Journalist Tuğba Özer ordered to pay compensation for news report; jailed journalist İdris Yılmaz sentenced to 6 years and 3 months; actor Orhan Aydın handed down jail term for “insulting the president”
Jailed journalist İdris Yılmaz sentenced to 6 years and 3 months
Journalist İdris Yılmaz, who has been jailed since January 2018, was sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison on 18 October 2019 by the 5th High Criminal Court of Van at the final hearing of his trial on terrorism-related charges.
The court acquitted Yılmaz of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” but convicted the journalist of “terrorist group membership” and sentenced him to 6 years and 3 months in prison. The court ruled to release Yılmaz, but the journalist remained behind bars due to a previous conviction.
Peace petition signatory Professor Füsun Üstel acquitted
Professor Füsun Üstel, who was sentenced to 15 months in prison last year on the charge of “propaganda” for signing 2016’s Academics for Peace petition, and who remained behind bars for two months earlier this year, serving that sentence, was acquitted of the charge against her.
This summer, the Constitutional Court ruled that the trials of Academics for Peace was in violation of the signatories’ rights to freedom of expression and ordered retrials in cases where the trial courts have rendered verdict and convicted the academics.
Upon an application by Üstel’s lawyers Sennur Baybuğa and Fikret İlkiz, the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled for Üstel’s acquittal as per the Constitutional Court judgment.
Üstel was the first academic to serve prison time for signing the Academics for Peace petition.
Gazete Fersude chief editors face investigation
Journalists Hayri Tunç and Bengisu Kömürcü, the co-editors-in-chief of Gazete Fersude, gave statements to the press prosecutor on 18 October 2019 as part of an investigation where the allegations stem from a January 2019 news article published in the newspaper.
The investigation was launched after the person Fersude reported about in its article titled “Alevi yurttaş sosyal medyadan tehdit edildi” (Alevi citizen threatened on social media) filed a complaint, saying he became more vulnerable to threats after Fersude’s reporting.
Tunç faces another investigation on the allegation of “terrorism propaganda” over a number of photographs he shared on social media during Turkey’s Peace Process.
Deniz Yücel’s trial adjourned until February
The fifth hearing in the trial of journalist Deniz Yücel, the former Turkey correspondent of German newspaper Die Welt, took place on 17 October 2019 at the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
P24 monitored the hearing, which began an hour later than scheduled. Yücel was represented by his lawyer Veysel Ok in the courtroom. Journalists and representatives from the German Consulate General in Istanbul were among spectators observing the hearing.
The presiding judge informed those present in the courtroom that the court has received Yücel’s defense statement taken in Germany, where his permanent residence is registered. The prosecutor asked the court to hand over the case file for the drafting of the prosecution’s final opinion. Ruling to hand over the case file to the prosecution, the court adjourned the trial until 13 February 2020.
Court dismisses TL 1.5M lawsuit against Çiğdem Toker
The fourth hearing of a lawsuit against journalist and columnist Çiğdem Toker over a 2017 article she penned for Cumhuriyet daily took place on 17 October 2019 at the 13th Civil Court of First Instance of Ankara.
P24 monitored the hearing, where Toker and her lawyer were in attendance. The lawyer representing the claimant did not attend. The court therefore dismissed the case. The claimant, a mining company, sought a record TL 1.5 million in non-pecuniary damages over Toker’s article.
Court rules to keep arrest warrant for Ferhat Tunç in place
The trial of musician and activist Ferhat Tunç on terrorism-related charges resumed on 17 October 2019 at the 5th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır.
Tunç faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
P24 monitored the hearing, where Tunç, who lives abroad, did not attend. Issuing an interim ruling, the court ordered the continuation of the arrest warrant against Tunç and adjourned the trial until 16 January 2020.
Journalist Tuğba Özer ordered to pay compensation
Tuğba Özer, an editor for Cumhuriyet daily, was ordered to pay TL 5,000 in compensation over a news report. The lawsuit was overseen by the 23rd Civil Court of First Instance of Istanbul.
The lawsuit was filed by the pro-government İHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation over Özer’s report about a teacher at an elementary school in Istanbul who made his students pose for a picture as they held pieces of rope symbolizing the executioner's rope and shared these pictures on social media. The news report said the teacher volunteered for İHH.
