Turkish courts convict at least 5 journalists in a week; Supreme Court of Appeals overturns convictions in Cumhuriyet trial; At least 130 journalists and media workers still in prison in Turkey


Ahmet Altan acquitted in “insult” case

Jailed journalist and novelist Ahmet Altan was acquitted on 17 September 2019 of “insulting a public official” in the second hearing of a trial overseen by the Anadolu 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.

Saying that Altan would not be heard since he had given his defense statement during the previous hearing and that there was no reason to prolong the trial any longer, the judge went on to issue his verdict, acquitting Altan on the grounds that the elements of the alleged offense were not present.

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

103 academics acquitted after Constitutional Court ruling

More than 100 academics standing trial on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” for signing 2016’s Academics for Peace have been acquitted in the past two weeks. The acquittals follow immediately on the heels of the Constitutional Court’s July 2019 ruling, which held that the trials were in violation of the right to freedom of expression of the petition’s signatories. A total of 103 acquittal verdicts were rendered between 2 September 2019, which marked the beginning of the new judicial year in Turkey, and 13 September 2019. Diyarbakır courts acquitted three academics; 98 academics were acquitted in Istanbul and two others were acquitted in Izmir.

Supreme Court overturns convictions in Cumhuriyet trial

The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals on 12 September 2019 overturned the convictions rendered in the trial of former Cumhuriyet staffers on the charge of “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.”

The Chamber overturned the convictions against Akın Atalay, Orhan Erinç, Murat Sabuncu, Aydın Engin, Hikmet Çetinkaya and Ahmet Şık. The Chamber also ruled for a stay of execution concerning Önder Çelik, Bülent Utku, Güray Öz, Musa Kart, Hakan Kara and Mustafa Kemal Güngör. who were sentenced to less than five years in prison on the same charge and who returned to prison in April to serve the remainder of their sentences after their convictions were upheld in February by an appellate court. The Chamber ruled for the five imprisoned defendants to be released. The Chamber also ruled to lift the arrest warrant issued for Bülent Utku.

A report about the Supreme Court of Appeals ruling can be accessed here.

Deniz Yücel’s compensation claim rejected once again

A compensation case filed against the Turkish government by German Die Welt newspaper’s former Turkey correspondent Deniz Yücel, in which the journalist claimed TL 2,980,000 in damages for his unlawful arrest and detention in 2017, has been rejected once again.

P24 monitored the 12 September 2019 hearing, where Yücel, who lives in Germany, did not attend. He was represented by his lawyer, Veysel Ok.

This was the retrial of a compensation case which the 17th High Criminal Court of Istanbul had rejected on 25 September 2018. Deniz’s lawyer appealed the ruling with the 19th Criminal Chamber of Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, an appellate court, which ruled on 8 May 2019 that the damages Yücel suffered due to his arrest and pre-trial detention be determined, and ordered a retrial.

Journalist Cem Şimşek fined for 2018 news story

Cem Şimşek, the former responsible managing editor of Evrensel daily, appeared before the Bakırköy 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 12 September 2019 for the fourth hearing of his trial on charges of “insulting a public official” and “failure to publish a correction” over a news story published in Evrensel in July 2018.

Issuing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court acquitted Şimşek of the “insult” charge but fined both Şimşek and the newspaper’s owner, Cemal Dursun, TL 41,666 for “failure to properly publish a correction.”

Barış İnce convicted of “insulting the president” 

Journalist Barış İnce, BirGün daily’s former managing editor, was given a prison sentence of 11 months and 20 days on 12 September 2019 in his retrial on the charge of “insulting the president.”

The accusation stemmed from İnce’s remarks in his defense statement in a previous case where he was also charged with “insulting the president.” İnce, who was convicted by the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul in the first trial, appealed the verdict before the Supreme Court of Appeals, which overturned his conviction and ordered a retrial. In the retrial the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul convicted İnce of the same charge. The court deferred the sentence.

Journalist Cihan Acar, lawyer Veysel Ok sentenced over 2015 interview

An Istanbul court on 12 September 2019 convicted journalist Cihan Acar, a former reporter for the shuttered newspaper Özgür Düşünce, and lawyer Veysel Ok of “publicly denigrating the judiciary” as per Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).

Acar and Ok were co-defendants in the case, where the accusation stemmed from a December 2015 interview Acar made with Ok for Özgür Düşünce daily. The 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul gave both Acar and Ok five-month prison sentences.

