Journalist Aziz Oruç sent to prison; court issues reasoned judgment in retrial of Cumhuriyet case; Constitutional Court rules access ban on news portal violated press freedom
CHP politician acquitted of “insulting the president”
The second hearing in the trial of former CHP lawmaker Zeynep Altıok Akatlı on the charge of “insulting the president” took place on 19 December 2019 at Urla 1st Criminal Court of First Instance.
Announcing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court acquitted Altıok. She was accused over a social media post in support of students who were arrested for carrying a banner featuring a cartoon titled “Tayyipler Alemi” during Middle East Technical University’s (ODTÜ) 2018 graduation ceremony.
Musician faces indictment over remarks during concert appearance
An indictment has been issued against musician Erhan Güleryüz, accusing him of “publicly degrading a section of the society over social class, race, religion, sect, gender or regional differences” over his remarks about the Religious Affairs Directorate during a concert appearance on 30 August 2019 in İğneada. The indictment, seeking a prison term between 6 months and 1 year for the musician, was sent to the Kırklareli Demirköy Criminal Court of First Instance.
Journalist Aziz Oruç jailed after spending one week in police custody
Journalist Aziz Oruç, who was arrested in the eastern province of Ağrı on 11 December 2019, was referred to the courthouse on 18 December after police questioning. Oruç was questioned by the police about the news reports he shared on social media.
After giving his statement to a prosecutor at the courthouse, Oruç was referred to court, which ruled to imprison the journalist on the charge of “membership of a terrorist group.” Oruç was sent to the Patnos Prison.
Oruç, who had been living in northern Iraq for the past three years because of the numerous court cases against him, attempted to escape to a European country via Iran and Armenia. He was caught on the Iranian-Armenian border, where he was tortured and sent back to Iran. There, he became subject to torture for two more days. On the night of 10 December, Oruç was forced to enter Turkey across the Iranian border with torn clothes and without shoes on his feet. He was arrested on 11 December on the Ağrı-Doğubayazıt highway. The Interior Ministry had called the journalist “a terrorist” in a press release issued last week about his arrest.
7 journalists standing trial in Diyarbakır acquitted
The fifth hearing of a trial where seven journalists and a social media user were charged with “making those involved in combating terrorism a target” took place on 18 December 2019 at the 9th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır. P24 monitored the hearing.
The case was launched following a complaint by senior gendarmerie commander Maj. Gen. Musa Çitil, whose name was cited in a February 2016 news report by the shuttered DİHA news agency.
Ömer Çelik, who was DİHA’s news editor at the time, former DİHA reporters Çağdaş Kaplan, Hamza Gündüz and Selman Çiçek, journalist Abdulvahap Taş, the shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper’s responsible editor İnan Kızılkaya and publisher Kemal Sancılı, and Selim Günenç, a social media user who also shared the report, were charged with “making those involved in combating terrorism a target.” Çiçek faced the additional charge of “systematically spreading terrorism propaganda” over his social media posts.
Issuing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court acquitted all seven journalists of all charges against them, ruling that the legal elements of the alleged crime were not present in the case. The case file against Selim Günenç, who is still at large, was separated.
Court issues reasoned judgment in retrial of former Cumhuriyet staffers
The 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul has issued its reasoned judgment in writing in the retrial of former staff members of Cumhuriyet daily, which was held on 21 November 2019 after the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the convictions in September.
The judges wrote in the reasoned judgment that the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals “ignored the court’s right to stand by its original verdict, and accepted appeals by Ahmet Kadri Gürsel, Güray Tekin Öz, Önder Çelik, Hacı Musa Kart, Bülent Utku, Hakan Karasinir and Mustafa Kemal Güngör, whose convictions were upheld.”
The judgment read: “It is impossible to agree with the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals ruling that ‘the defendants were not involved in crime, their acts should be deemed part of the freedom of the press, the file did not contain sufficient evidence to justify their convictions, and that they must be acquitted’ in spite of the evidence explained above.”
The case file will now be reviewed by the General Assembly of the Supreme Court of Appeals. The reasoned judgment (in Turkish) can be accessed here.
Yeniçağ columnist Demirağ briefly detained
Yavuz Selim Demirağ, a columnist for Yeniçağ newspaper, was taken into custody by police during midnight hours on 14 December 2019 at his Ankara home.
Demirağ was arrested based on a warrant that had been issued because the journalist had failed to give his statement as part of a trial where he is charged with “insult.” Demirağ was released after giving his statement to a judge on duty at the Ankara 46th Criminal Court of First Instance.
Convictions of Hayatın Sesi TV executives quashed
An appellate court has quashed the convictions against the executives of the shuttered TV station Hayatın Sesi on the charge of “systematically spreading terrorism propaganda.”
At the end of their trial in September 2018, the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul had sentenced the station’s co-owners Mustafa Kara and İsmail Gökhan Bayram and the responsible managing editor Gökhan Çetin to three years and nine months in prison each. In its unanimous ruling, the 27th Criminal Chamber of the Regional Court of Justice acquitted all three defendants on the grounds that the news coverage by the channel “did not cross the line of journalism.”
Constitutional Court: Access ban violated press freedom
The Second Section of the Constitutional Court has ruled that an access ban imposed on the local news portal www.yuksekovaguncel.com in August 2015 by an order of the Gölbaşı 1st Criminal Judgeship of Peace violated freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
In its judgment dated 27 November 2019, the top court ruled that an access ban imposed on the entirety of the news portal violated articles 26 and 28 of the Constitution and that the applicant be paid TL 5,500 in non-pecuniary damages.
The judgment (in Turkish) can be accessed here.
List of journalists and media workers in prison updated
P24 has updated its list of journalists and media workers in prison, compiled using information available in open sources.
Recent research has revealed that journalists Şahabettin Demir, Hasan Bozkurt, Serhat Şeftali, Metin Arslan and Mikail Barut are currently not in prison. As a result, at least 113 journalists and media workers are in prison in Turkey as of 20 December 2019, either in pre-trial detention or serving a sentence.
The full list can be accessed here.