Expression Interrupted

Journalists and academics bear the brunt of the massive crackdown on freedom of expression in Turkey. Scores of them are currently subject to criminal investigations or behind bars. This website is dedicated to tracking the legal process against them.

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 219

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 219

At least three journalists jailed in a week; court issues reasoned judgment in Altans trial; three journalists to stand trial for “making those involved in the fight against terrorism a target”

 

Journalist Yusuf Topaloğlu jailed pending trial 

Journalist Hacı Yusuf Topaloğlu, a former reporter for the shuttered Dicle news agency (DİHA), was taken into custody in Adıyaman province on 27 November 2019 based on an investigation against him. After spending nine days in custody, Topaloğlu was taken to the Adıyaman Courthouse on 5 December 2019, where he was jailed pending trial on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization” based on testimony by a secret witness. Topaloğlu was sent to the Adıyaman E Type Prison.

Journalists Canan Coşkun, Can Uğur, Ali Açar to stand trial over 2016 report

Journalists Canan Coşkun, Can Uğur and Ali Açar will stand trial over 2016 news reports published in March 2016 in Cumhuriyet daily and the online edition of BirGün newspaper about the police officer who allegedly shot Berkin Elvan. All three are charged with “making those involved in the fight against terrorism a target” in the indictment, dated 21 November 2019. The indictment claims that the news reports revealed the identity of the police officer. The trial will be overseen by the 34th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. The first hearing is set for 9 April 2020.

Journalist Ergin Çağlar acquitted in first hearing

Mezopotamya news agency reporter Ergin Çağlar’s trial on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” got under way on 5 December 2019 at the Mersin 8th High Criminal Court.

After the court heard Çağlar’s defense statement and the witness testimony against Çağlar, the prosecutor presented his final opinion, asking the court to acquit Çağlar based on lack of evidence. Issuing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court acquitted the journalist.

BirGün executives stand trial for “insulting public official”

BirGün daily’s editors Uğur Koç and Mustafa Kömüş and publisher İbrahim Aydın appeared before an Istanbul court on 5 December 2019 on the charge of “insulting a public official” over a news report published on 21 June 2019 in BirGün’s online edition.

This was the first hearing in the trial, where the accusation stems from the news report titled “Ekşi Sözlük’teki Berat Albayrak-Özge Ulusoy başlığı kaldırıldı” (Berat Albayrak-Özge Ulusoy heading in Ekşi Sözlük removed).

Koç, Kömüş and Aydın rejected the accusation and asked to be acquitted. The Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance adjourned the trial until 27 February 2020 for the defense statements in writing to be submitted to court.

Can Dündar and Abbas Yalçın’s trial on “insulting the president” charge adjourned

The trial of Cumhuriyet daily’s former Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar and former responsible editor Abbas Yalçın on the charge of “insulting the president” over a news report published on 11 August 2015 resumed on 5 December 2019 at Istanbul’s 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.

Yalçın told the court that charges were pressed after the expiry of the four month statute of limitations in Turkey’s Press Law and asked the court to dismiss the case. Issuing an interim decision, the court ruled to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant against Dündaar and adjourned the trial until 16 January 2020.

Columnist Işıl Özgentürk appears in court on “propaganda” charge

Cumhuriyet columnist Işıl Özgentürk appeared before the 28th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 5 December 2019 for the first hearing of her trial on the charge of “terrorism propaganda.”

Özgentürk is accused over two posts and two photos she shared on Twitter in 2015. After hearing Özgentürk’s defense statement, the prosecutor addressed the court, asking the panel to convict Özgentürk of “systematically spreading terrorism propaganda.” 

Özgentürk and her lawyers requested additional time to prepare their final defense statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion. Granting Özgentürk and her lawyers additional time, the court adjourned the trial until 5 March 2020. The court also ruled that Özgentürk will be held exempt from appearing in court for upcoming hearings.

