Journalist Emre Orman jailed pending trial over his social media posts; former responsible managing editor of Yeni Yaşam newspaper handed down jail term on “propaganda” charge; at least 8 journalists released from prison under judicial reform package
The anticipated Judicial Reform Package went into effect on 24 October 2019 after it was published in the Official Gazette. The amendments introduced with the package make it possible for defendants who were given sentences less than five years and whose sentences were upheld by appellate courts to appeal the sentences. Formerly, sentences less than five years could not be appealed further once they were upheld by a Regional Court of Justice.
Based on the amendments, at least eight journalists and media workers who have been serving jail terms on terrorism-related charges were released from prison on 25 and 26 October 2019 upon motions for stay of execution and release filed by thier lawyers.
Emre İper, Cumhuriyet daily’s accounting department employee, who returned to prison in April to serve the remainder of the 3-year, 1-month and 15-day sentence he was given as part of the Cumhuriyet trial, was released on 25 October 2019 after his lawyers appealed his sentence and filed for his release.
Hüseyin Aykol, the former co-editor-in-chief of the shuttered Özgür Gündem daily, who was sent to prison in July to serve a 3-year and 9-month sentence he was given in 2018 as part of the “Özgür Gündem Solidarity trial,” was also released on 25 October after Aykol’s lawyers filed for a stay of execution.
Journalists Meltem Oktay, Uğur Akgül and Mehmet Sıddık Damar, three former reporters for the shuttered Dicle news agency (DİHA), have also been released. Akgül had been jailed at the Mardin E Type Prison since August 2018, serving a 2-year and 6-month sentence he was given over his reporting during the curfews in Turkey’s southeastern provinces. Oktay, who had also been serving a 2-year and 4-month sentence on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” since 2017, was released from the Gebze Women’s Prison. Damar, who was sent to prison in April 2018 to serve a 2-year and 6-month sentence on “propaganda” charge, was released from the Silivri No. 5 Prison on 26 October.
İdris Yılmaz, who was jailed pending trial in January 2018 in Van and sentenced to 3 years and 6 months in prison last week on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group,” was also released on 25 October. The court that sentenced the journalist last week had ruled for his release but Yılmaz remained behind bars due to a previous conviction.
Serdar Kaya, the managing editor of the newspaper Halkın Günlüğü, who was imprisoned at the Silivri No. 5 Prison, and Lütfiye Burcu Kara, a reporter for the newspaper Mücadele Birliği, who was imprisoned at the Şakran Prison in İzmir, were also released on 25 October.
“Taraf MGK report trial” adjourned until December
The trial of Mehmet Baransu, a former reporter for the shuttered Taraf daily, and the newspaper’s former responsible managing editor, Murat Şevki Çoban, resumed on 24 October 2019 at Istanbul’s Anadolu 10th High Criminal Court.
Baransu and Çoban stand accused of “acquiring documents related to the security of the state,” “exposing documents related to the security of the state” and “exposing documents of the National Intelligence Agency (MİT)” over a news report published in November 2013, titled “Gülen’i bitirme kararı 2004’te MGK’da alındı” (Decision to finish off Gülen was taken by MGK in 2004). Both face possible prison terms of 25 to 52 years.
This was the 21st hearing in the trial. P24 monitored the hearing, where Baransu addressed the court via the judicial video-conferencing system SEGBİS from the Silivri Prison, where he is in pre-trial detention as part of another ongoing trial. Çoban, who gave his statement earlier in the trial, was represented by his lawyer, Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu. Baransu’s lawyer Yahya Engin and the lawyer representing the co-plaintiffs National Intelligence Agency (MİT) and the National Security Council (MGK) were also in attendance.
Addressing the court first, the plaintiffs’ lawyer said they rejected the prosecution’s opinion submitted in the previous hearing, in which they asked the court to rule for non-jurisdiction and send the case file to the Anadolu 2nd High Criminal Court on the grounds that the alleged offense was committed through the press. Arguing that the alleged offense did not fall within the framework of “crimes committed through the press,” the lawyer asked the court to issue their verdict.
Baransu addressed the court next, asking the court to take into consideration the four-month statute of limitations in Turkey’s Press Law and to drop the case.
Lawyers representing Çoban and Baransu also addressed the court, asking the panel to rule for non-jurisdiction in line with the prosecutor’s opinion or to dismiss the case considering the statute of limitations in Press Law if the panel was not of the same opinion.
The prosecutor then asked for a continuance to review the case file in light of the objections. The court granted the prosecution additional time and adjourned the trial until 4 December 2019.
Journalist Emre Orman sent to prison
Journalist Emre Orman, a reporter for Net news agency, was arrested in Istanbul and subsequently jailed pending trial on the charge of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” on account of his social media posts. Orman was arrested on 23 October 2019 and sent to prison after giving his statement to a prosecutor at Istanbul’s Anadolu Courthouse on 24 October.
New trial against musician Ferhat Tunç gets under way
The first hearing in the trial of musician and human rights activist Ferhat Tunç on the charge of “insulting a public official” over his social media posts from 2016 was held on 24 October 2019 at Istanbul’s Büyükçekmece 16th Criminal Court of First Instance. Tunç is accused of insulting former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım on social media.
Tunç, who has been living abroad, did not attend the hearing. His lawyer Fatma Hopikoğlu requested the court to receive Tunç’s defense statement from Germany, where he currently resides. Accepting the request, the court adjourned the trial until 14 April 2020 to give time for official correspondence between relevant authorities of the two countries and other preparations for Tunç’s defense statement.
