Mehmet Baransu ordered to remain behind bars; appellate court upholds 6-month prison term given to Oğuz Güven; journalist Sinan Aygül handed down 10-month sentence 


Ahmet Kanbal acquitted in “propaganda” case

Mezopotamya news agency reporter Ahmet Kanbal’s trial on the charge of “systematically spreading terrorism propaganda” over his social media posts resumed on 13 December 2019. The journalist was acquitted at the end of the fourth hearing of the trial, overseen by the 2nd High Criminal Court of Izmir.

The trial had been put on hold since March, awaiting the Justice Ministry’s approval for the case to proceed with a new charge under Article 301/4 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). The trial resumed after the Justice Ministry denied the request.

Presenting their final opinion, the prosecution requested the court to acquit Kanbal. Announcing their verdict at the end of the hearing, the court ruled for Kanbal’s acquittal.

Mehmet Baransu remains behind bars in Taraf trial

The trial of the now-defunct Taraf newspaper’s former executives and its reporter Mehmet Baransu for allegedly publishing a classified military document called “Egemen Operation Plan” resumed on 10 December 2019 at the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. 

The defendants of the case, Mehmet Baransu, Ahmet Altan, Yasemin Çongar, Yıldıray Oğur and Tuncay Opçin stand accused of “procuring, exposing and destroying classified documents concerning the security of the state.” 

P24 monitored the three-day hearing. On the first two days of the hearing, Baransu, the only jailed defendant in the case, presented his defense statement. On the third day, the court heard Esra Konur, Baransu’s ex-wife, Ömer Konur, the father of Esra Konur, and Bülent Çakmak, the superintendent of the apartment block where the Konurs reside, all of whom had testified against Baransu during the investigation, as witnesses.

Issuing an interim decision at the end of the hearing on 12 December, the court ruled for the continuation of Baransu’s detention on remand and to send the case file to the prosecution for the drafting of their final opinion following the completion of the motions to be submitted by Bransu’s lawyer for the expansion of the investigation. The court set 8, 9 and 10 April 2020 as the dates for the next hearing.

Journalist Sinan Aygül handed down 10-month sentence

Sinan Aygül, the editor-in-chief of the local newspaper Bitlis News, appeared in a criminal court this week for the first hearing of his trial on the charge of “violating the confidentiality of an investigation” over a news report about a suspect in a molestation case.

The Tatvan 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance convicted Aygül at the end of the hearing, sentencing him to 10 months in prison. The sentence was not suspended. Aygül’s lawyers will appeal the verdict.

Constitutional Court rules columnist’s rights violated

The Constitutional Court’s Second Section has ruled that a judicial fine of TL 1,740 given in December 2014 to columnist Erbil Tuşalp on the charge of “insult” over his 26 November 2013 article published in the newspaper Sol violated his rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

The insult case against Tuşalp had been filed over a complaint by Fethulah Gülen. The judgment, rendered on 23 October 2019, was published on the Constitutional Court’s official website on 12 December 2019. The court ruled that Tuşalp be paid TL 1,740 in non-pecuniary damages.

Court lifts Pınar Gayıp and Semiha Şahin’s house arrest

The seventh hearing in the trial of four defendants including Etkin news agency (ETHA) editor Semiha Şahin and reporter Pınar Gayıp on terrorism-related charges took place on 11 December 2019 at the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul. Issuing an interim decision at the end of the hearing, the court lifted Şahin and Gayıp’s house arrest but imposed international travel bans on both journalists and adjourned the trial until 27 February 2020.

Cumhuriyet daily fined over report about Istanbul’s 3rd airport

The third hearing in a lawsuit against Cumhuriyet daily over a news report published on 12 February 2018 and titled “3. Havalimanı Mezarlık Gibi” (3rd airport resembles graveyard) took place on 11 December 2019 at Istanbul’s 19th Commercial Court of First Instance. The lawsuit had been filed by the construction company that built and currently operates the airport.

Issuing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court fined the newspaper TL 15,000 in non-pecuniary damages and also ruled that the verdict be published in the top three national newspapers with the highest circulation.

Journalist Aziz Oruç arrested in Ağrı

Journalist Aziz Oruç and HDP’s Doğubayazıt District Co-Chair Abdullah Ekelek were arrested on 11 December 2019 on the Ağrı-Doğubayazıt highway as part of an operation by the Ağrı Police Department. The Interior Ministry called Oruç “a terrorist” in the statement they issued about the arrests. Access to Oruç’s investigation file was restricted. He was also imposed a restriction on access to a lawyer.

Kızılkaya and Sancılı’s trial adjourned until late March

The 10th hearing in the trial of former Özgür Gündem publisher Kemal Sancılı and responsible editor İnan Kızılkaya over three news reports published in the newspaper in 2016 took place on 10 December 2019 at the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

Kızılkaya and Sancılı were represented by their lawyer Sercan Korkmaz at the court.

The court ruled to send the case file to the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice to resolve a disagreement between the trial court and the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which is overseeing the “Özgür Gündem main trial,” over the merging of both files. The trial was adjourned until 26 March 2020.

ECtHR: Osman Kavala’s right to liberty and security violated

The European Court of Human Rights rendered its judgment concerning the application on behalf of the jailed businessperson Osman Kavala on 10 December 2019, ruling unanimously that his pre-trial detention violated his right to liberty and security and his right to a speedy decision on the lawfulness of detention, enshrined in Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Strasbourg court also held, by a majority vote of 6 to 1, that there had been a violation of Article 18 (limitation on use of restrictions on rights) and that Turkey should put an end to Kavala’s detention and secure his immediate release.

The Court found that Turkish authorities were “unable to demonstrate that Kavala’s pre-trial detention had been justified by reasonable suspicion based on an objective assessment of the acts attributed to him.”

Kavala has been jailed pending trial trial since November 2017 as part of the “Gezi Park trial,” where he and 15 other civil society members face aggravated life imprisonment on the charge of “attempting to overthrow the government.”

Decision of non-prosecution issued in investigation against Hasan Cemal’s July 2018 article

A decision of non-prosecution has been issued in an investigation against T24 columnist and P24’s Founding President Hasan Cemal on the allegation of “insulting the president” over an article he penned on 9 July 2018.

The Press Bureau of the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office ruled that there were no grounds for filing charges.

The complaint against Cemal’s article was initially filed with the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, which later transferred the file to Istanbul for lack of jurisdiction.

Appellate court upholds 6-month sentence given to Oğuz Güven

The 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice has upheld a 6-month prison sentence given in July 2018 to journalist Oğuz Güven, the former chief editor of Cumhuriyet daily’s online edition, by the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. Güven had been convicted of “incitement to hatred and animosity” over a photo that accompanied a news report in Cumhuriyet’s online edition.

The appellate court rendered its ruling on 28 November 2019. Under the newly enacted Judicial Reform Package, the appellate court’s ruling can be appealed with the Supreme Court of Appeals.

List of journalists and media workers in prison 

As of 13 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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