Syrian born journalist Hüsnü Mahalli was detained on the morning of December 12, 2016, following a police raid on his Istanbul home on charges of “openly insulting the Turkish nation and the Republic of Turkey” due to his critical comments about the Turkish government’s foreign policy in Syria made on social media and on a television program.
The journalist, who spent the first night of his detention period in the Cerrahpaşa Hospital due to poor health, was formally arrested on December 14, 2016 by the Istanbul 9th Judgeship of Peace.
A request for the release of Mahalli, who suffers from a severe version of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and from diabetic neuropathy, was rejected by the court, which ruled that “doctors are available in correctional facilities.”
It also emerged that the authorities had not sought a permission from the Justice Ministry to launch a criminal investigation into Mahalli, necessary according to Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) which criminalizes “insulting the Turkish nation, the Republic of Turkey.”
On January 20, 2017, Prosecutor Can Tuncay submitted the final draft of the indictment against Mahalli to the 6th Criminal Court of First Instance. The prosecutor asked between one year and four months to seven years and four months in prison for Mahalli on charges of “insulting the president” and “insulting public officials who work as part of a panel.”
The court accepted the indictment and ruled for the release of Mahali, whose health condition was deteriorating.
On June 1, Mahalli appeared before a judge at the first hearing of his trial. A lawyer for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan — the plaintiff in the case — was also in attendance.
The journalist told the court during his defense statement that he has a right to criticize government policies.
His trial was adjourned until November 23, 2017.
At the third hearing of this trial, on March 1, 2018, Mahalli gave his defense statement, rejecting the accusations and saying that as a journalist, the opinions he expressed were based on public comments by politicians. Mahalli requested his acquittal.
At the end of the hearing, the court ruled that it had no jurisdiction over the case, stating that the case was within the jurisdiction of the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, the court that has jurisdiction over press offenses.
The final hearing of this case was held on 8 November 2018 at the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul. Mahalli made an additional defense statement during the hearing, rejecting the accusations.
Issuing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance convicted Mahalli of “insulting the president” and “insulting public officers on account of the performance of their duty.” The court sentenced the journalist to a prison term of 1 year, 8 months and 25 days for “insulting public officers on account of the performance of their duty” and deferred the sentence by five years. The court also gave Mahalli an additional jail term of 2 years, 5 months and 5 days for “insulting the president,” thus imposing on the journalist a prison term of 4 years and 2 months in total.