co-editors-in-chief of shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper, its former responsible managing editor Reyhan Çapan and journalist Hasan Başak on the charges of “praising crime and criminal,” “incitement to commit crime” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” took place on 17 July 2019 at the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
The presiding judge informed those in attendance that Keskin’s file has been separated from this case and sent to the 23rd High Criminal Court to be merged with the ongoing Özgür Gündem main trial.
The prosecution then submitted their final opinion concerning the remaining defendants, asking the court to convict Aykol, Çapan and Başak of “praising crime or a criminal,” “incitement to commit crime” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group.”
A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Yurdatapan, Alpay stand trial for supporting academics
Civil rights activist and musician Şanar Yurdatapan and linguist Necmiye Alpay appeared at the first hearing of their respective trials on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” on 16 July 2019.
Yurdatapan and Alpay are on trial because they, along with 16 other rights defenders, turned themselves in to the authorities on 18 January 2016 in support of the academics being prosecuted for signing 2016’s Academics for Peace petition. The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has issued 18 separate indictments against each of them.
Both trials were adjourned until November. A report about both hearings, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Case file sent once again to prosecutor in “Büyükada trial”
The “Büyükada trial,” where 11 human rights defenders, including Taner Kılıç, the honorary chairman of Amnesty Turkey, face terrorism-related charges, resumed on 16 July 2019 at the 35th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
The 10 rights defenders were arrested during a meeting in Büyükada in July 2017. Kılıç was arrested a month before the Büyükada meeting participants as part of a separate investigation. Their files were later merged. The indictment seeks up to 15 years in prison for Kılıç on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” and up to 10 years for the rest of the defendants on the charge of “aiding a terrorist organization.” Kılıç spent more than a year in pre-trial detention as part of the case before being released pending trial in August 2018.
P24 monitored the latest hearing, where defendants Taner Kılıç, Nejat Taştan and Günal Kurşun were in attendance as well as defense lawyers.
Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to send the case file to the new prosecutor who was recently appointed to the case for the drafting of their final opinion and adjourned the trial until 9 October 2019.
Journalist Deniz Yücel’s trial adjourned until October
The trial of Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yücel, the former Turkey correspondent of the German newspaper Die Welt, on the charges of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” and “inciting hatred and animosity” resumed on 16 July 2019 at the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
P24 monitored the fourth hearing, where Yücel was represented by his lawyer Veysel Ok. The presiding judge announced that the court has just received the Constitutional Court’s ruling concerning the individual application of Yücel, in which the top court had ruled that Yücel’s pre-trial detention violated his rights to liberty and security, freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
Yücel’s lawyer then asked the trial court to render its verdict in line with the Constitutional Court ruling and without waiting for Yücel’s defense statement, taken in May in Berlin, to be sent to the trial court.
In its interim ruling, the court decided to wait until they receive Yücel’s statement and adjourned the trial until 17 October 2019.
Trial of Boğaziçi University students to continue in October
The trial of 30 students from Istanbul’s Boğaziçi University who took part in an anti-war demonstration on the school campus resumed on 16 July 2019 at the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul. The students are charged with “terroirsm propaganda.”
P23 monitored the latest hearing, where the court ruled to hand over the case file to the prosecutor for the drafting of their final opinion and adjourned the trial until 15 October 2019.
Journalist Necla Demir faces new criminal investigation
The Bakırköy Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched a new investigation against journalist Necla Demir, the former publisher of the online news portal Gazete Karınca. The allegation in the new investigation file is “incitement to hatred and animosity.”
The investigation was launched upon an anonymous tip filed with the Presidency’s Communication Center (CIMER). The prosecutor’s office asked for a report from law enforcement for the new investigation. The police report focuses on online news stories Gazete Karınca published on 18 March 2019. The news item about a previous investigation against Demir, in which she was accused of “successively disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group,” was also among the news items listed as probable grounds for the accusation in the police report.
Demir gave her statement at the Bakırköy Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on 16 July 2019 as part of the new investigation. The prosecutor referred her to a Criminal Judgeship of Peace, requesting the judgeship to impose on Demir an international travel ban and other judicial control measures. The judgeship ruled that Demir did not have any intent of committing a crime and her actions were aimed at informing the public and rejected the prosecutor’s request.
Ali Ergin Demirhan given jail term for “insulting the president”
Ali Ergin Demirhan, an editor for the news portal Sendika.Org, has been sentenced to 11 months and 20 days in prison on the charge of “insulting the president.”
Demirhan was on trial because of a social media post he had shared. The court deferred Demirhan’s sentence by five years, during which he will be subject to probation. Demirhan announced the verdict against him on 16 July 2019 on Twitter.
Journalist Ahmet Kanbal released from detention
Ahmet Kanbal, a reporter for the Mezopotamya news agency, was taken into custody on 13 July 2019 in the southeastern province of Mardin, where he lives.
Kanbal was charged with “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” over his social media posts. Kanbal was referred to the courthouse on 15 July. The court he was referred to by the prosecutor released Kanbal under judicial control measures and an international travel ban.
List of journalists and media workers in prison
As of 19 July 2019, at least 138 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.