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

Journalist Oktay Candemir faces investigation over social media post

The Office of the Chief Public Prosecutor of Van has launched a criminal investigation against journalist Oktay Candemir on the allegation of “insulting the president” on account of a social media post in which Candemir made a witty remark and posted photos of President Erdoğan and the HDP provincial congress in Van. Candemir recently gave his statement to a prosecutor in Van as part of the investigation.

Uğur Dündar convicted of “insult,” sentenced to “reading” books

Journalist Uğur Dündar was convicted of “insulting a public official” by the Küçükçekmece 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance over an article he penned in 2014.

The court found Dündar guilty of “insulting” former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and handed down the journalist a prison sentence of 11 months and 20 days. The court did not defer the verdict. Taking into account Dündar’s “age, personality, his social and financial status,” the court ruled to give Dündar an alternative sentence in the form of reading books and/or scholarly articles about “crimes against honor” at least 2 hours every week at university libraries for a period of 5 months and 25 days.

This was the retrial of a 2015 case, where the same court had sentenced Dündar to 11 months and 20 days on the “insult” charge. That ruling was later overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeals, which ordered a retrial.

Mümtazer Türköne’s trial on “insulting the president” charge adjourned 

A trial where jailed academic and former Zaman columnist Mümtazer Türköne is charged with “insulting the president” resumed on 11 September 2019 at Istanbul’s Bakırköy 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.

This was the fifth hearing in the case, where Türköne is accused for an article he penned on 16 March 2014. Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court adjourned the trial until 15 October 2019 to allow time for Türköne to prepare his defense statement.

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

Austrian journalist Max Zirngast and his 3 co-defendants acquitted

Austrian journalist and researcher Max Zirngast and three others were acquitted on 11 September 2019 of “membership in a terrorist organization” at the second hearing of their trial, overseen by the 26th High Criminal Court of Ankara.

The court also ruled for the international travel ban that was imposed on the defendants to be lifted.

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

Evrensel columnist Yusuf Karataş’s trial adjourned until December

Yusuf Karataş, a columnist for Evrensel daily, appeared before a Diyarbakır court on 11 September 2019 for the sixth hearing of his trial on the charge of “establishing and leading a terrorist group.”

Karataş faces up to 22.5 years in prison in the trial, one of many similar criminal cases where the accusations stem from audio recordings of speeches delivered by participants during Democratic Society Congress (DTK) rallies. Karataş was arrested and jailed pending trial in July 2017 as part of an investigation into DTK. He was released pending trial in September 2017.

P24 monitored the hearing at the 9th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır, where Karataş and his lawyer İsmail Koç were in attendance. Minutes of previous hearings were read out during the hearing because the court panel had changed in between hearings. The presiding judge then informed those in attendance that the court has still not received a report from the Council of Forensic Medicine concerning the forensic examination of audio tapes.

The prosecutor requested the continuation of the judicial control measures imposed on Karataş and asked the court to wait for the forensic report.

Addressing the court after the prosecutor, Karataş requested the court to lift his international travel ban because it prevented him from performing his journalistic activities.

Karataş’s lawyer also addressed the court, asserting that the audio tapes in question were obtained in an unlawful manner and requesting that the court inquire of the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office about the exact date when his client’s name was listed for the first time among suspects in the investigation file. Koç requested the tapes to be transcribed again and also asked the court to lift his client’s international travel ban.

In its interim ruling, the court ruled for the continuation of Karataş’s travel ban and to inquire of the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office about the exact date when Karataş was listed among suspects in the investigation file. The court set 25 December as the date for the next hearing. The court also ruled that it would consider the request for the audio tapes to be transcribed again after the completion of the forensic examination report. 

Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak’s requests for release rejected once again ahead of retrial

The 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul has once again ruled for the continuation of the detention of jailed journalists Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak, who have both been behind bars for over three years as part of the “coup” case against them and their four co-defendants, who also include Ahmet Altan’s brother, Professor of Economics and columnist Mehmet Altan. The trial court, which will be overseeing the retrial of Altans’ case in October after the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the convictions, stated the Constitutional Court’s rulings concerning Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak as the grounds for its rejection of requests for their release pending trial. The Constitutional Court’s Plenary had rejected the individual applications filed on behalf of Altan and Ilıcak on 3 May 2019.