Court issues reasoned judgment in Altans trial

The 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which oversaw the retrial of jailed novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan, his brother, columnist and professor of economics Mehmet Altan, journalist Nazlı Ilıcak, former Zaman staffers Fevzi Yazıcı and Yakup Şimşek and former Police Academy lecturer Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül, issued its reasoned judgment in writing on 4 December 2019, exactly one month after the retrial concluded.

The 26th High Criminal Court had acquitted Mehmet Altan but convicted Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member,” handing down prison sentences of 10 years and 6 months and 8 years and 9 months, respectively, and ordering their release pending appeal. However, a week after the court’s release order, Ahmet Altan was rearrested at the request of the prosecutor who objected to his release.

The court had also convicted their co-defendants Yazıcı, Şimşek and Özşengül of “membership of a terrorist group,” sentencing all three to prison terms above 10 years and ordering the continuation of their detention.

In their 86-page reasoned judgment, the judges of the 26th High Criminal Court wrote that Ahmet Altan’s role as the founder and editor-in-chief of the now-defunct Taraf daily, his articles published online in the news portal haberdar.com as well as his political commentary on Can Erzincan TV one day ahead of the attempted coup, all of which were held as evidence against him in the case file, were “of a nature that served the interests and objectives of FETÖ/PDY and constituted the crime of aiding the armed terrorist organization without being part of its hierarchical structure.”

A report about the reasoned judgment can be accessed here.

Mehmet Baransu and Murat Şevki Çoban’s trial dismissed for lack of jurisdiction

The trial of Mehmet Baransu, a former reporter for the shuttered Taraf daily, and Murat Şevki Çoban, the newspaper’s former responsible editor, over a news report published in November 2013 resumed on 4 December 2019 at Istanbul’s Anadolu 10th High Criminal Court.

This was the 22nd hearing in the trial, where the journalists are charged with “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).”

Baransu, who submitted a letter of excuse to the court, did not attend the hearing and was represented by his lawyer. Çoban, who gave his statement earlier in the trial, was represented by lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu.

The prosecutor presented his final opinion, asking the court to rule for non-jurisdiction and transfer the case file to the Anadolu 2nd High Criminal Court on the grounds that the alleged offense was committed through the press. 

Issuing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court ruled for the case file to be transferred to Anadolu 2nd High Criminal Court for lack of jurisdiction on the grounds that the alleged crime “was committed through the press.” The case will now be overseen by the Anadolu 2nd High Criminal Court.

Court rules for continuation of arrest warrant for Ferhat Tunç

The seventh hearing in the trial of musician and activist Ferhat Tunç on the charge of “insulting the president” over a number of Twitter posts he shared in 2016 took place on 4 December 2019 at Istanbul’s Büyükçekmece 14th Criminal Court of First Instance.

Tunç, who currently resides in Germany, did not attend the hearing. He was represented by his lawyer, Damla Koç. Issuing an interim decision, the court ordered the continuation of the arrest warrant against Tunç and adjourned the trial until 12 February 2020.

Prosecutor seeks jail sentence for Şirin Kabakcı 

Şirin Kabakcı, the former Konya representative of the shuttered Zaman newspaper, appeared before the 35th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 3 December 2019 for the eighth hearing in his trial on the charges of “terrorist group membership,” “insult and slander through press” and “violation of privacy.”

In their final opinion submitted on 11 November 2019, the prosecution requested Kabakcı to be sentenced on the “terrorist group membership” charge and for his file to be separated on the charges of “insult and slander through press” and “violation of privacy.”

Accepting Kabakcı and his lawyer’s request for additional time to prepare their final defense statements, the court adjourned the trial until 20 February 2020.

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

Journalists Eser and Topaloğlu jailed pending trial

Sadiye Eser and Sadık Topaloğlu, two reporters for Mezopotamya news agency (MA), were arrested in the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul on 29 November 2019. The two were jailed pending trial on 3 December 2019 by the 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace.

