Trial of two Bloomberg reporters and 36 others over 2018 currency crisis report gets under way; Turkish courts convict one journalist and one musician in one week

A trial in which Bloomberg journalists Fercan Yalınkılıç and Kerim Karakaya stand accused of “violating the Capital Market Law” over an August 2018 news story, in which they reported about Turkey’s currency crisis at the time, got under way on 20 September 2019 at the 3rd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul.

Yalınkılıç and Karakaya are on trial alongside 36 others who commented on or shared the news story on Twitter. Among them are journalists Sedef Kabaş and Merdan Yanardağ, as well as economist and columnist Mustafa Sönmez.

The prosecution had named the investigation against Yalınkılıç and Karakaya as “the financial coup attempt investigation.” All 36 defendants in the case face up to five years in prison as per Article 107/2 of Turkey’s Capital Market Law, if convicted.

P24 monitored the first hearing, where 19 of the defendants, including Yalınkılıç, Karakaya, Kabaş, Yanardağ and Sönmez, were in attendance, accompanied by their lawyers. Making their defense statements in response to the indictment, all 19 rejected the accusation and asked to be acquitted.

Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court rejected the immediate acquittal requests on the grounds that the remaining 17 defendants’ statements had yet to be heard. The court set 17 January 2020 as the date for the second hearing.

Journalist Cem Şimşek acquitted of “defying access ban”

On 20 September 2019, Evrensel daily’s former responsible managing editor Cem Şimşek appeared before an Istanbul court for the third hearing of his trial on the charge of “defying an access ban ordered by a court.”

Istanbul’s 16th Criminal Court of First Instance acquitted Şimşek on the grounds that the elements of the offense were not present.

Court overseeing Özgürlükçü Demokrasi trial issues reasoned decision

The Istanbul court that oversaw the trial of 14 former staffers of the shuttered newspaper Özgürlükçü Demokrasi has issued its reasoned decision.

At the final hearing of the Özgürlükçü Demokrasi trial on 28 June 2019, the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul had convicted the newspaper’s publisher and its four editors, handing down a combined prison sentence of 14 years and 4 months to all five.

In its reasoned decision, the court wrote: “Even though freedom of the press and freedom of expression are enshrined in the law and the Constitution, these freedoms are not limitless. It is inevitable for a state and a society to restrict certain freedoms in order to survive. It is a fact that […] limitless freedom would lead to anarchy and eventually destroy freedoms. Therefore, freedoms can be restricted in the event they are in conflict with public peace, public order and national security.” The court wrote in the judgment that the news stories published in Özgürlükçü Demokrasi “targeted the Turkish Armed Forces’ fight against the PKK and in particular the Afrin operation in Syria.”

Ailing journalist Metin Duran released after one week in detention

Ailing journalist Metin Duran, who was rearrested last week, has been released. Duran, who was transferred to the Mardin State Hospital after being arrested, was released during the week after the Forensic Medicine Council renewed its report confirming that Duran is medically unfit for detention.

Duran was jailed last year to serve a 3-year sentence despite being paralyzed from a stroke and released after the Forensic Medicine Council report confirmed his condition. He was rearrested on 10 September after the report expired.

Supreme Court issues reasoned decision in Cumhuriyet case

The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals has issued its reasoned decision in the Cumhuriyet trial. On 12 September 2019, the Chamber had overturned the convictions in the trial on the charge of “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.”

The reasoned decision of the Chamber, issued around a week after the ruling itself, said that the convictions were not based on concrete evidence proving guilt. The Chamber said the trial court had failed to properly evaluate evidence.

The decision also highlighted that in order for the charge of “aiding a terrorist organization” to be present, the defendants must have “knowingly” and “willingly” aided the organization in question, in addition to “being aware that the organization in question was established with the purpose of committing crimes.”

The decision also recalled that the indictment was issued after the expiry of the four-month statute of limitations stipulated in Turkey’s Press Law.

The case file will now be sent back to the trial court, the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

Musician Ferhat Tunç faces new arrest warrant 

Musician Ferhat Tunç’s trial on the charge of “insulting the president” resumed on 18 September 2019 at Istanbul’s Büyükçekmece 14th Criminal Court of First Instance. In its interim decision, the court ruled to issue an arrest warrant for Tunç and adjourned the trial until 4 December 2019.

Another trial where Tunç is accused of “incitement to hatred and animosity” also resumed on 18 September at Büyükçekmece 4th Criminal Court of First Instance. Ruling to keep in place the arrest warrant it had previously issued for Tunç, the court set 14 February 2020 as the date for the next hearing.

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.

Fatih Polat’s trial on “insult” charge adjourned 

The trial of journalist Fatih Polat, the editor-in-chief of Evrensel daily, on the charge of “insulting the president” resumed on 17 Septmeber 2019 at Istanbul’s Bakırköy 31st Criminal Court of First Instance.

The accusation stems from Polat’s article titled “Erdoğan ailesiyle ilgili bu iddialara muhatapları ne diyor?” (What do those addressed say about these allegations concerning the Erdoğan family?), published in the newspaper on 28 May 2017.

P24 monitored the hearing, which was the third hearing in the trial. Polat and his lawyer Devrim Avcı were in attendance.

In its interim ruling, the court adjourned the trial until 14 November 2019 for Polat’s written defense statement to be submitted to the court.

Former Taraf reporter Hüseyin Özkaya sentenced to 7 years in prison

Hüseyin Özkaya, an Ankara-based former reporter for the shuttered newspaper Taraf, was convicted of “membership in a terrorist organization” by the 16th High Criminal Court of Ankara at the final hearing of his trial on 17 September 2019. Özkaya was sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison. The indictment alleged that Özkaya was “a ByLock user and had deposited cash in his BankAsya account.”

171 academics acquitted after Constitutional Court ruling

Since 2 September 2019, which marked the beginning of the new judicial year in Turkey, a total of 171 academics on trial for signing 2016’s Academics for Peace petition have been acquitted of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.” 

The acquittals follow on the heels of the Constitutional Court’s ruling in July, which held that the trials were in violation of the right to freedom of expression of the petition’s signatories.

ÇGD’s local chair in Rize attacked by assailants 

Gençağa Karafazlı, the local chairperson of Turkey’s Contemporary Journalists Association’s (ÇGD) Rize branch, was attacked by an armed assailant on 17 September 2019 at the café he owns in Rize. The assailant, identified by the initials, Ş.A., dropped his weapon and ran off in a taxi that was waiting outside the café after wounding Karafazlı in the leg. Karafazlı was hospitalized after the attack.

Two former Samanyolu TV staff members arrested 

Two former producers for the shuttered TV station Samanyolu were arrested on 17 September 2019 in Ankara. A third former Samanyolu TV producer faces an arrest warrant. The warrants for their arrest were issued as part of an ongoing criminal investigation launched by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office against former employees of Samanyolu TV’s Ankara bureau on alleged links to “FETÖ/PDY” (Fethullahist Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure).

Imprisoned musician Hozan Cane convicted of “insulting the president” 

Musician Saide İnaç, known by the stage name Hozan Cane, was given an 18-month prison sentence on the charge of “insulting the president” at the final hearing of her trial on 16 September 2019 in an Edirne court. The court deferred her sentence by five years. Hozan Cane was accused because she had shared a cartoon depicting President Erdoğan on social media. She is currently imprisoned in Edirne, serving a 6-year sentence on terrorism-related charges. 

List of journalists and media workers in prison 

As of 20 September 2019, at least 129 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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