Halkın Nabzı weekly newspaper’s editor-in-chief İshak Karakaş was taken into custody on 22 January 2018 during a midnight police raid at his home in Istanbul. According to news reports, the grounds for his detention was his social media posts.
Karakaş, who is also a contributor to the news website Artı Gerçek, was arrested as part of an investigation launched by the Istanbul Anadolu Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office targeting 57 individuals who shared critical comments on social media concerning the Turkish Military’s operation launched on 20 January on the Syrian town of Afrin.
Karakaş was jailed pending trial on 26 January on the charge of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization.”
The indictment against Karakaş was accepted by the 28th High Criminal Court of Istanbul in March, which set 8 May 2018 as the date for the first hearing of his trial.
Karakaş and eight other defendants who were jailed pending trial on account of their social media posts criticizing Turkey’s military operation on Afrin appeared in the first hearing of their trial on the “propaganda” charge on 8 May.
Addressing the court for his defense statement during the hearing, Karakaş said he was a journalist holding an official press card and a peace activist. “I am a defender of peace and this is why I am here,” said Karakaş, and requested for his acquittal.
Karakaş is also one of the founders of the NGO “Peace Foundation” and has written a book, 100 Steps for Peace (“Barış için 100 adım”), about the Kurdish issue in Turkey.
Speaking after Karakaş, his lawyer Yıldız İmrek said none of the tweets posted by Karakaş contained reference to a terrorist organization nor praise of violent acts. İmrek also said being against a military operation was an individual right.
The prosecutor requested that all jailed defendants be remanded in prison. In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to release all defendants under judicial control measures and imposed on them an international travel ban. The court adjourned the trial until 18 September 2018.
Meanwhile, Karakaş’s Halkın Nabzı newspaper was closed down through the emergency decree (KHK) no 701, which was issued on 8 July 2018.
The second hearing of Karakaş and his co-defendants’ trial on the “propaganda” charge took place on 18 September at the 28th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
Karakaş, his co-defendants Yaşar Yılmaz Altunbilek and Cevdet Taş, and defense lawyers were in attendance at the hearing. Defense lawyers requested that the court lift the judicial control measures imposed on their clients and that the defendants be exempt from attending the court. Karakaş also asked for his international travel ban to be lifted.
In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court lifted part of the judicial control measures (the one that requires defendants to regularly report to the nearest police station to give their signature) and agreed to grant the defendants exemption, but kept their travel ban in place. The court then adjourned the trial until 20 November.
The fourth hearing in the trial took place on 17 January 2019 at the 28th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
P24 monitored the hearing, where the defendants and their lawyers responded to the accusations in the prosecutor’s final opinion of the case, which was submitted to the court in between hearings. The prosecution requests that Karakaş be convicted of “successively disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group.”
Addressing the court during the hearing, Karakaş made explanations concerning his social media posts cited in the prosecution’s final opinion. Karakaş requested to be acquitted as he wrapped up his statement.
In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to lift the international travel ban imposed on all defendants in the case because all defense statements have been heard. The court also lifted other judicial control measures imposed on the defendants and set 26 March 2019 as the date for the final hearing in the case.
Issuing its verdict at the end of the 26 March hearing, the 28th High Criminal Court of Istanbul convicted Karakaş and seven of his co-defendants in the case of “systematically disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” and sentenced each to a prison term of 1 year, 6 months and 22 days.
Two other defendants in the case were also convicted of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” and given prison terms of 1 year and 3 months.
The court deferred the sentences.