Journalists Ruken Demir and Melike Aydın jailed pending trial; Ahmet Altan re-arrested 8 days after his release; prosecutor objects to Kibriye Evren’s release pending trial; 119 journalists and media workers currently behind bars in Turkey
Mezopotamya news agency (MA) Izmir reporter Ruken Demir, Jin News reporter Melike Aydın and 10 other people, including executives from the Association for Solidarity with Families of Prisoners (TUHAY-DER) were arrested in Izmir on 12 November 2019 as part of an investigation by the Izmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. The detainees were not allowed to see their lawyers for 24 hours.
Demir and Aydın, who were arrested for “acting on behalf of a terrorist organization,” were questioned about the phone calls they had with their news sources and the content of their news stories.
Demir and Aydın were brought to the İzmir Courthouse on 15 November. After giving their statements to a prosecutor, they were referred to the 1st Criminal Judgeship of Peace, which ruled to jail both journalists pending trial in the early hours of 16 November. Both Demir and Aydın were sent to the Izmir Aliağa Şakran Women’s Prison.
In addition to Demir and Aydın, the court jailed nine other people arrested as part of the investigation while it ruled to release one of the suspects under an international travel ban.
MA reporter Ömer Akın briefly detained
Mezopotamya news agency reporter Ömer Akın was taken into custody in the Derik district of Mardin on 15 November 2019. He was detained in connection with an investigation against him by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. After undergoing a medical examination, Akın was taken to the Derik Courthouse, where he gave his statement to a prosecutor and was subsequently released the same day.
Canan Coşkun, Tuba Demir and Kazım Kızıl released after 1 day in custody
Journalists Canan Coşkun and Tuba Demir and documentary filmmaker Kazım Kızıl were taken into custody on 13 November 2019 in the Eynesil district of Giresun, where they had gone to cover the Parliamentary Investigation Commission’s investigation into the suspicious death of 11-year-old Rabia Naz Vatan in 2018. The girl lost her life in the hospital after being found severely wounded in front of her house. Rabia Naz Vatan’s father Şaban Vatan was also arrested.
According to the Giresun Governor’s Office, the four were arrested for locking up Mürsel Küçükal, a witness in the investigation of Rabia Naz Vatan’s death, in a studio to threaten him.
After their interrogations, the four were referred to the Görele Criminal Judgeship of Peace, where they were released under judicial control measures on the night of 14 November. Besides an international travel ban, the court ruled to prohibit the four from approaching the witness’ home.
Fatih Polat acquitted of “insulting the president”
Fatih Polat, the editor-in-chief of Evrensel daily, appeared before an Istanbul court on 14 November 2019 for the fourth and final hearing of his trial on the charge of “insulting the president” over his article dated 28 May 2017.
The court acquitted Polat on the grounds that the article was within the scope of the freedom to inform the public under Article 28 of the Constitution.
A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Hakkı Boltan to be brought to court by force
The first hearing in the trial of Free Journalists Initiative (ÖGİ) Spokesperson Hakkı Boltan on the charges of “insulting the president” and “insulting a public official” was held on 14 November 2019 at Diyarbakır’s 12th Criminal Court of First Instance. Neither Boltan nor his lawyer were in attendance. Issuing an interim decision, the court ruled for Boltan to be forcibly brought to court for the next hearing, set for 4 February 2020.
Trial of former TV10 employees adjourned
The third hearing in the trial of Kemal Demir and Kemal Karagöz, the former employees of the shuttered TV station TV10, was held on 14 November 2019 at the 28th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
Demir and Karagöz did not attend the hearing, where Demir was represented by his lawyer, Bertan Öztunç. Reminding the court that his client was employed at TV10 first as an office boy and then a driver before becoming a cameraman, Öztunç said, “My client should have been a witness rather than a defendant in this case.” Öztunç requested the court to lift the judicial control measures imposed on Demir and acquit his client. Ruling for the continuation of the judicial control measures imposed on both defendants, the court adjourned the trial until 28 January 2020.
Ahmet Altan re-arrested 8 days after being released
Novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan, who was released on 4 November 2019 after spending more than 3 years behind bars at the end of the second hearing in his retrial, was re-arrested on 13 November upon the prosecution’s objection to his release.
The 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul issued an arrest warrant for Altan on the grounds that “the judicial control measures imposed on him” remained “insufficient considering flight risk … the intensity of his actions, the duration of the prison sentence he was given, the time he spent in detention on remand … as well as his conduct following his release.”
A report about Altan’s re-arrest can be accessed here.
A report about the objection filed by Ahmet Altan’s lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu against his re-arrest can be accessed here.
Ahmet Altan’s trial over 2009 article adjourned
The fifth hearing of a trial where Ahmet Altan faces charges of “violating the confidentiality of an investigation” and “attempting to influence a fair trial” for his 2009 article titled “Mafyanın dışında kim kaldı” (Who is left other than the mafia), published in the now-defunct Taraf daily, was held on 12 November 2019 at the Anadolu 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.
The case was initially launched upon a complaint by the former Sakarya Provincial Police Chief but was later put on hold. It was reopened after a sentence Altan was given in another case on the charge of “insulting the president” was upheld by an appellate court.
P24 monitored the hearing, which began 20 minutes later than scheduled. Altan did not attend the hearing, where he was represented by his lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu.
Çalıkuşu requested the case to be dropped on the grounds that the verdict by the Istanbul 32nd Criminal Court of First Instance, which led to the present case to be reopened, was now pending before the Supreme Court of Appeals in accordance with the judicial reform package and was not yet finalized.
Ruling to inquire of the Istanbul 32nd Criminal Court of First Instance about the outcome of the other case file, the court adjourned the trial until 24 December 2019.
Journalist Kibriye Evren released, prosecutor objects to decision
JinNews reporter Kibirye Evren appeared before the 5th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır on 12 November 2019 for the eighth hearing of her trial on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.”
In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to release Evren pending trial under an international travel ban taking into consideration the time she spent in pre-trial detention. Evren was jailed pending trial in October 2018. She was freed late at night on the same day from the Diyarbakır Type D Prison, where she had been locked up for more than a year.
The prosecutor objected to Evren’s release, requesting an arrest warrant to be issued for her re-arrest. The objection is to be evaluated and decided upon by the Diyarbakır 6th High Criminal Court, the next court of first instance authorized with reviewing decisions by the trial court.
Insufficient grounds for Ferhat Tunç to be tried over 301
The Justice Ministry has refused to grant a permit for an investigation against musician and activist Ferhat Tunç to proceed with charges under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). The investigation was launched on account of Tunç’s remarks during a speech he delivered in 2017 at the Peace and Democracy rally organized by the HDP provincial branch in Van. The Van Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office said in a ruling dated 7 October 2019 that they would not be pressing charges against Tunç under TCK Article 301 (insulting the Turkish nation, the government or its institutions) for lack of sufficient grounds.
List of journalists and media workers in prison updated
Following the re-arrest of Ahmet Altan, the release of Kibriye Evren, and the arrests of journalists Melike Aydın and Ruken Demir, as of 16 November 2019, at least 119 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.