Odatv journalist stands trial for “insulting” defense minister
Odatv news editor Müyesser Yıldız appeared before the Ankara 35th Criminal Court of First Instance on 24 October 2019 for the second hearing of a trial launched upon a news report she wrote, concerning a secret witness statement submitted to a court in a separate trial. Yıldız was sued by Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, who claimed the report amounted to “slander” against him.
The Ankara court rejected a request from Yıldız’s lawyers to hear the secret witness in question, who claimed in his statement that Akar was “secretly a FETÖ member.” The court also established that the charge against Yıldız changed from “slander” to “insulting a public official.” Granting Yıldız additional time for her defense statement in response to the new charge, the court adjourned the trial until 5 March 2020.
Imprisoned journalist Yetkin Yıldız’s trial adjourned until January
A trial where imprisoned journalist Yetkin Yıldız is accused of “encouraging suicide” under Article 20 of the Press Law in a report published in 2015 in the news portal Aktif Haber resumed on 23 October 2019 at Aksaray’s 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.
Yıldız, who is jailed in the Silivri Prison in Istanbul as part of another trial, did not attend the hearing, while his lawyer, Melike Polat, was present. The court announced its interim decision at the end of the hearing, ruling to formally ask the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK) to determine who the responsible editor of Aktif Haber was at the time of publication of the report in question. The next hearing in the case will be held on 27 January 2020.
Trial of journalist Hayri Demir adjourned until January
The second hearing in the trial of journalist Hayri Demir on charges of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “terrorist group membership” was held at the Ankara 15th High Criminal Court on 23 October 2019.
Demir faces up to 22.5 years in prison if convicted. Evidence relied on in the case consists of news photography and recordings obtained from a memory card that was stolen from Demir’s house in 2017.
Demir rejected the accusations against him, saying there was no evidence in the case file other than outputs of his journalistic activities. The court ruled to ask the prosecution to look into the result of an investigation into the 2017 robbery at Demir’s house and adjourned the trial until 23 January 2020.
Eren Keskin’s house raided by police
Police teams raided and searched the house of Eren Keskin, a prominent human rights defender and co-chairperson of the Human Rights Association (İHD), on 22 October 2019. Keskin was not at home during the late-night raid. She testified to a prosecutor the following day, responding to accusations that she was “spreading terrorist propaganda” in her social media posts. Keskin was released without any judicial control measures imposed.
Yeni Yaşam former responsible editor convicted of “propaganda”
The second hearing in the trial of Osman Akın, the former responsible managing editor of Yeni Yaşam newspaper, on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” over news stories published in the paper took place on 22 October 2019 at the 28th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
P24 monitored the hearing, where Akın, who is held exempt from appearing in court, was not in attendance. Akın was represented by his lawyer Sercan Korkmaz. Presenting his final opinion in between hearings, the prosecutor requested Akın to be convicted of “terrorism propaganda.”
Issuing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court sentenced Akın to 1 year and 3 months in prison for “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.” The sentence was deferred.
“KCK Press trial” adjourned until February
The “KCK Press trial,” where 46 journalists and media workers stand accused as part of a series of criminal cases in connection with the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) investigation, resumed on 22 October 2019 at the 3rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
P24 monitored the hearing, where the defendants who are held exempt from appearing in court were represented by their lawyers. Though prepared to deliver his defense statement via SEGBİS from Diyarbakır, Yüksel Genç could not address the court since the 13th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır does not handle terrorism cases.
Genç’s lawyer Özcan Kılıç informed the court that his client would be ready to give their statement at the next hearing if the court sends another instruction to the Diyarbakır court. Kılıç also asked the court to merge a separate case file against Ziya Çiçekçi, one of the defendants in the KCK Press trial, with the ongoing case.
Announcing its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to write a new instruction to hear Yüksel Genç via SEGBİS in the next hearing and wait for the execution of the arrest warrant issued against İsmet Kayhan, and adjourned the trial until 25 February 2020.
Journalist Safiye Alağaş acquitted
The fourth hearing in the trial of Jin News news director Safiye Alağaş on the charges of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group,” “inciting the public to hatred and animosity” and “praising crime or a criminal” took place on 22 October 2019 at the 4th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır. The trial was launched upon a complaint filed by the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK).
Alağaş and her lawyer Pirozhan Karali were in attendance at the courtroom. Submitting their final opinion, the prosecutor asked the court to convict Alağaş of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” over news reports published on the website jinnews1.com.
Delivering her defense statement against the final opinion, Alağaş rejected the accusations and requested to be acquitted.
Issuing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court acquitted Alağaş of the charges against her, ruling that the elements of the alleged offense were not present.
Detained journalist Özlem Oral released
Özlem Oral, a reporter for Mücadele Birliği newspaper, was arrested in a police raid on her house on 19 October 2019. Oral is accused of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “inciting the public to hatred and animosity” for her social media posts about Turkey’s latest military operation in Syria. Oral was referred to the courthouse on 20 October and was subsequently released under judicial control measures in the form of a ban on leaving Istanbul and having to report to the police station once a week.
Nurcan Baysal’s house raided by police
Police teams carried out a raid on journalist Nurcan Baysal’s house in the early hours of 19 October 2019. Announcing the incident on Twitter, Baysal said that she was abroad when the raid took place and therefore she was not arrested but that she would be filing a complaint against the police officers who raided her house once she returns.
List of journalists and media workers in prison
Following the imprisonment of one journalist and the release of at least eight journalists and media workers from prison during the week, as of 26 October 2019, at least 121 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.