The journalists, who were directly sent to court without first giving their statements at the Prosecutor’s Office, were put in pre-trial detention on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.” The grounds for arrest were Eser and Topaloğlu’s travels abroad and the trials launched previously against them. While Eser was sent to the Bakırköy Women’s Prison, Topaloğlu was first sent to Metris Prison to be later transferred to Silivri.

ETHA reporter Serdal Işık briefly detained

Etkin News Agency (ETHA) reporter Serdal Işık was taken into custody in Istanbul on 3 December 2019. An arrest warrant was apparently issued against Işık within the scope of an investigation that was launched against him in Diyarbakır back in 2008. After delivering his statement to a Diyarbakır court via the video-conferencing system SEGBIS, Işık was released on the same day.

Trial of Sibel Hürtaş and Hayri Demir adjourned until March 

Journalists Sibel Hürtaş and Hayri Demir appeared before the 15th High Criminal Court of Ankara on 3 December 2019 for the sixth hearing in a trial where they face up to 10.5 years on the charges of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “inciting the public to hatred and animosity” for sharing their reporting on Turkey’s military operation in Syria’s Afrin on social media.

The prosecution had requested Demir to be tried under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code in addition to the allegations leveled against him. The court announced that the Ministry of Justice was yet to respond to the application of permission.

Both Hürtaş and Demir requested the court to take into consideration the amendments introduced with the judicial reform package. The court rejected the request to lift the judicial control measures and adjourned the trial until 26 March 2020. 

Reporter Berivan Altan freed after 1 week in custody

Mezopotamya news agency reporter Berivan Altan was arrested on 26 November 2019 in Ankara and taken to Mersin in relation to an arrest warrant issued by the Mersin 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace. Altan was released by the Mersin Criminal Judgeship of Peace on 3 December 2019, after spending a week in custody.

Altan was charged with “membership of a terrorist organization.” The judgeship ruled to impose the judicial control measures of reporting to the police station once a week and a travel ban on Altan.

Hasan Cemal’s travel ban lifted

T24 columnist and P24’s Founding President Hasan Cemal’s passport was seized on 1 December 2019 at the Istanbul Airport as he was about to board a flight to Berlin.

Cemal was notified by police officers that a travel ban had been imposed on him on 11 November 2019 in relation to a prison sentence he was given at the end of the April 2018 retrial of his case by the 24th High Criminal Court of Istanbul over his article series “Çekilme Günlüğü” (chronicles of retreat). Cemal was given a suspended prison sentence of 3 months and 22 days on the charge of “propaganda.”

Cemal’s lawyer Fikret İlkiz objected to the judicial control measures imposed on Cemal with the 24th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, informing the court that the case was pending before the Supreme Court of Appeals. Accepting İlkiz’s objection, the court lifted Cemal’s travel ban.

Yetkin Yıldız and five other journalists handed down 3 years and 6 months in jail

The 10th and final hearing in the trial of six journalists, including jailed journalist Yetkin Yıldız, took place on 28 November 2019 at the Gümüşhane Criminal Court of First Instance.

Yıldız and his co-defendants were on trial over an article published on Aktif Haber and several other news websites, titled “Gümüşhane’de polis esnafı takibe aldı” (police is tracking shopkeepers in Gümüşhane). The case was launched upon a complaint by Bülent Akyar, a police officer at the Gümüşhane Provincial Security Directorate Department of Anti-Smuggling. The journalists were accused with “insulting a public official,” “illegally obtaining or disseminating personal data” and “violating the privacy of another person’s life.”

Announcing its ruling at the end of the hearing, the court acquitted Yetkin Yıldız, Hamza Mısır, Duygu Göktaş Timoçin, Selime Taş, Serkan Kaya and Şükrü Üçüncü of “insult” but sentenced each to 1 year and 8 months in prison for “violation of privacy” and another 1 year and 8 months for “confiscating and disseminating personal data unlawfully.” The court deferred the sentences of Göktaş, Mısır, Taş, Kaya and Üçüncü. Yıldız’s sentence was not deferred.

List of journalists and media workers in prison

As of 6 December 2019 at least 117 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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