Actor given undeferred sentence for “insulting the president”
Stage actor Orhan Aydın was handed down a prison sentence of 11 months and 20 days for “insulting the president” in a speech he delivered in 2017 in the Aegean town of Kuşadası during an event commemorating those who died in 1993’s Sivas massacre. Aydın’s sentence was not deferred. Aydın announced the sentence he was given on his Twitter account.
Kurdish politician Ahmet Türk faces investigation
Ahmet Türk, the former mayor of Mardin who was dismissed from his post by the government this summer, faces a criminal investigation on the allegation of “terrorism propaganda” over a speech he made during the 2018 newroz celebration in Diyarbakır. Türk went to the Mardin Courthouse during the week to give his statement as part of the investigation. Türk’s lawyers, who accompanied Türk during his statement at the courthouse, asserted that their client’s remarks during his speech were an exercising of the right to freedom of expression and requested the prosecution to drop the investigation for lack of grounds for prosecution.
24 jailed over social media posts about Turkey’s military action in Syria
A total of 186 people were taken into custody in one week over their social media posts about Turkey’s military action in northern Syria, which was launched on 9 October 2019, the state-run Anadolu news agency has reported.
Citing “security sources,” Anadolu said in its report dated 16 October 2019 that 24 of those who were referred to courts were jailed pending trial while 78 suspects were released. Court ruled to impose judicial control measures on 40 suspects they released, the report said.
The same report said authorities identified 839 social media accounts shared posts “involving crime” and that 62 of those accounts were identified to be managed by users located in Germany, the UK and France.
Journalist Beritan Canözer acquitted
On 16 October 2019, Jin News reporter Beritan Canözer was acquitted of “membership in a terrorist group” at the final hearing of her trial, overseen by the 9th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır.
Canözer did not attend the hearing, where she was represented by her lawyer Resul Tamur. In addition to P24, the hearing was monitored by the Diyarbakır representative of the Turkish Journalists Union (TGS) Diyarbakır Mahmut Oral and Mezopotamya Female Journalists Platform Spokesperson Ayşe Güney.
Citing the conflicting witness testimony against his client, Canözer’s lawyer asked the court to acquit Canözer. The prosecution reiterated their final opinion of the case, requesting the court to sentence Canözer.
Announcing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court acquitted Canözer.
Mümtazer Türköne’s trial on “insult” charge adjourned
Jailed academic and former Zaman columnist Mümtazer Türköne’s trial on the charge of “insulting the president” resumed on 15 October 2019 at Istanbul’s Bakırköy 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.
This was the sixth hearing in the case, where Türköne is accused for an article he penned on 16 March 2014 titled “Mecbur olmasa bu kadar kötü olur mu” (Would he be that evil if he didn’t have to?).
P24 monitored the hearing, where Türköne addressed the court from the Silivri Prison via the judicial video-conferencing network SEGBİS. Asserting in his defense statement that the statute of limitations for pressing charges have expired. Later, the presiding judge interrupted Türköne, asking him to wrap up his statement because the court intended to proceed with other hearings scheduled for that day. Türköne said that he wanted to complete his defense statement.
Türköne’s lawyer Melike Polat told the court that she would make her statement once her client has finished his defense statement. The court granted additional time to Türköne and his lawyer to complete their defense statement and adjourned the trial until 31 October 2019.
Journalist Şirin Kabakçı’s trial to continue in December
The trial of journalist Şirin Kabakçı, the former Konya bureau chief of the shuttered daily Zaman, resumed on 15 October 2019 at the 35th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. This was the seventh hearing in the case, where Kabakçı is charged with “membership in a terrorist group.”
P24 monitored the hearing, where Kabakçı and his lawyer were in attendance. The court heard the testimony of Burhan Kaya, a witness who said he used to be the person in charge of accounting in the regional organization of the Fethullah Gülen network. Kaya told the court that he knew Kabakçı as a journalist and that he had no information as to whether he was a member of the Gülen network or not.
Addressing the court next, Kabakçı’s lawyer said the witness testimony was conflicting and rejected the witness statement against his client.
The prosecutor then requested the court to send the case file for the preparation of the final opinion. In its interim ruling, the court agreed to send the case file to the prosecution and adjourned the trial until 3 December 2019.
Prosecutor seeks jail terms for Boğaziçi students
The trial of 30 students from Boğaziçi University on the charge of “terorism propaganda” resumed on 15 October 2019 at the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul. The students are accused for staging a counter-protest against another group of students who distributed Turkish delights on campus in support of Turkey’s military operation in Afrin in 2018.