In the meantime, Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan’s lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu filed a complaint with the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) on 9 September 2019, requesting the council to take legal action against the judges of the trial court. Çalıkuşu requested that the council remove Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court’s presiding judge Kemal Selçuk Yalman, judges Recep Kurt and Mehmet Akif Ayaz and prosecutor Eray Akkavak, “who have all abused their positions and have lost their impartiality.” Çalıkuşu requested a new panel to be assigned with the retrial. Çalıkuşu said that she will be continuing to file complaints to the HSK every day until legal action is taken against the judges in question.

Journalist Metin Duran rearrested as medical report expires

Journalist Metin Duran, who was jailed last year to serve a 3-year sentence despite being paralyzed from a stroke, and released after a Forensic Medicine Council report confirmed that he is medically unfit for detention, was rearrested on 10 September 2019 because his medical report has expired.

Due to his ailment, Duran was referred to the Mardin State Hospital following his arrest. Advising the Forensic Medicine Council about Duran’s medical condition, the hospital called for Duran’s sentence to be suspended for another year. The Forensic Medicine Council is now expected to issue its report about Duran.

Duran was imprisoned on 30 March 2018 to serve a prison sentence of 3 years, 1 month and 15 days he had been given on the charge of “committing acts on behalf of a terrorist organization without being its member.” Duran was released from prison on 17 September 2018 as per the Forensic Medicine Council’s report.

Observers not allowed to monitor former TV10 staffers’ hearing 

The trial of two former employees of the shuttered TV station TV10, camera operator Kemal Demir and staff member Kemal Karagöz, resumed on 10 September 2019 at the 28th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. Both Demir and Karagöz are charged with “membership in a terrorist group” in the case.

Upon instructions from the presiding judge, the audience was not allowed into the courtroom to observe the trial. According to court minutes, the court heard two witnesses in relation to the allegations in the indictment. In its interim decision, the court ruled for witness Şükrü Yıldız to be forcibly brought to the next hearing and for the continuation of the international travel ban imposed on Demir and Karagöz. The court set 14 November as the date for the next hearing.

A report about the hearing can be accessed here.

Prosecutor seeks conviction for Fikret Başkaya

The trial of writer and academic Fikret Başkaya on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” over an article published online on the website of Özgür Üniversite (The Free University) resumed on 10 September 2019 in Ankara.

Başkaya faces up to five years in prison in the case, overseen by the 21st High Criminal Court of Ankara.

P24 monitored the hearing, where Başkaya and his lawyers were in attendance.

Submitting their final opinion of the case during the second hearing, the prosecution asked the court to convict Başkaya of the “propaganda” charge as per Article 7/2 of the Law on the Fight Against Terror (TMK).

Başkaya and his lawyer Levent Kanat requested a continuance for their final defense statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion. Kanat requested to address the court once again before the court went on to issue its interim ruling but the panel did not allow him.

In its interim ruling, the court granted a continuance for Başkaya’s final defense statement and adjourned the trial until 22 November 2019.

Prosecutor appeals acquittals in Özgür Gündem solidarity trial

A prosecutor has appealed the trial court’s verdict in the “Özgür Gündem solidarity trial,” where Erol Önderoğlu, the Turkey representative of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Professor Şebnem Korur-Fincancı, the president of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), and journalist and writer Ahmet Nesin were accused on account of their participation in a 2016 campaign to show solidarity with the now-defunct pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem. The trial court had acquitted all three of all charges in the final hearing of their trial on 17 July 2019.

Prosecutor seeks jail term for Mezopotamya news agency reporter Polat

The trial of Mezopotamya news agency reporter Barış Polat on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group” resumed on 10 September 2019 at the 7th High Criminal Court of Gaziantep.

Polat was taken into custody on account of his social media posts during the time when he was a distributor for the now-defunct newspaper Özgürlükçü Demokrasi. Old issues of the newspaper that were found in Polat’s home during a police raid at the time are held as evidence against him in the case file.

Addressing the court for his defense statement during the latest hearing, Polat rejected the accusation. The prosecutor then submitted his final opinion of the case, asking the court to convict Polat of “terrorist group membership.” The court adjourned the trial until 7 January 2010 for Polat to prepare his final defense statement in response to the accusation in the prosecutor’s final opinion.

Jin News reporter Melike Aydın given 15-month jail sentence

Jin News reporter Melike Aydın was sentenced to 15 months in prison on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” on 9 September 2019 at what was the second hearing of her trial over a social media post from 2006. The Bayraklı 20th High Criminal Court in Izmir deferred Aydın’s sentence.

List of journalists and media workers in prison 

As of 17 September 2019, at least 130 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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