The prosecutor, who submitted his final opinion of the case in between courtroom hearings, requested the court to convict the defendants of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.” Defense lawyers requested time to prepare their final defense statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion.
In its interim ruling, the court decided to grant the defendants additional time for their defense statements and adjourned the trial until 31 January 2020.
A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Temel Demirer’s trial adjourned until February
Writer and activist Temel Demirer’s trial on the charge of “praising crime or a criminal” resumed on 15 October 2019 at Istanbul’s Anadolu 33rd Criminal Court of First Instance. Demirer is accused because of his remarks during a speech he made during a 2017 demonstration in Istanbul to commemorate those killed in the deadly Suruç bombing of 2015.
This was the third hearing in the trial. P24 monitored the hearing, where Demirer and his lawyers were in attendance. Heightened security measures were taken in front of the courtroom for Demirer’s hearing, including the placement of steel barriers and the assignment of law-enforcement staff in front of the courtroom.
In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to inquire of the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office about whether any convictions were rendered against Suphi Nejat Ağırnaslı, Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, whom Demirer mentioned in his speech, during the time of the speech and adjourned the trial until 6 February 2020.
Court orders the continuation of Şahin and Gayıp’s house arrest
The trial of Etkin news agency (ETHA) staff members Semiha Şahin and Pınar Gayıp on terrorism-related charges resumed on 15 October 2019 at the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
P24 monitored the hearing, where none of the four defendants were in attendance. The defendants were represented by their lawyers. The prosecution requested the continuation of the judicial control measures imposed on the defendants. Lawyers representing Şahin and Gayıp requested the court to lift their clients’ house arrest or to impose a different judicial control measure on their clients other than house arrest. At the end of the previous hearing, the court had released Şahin and Gayıp from prison but placed both under house arrest.
After hearing the defense lawyers, the court issued an interim ruling, ordering the continuation of the judicial control measures and adjourned the trial until 11 December 2019.
Adil Demirci’s trial adjourned until February
Etkin news agency (ETHA) reporter Adil Demirci’s trial on the charges of “membership in a terrorist group” and “terrorism propaganda” also resumed on 15 October 2019 at the 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. This was the sixth hearing in the case, where Demirci is on trial alongside 22 other defendants.
P24 monitored the hearing, which began half an hour later than scheduled. Six unjailed defendants were in attendance, as well as defense lawyers.
Lawyers asked the court to lift the judicial control measures imposed on their clients. In its interim ruling, the court reduced the judicial control measures imposed on the defendants but kept their international travel ban in place and adjourned the trial until 13 February 2020.
Trial of journalist Rojhat Doğru adjourned until January
The trial of journalist Rojhat Doğru on the charges of “disrupting the unity of the state,” “membership in a terrorist group” and “terrorism propaganda” resumed on 15 October 2019 at the 8th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır.
Doğru and his lawyer Resul Tamur were in attendance. A witness whom the court was set to hear during this hearing was not in attendance at the Mersin court where he was supposed to testify.
The court lifted part of the judicial control measures imposed on Doğru but kept his travel ban in place and adjourned the trial until 14 January 2020.
Sezgin Tanrıkulu faces criminal investigation
The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation against Republican People’s Party (CHP) Istanbul deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu over his critical remarks about Turkey’s latest military operation in northeast Syria.
The Prosecutor’s Office said in a written statement that Tanrıkulu allegedly “insulted the government of the Turkish Republic” in his remarks on Twitter and during interviews he gave to several news outlets on 12 October 2019.
Cartoonist Cihan Demirci acquitted in “insult” case
Cartoonist Cihan Demirci appeared before an Istanbul court on 10 October 2019 for the first hearing of his trial on the charge of “insulting the president.” The accusation stemmed from several cartoons and satirical articles Demirci had shared years ago on Facebook.
Addressing the court during the hearing, both Demirci and his lawyers Fikret İlkiz and Meral Onat asserted that the investigation should never have turned into a court case, that the social media posts did not involve insult, and that cartoons were a form of satire, which should be considered the exercising of the right to freedom of expression.
Issuing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the Anadolu 26th Criminal Court of First Instance acquitted Demirci for lack of deliberate intent.
List of journalists and media workers in prison
As of 18 October 2019, at least 126 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.