Two journalists released in Özgür Gündem trial; 45 new detentions made as part of a probe into the Journalists and Writers Foundation

İnan Kızılkaya, the responsible managing editor for the shuttered pro-Kurdish Özgür Gündem daily, and the holder of the newspaper’s publication rights, Kemal Sancılı, were released on October 31 in a trial concerning the newspaper’s publications.

Kızılkaya had been imprisoned over alleged terror links for 441 days.

The Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court heard the case, where a total of nine journalists and writers are on trial. Linguist Necmiye Alpay, who was on the newspaper’s Advisory Board, and lawyer Eren Keskin, a former editor and columnist of Özgür Gündem, whom are among the suspects also attended the trial.

The suspects are accused of several terror-related crimes.

Following the release of Kızılkaya and Inan, no defendant in the case currently remains in prison. Their release also brings down the total number of  journalists in prison to 153.

Lawyers said Kızılkaya was only responsible for the financial affairs of the newspaper, and couldn’t possibly be tried over its content. Kızılkaya, who testified, said it wasn’t his imprisonment but the closure of the newspaper that he found worse.

The court ruled for the release of the two suspects, in spite of a prosecutor’s opinion to keep them both in prison. The court also rejected a request from lawyers to remove parole measures in place for lawyer Keskin.

The next hearing in the trial will be heard on March 6. Celebrated writer Aslı Erdoğan, the newspaper’s current editor-in-chief Zana Kaya, politician Filiz Koçali and publisher Ragıp Zaraokolu are also suspects in the trial.

45 detained in operation into writers’ group

Forty five individuals, including journalists Nuh Gönültaş, Mehmet Gündem, Şule Büyükçizmeci and Behram Kılıç, were taken into custody by police on November 1, as part of an operation into the Journalists’ and Writers’ Foundation (GYV), which was shut down under a post-coup decree. The Financial Crimes Unit of the Istanbul Police Department is conducting the investigation.

A total of 111 detention warrants were issued across 17 provinces, authorities said. Warrants for editor-in-chief of the Zaman newspaper and GYV President Mustafa Yeşil were also issued.

GYV was an organization affiliated with the Fethullah Gülen network, which Turkish authorities say was behind the 15 July coup attempt in Turkey.

Hidayet Karaca sentenced to 31 years 6 months in jail

Hidayet Karaca, general manager of the shuttered Samanyolu Broadcasting Group, was sentenced to 31 years and 6 months in prison at the final hearing of a trial that was ongoing for about two years.

The hearing was held at the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court on November 3. Karaca was on trial with 32 other defendants, including former police chiefs and officers, for plotting against a little-known religious group called “Tahşiyeciler.” Charges against Karaca stem from a TV show, whose script, according to the prosecutors, included cryptic references to a police crackdown on Tahşiyeciler.

“I have been imprisoned for three years over words uttered in a fictional show,” Karaca, who has been in jail since December 14, 2014, told the court at the hearing. Karaca was sentenced on charges of “leading a terrorist organization”, “slander” and “forgery.”

Evrensel, Cumhuriyet journalists face trial over Ankara attack reports

Reporters and executives of Cumhuriyet and Evrensel newspapers face trial over reports on alleged negligence in an attack in Ankara on October 10, 2015 that killed 102 people.

The Ankara 2nd High Criminal Court has accepted an indictment prepared by the prosecution, ruling that the first hearing of the trial will be held on January 15, 2018. Evrensel reporters Cem Gurbetoğlu and  Tamer Arda Erşin and Cumhuriyet reporter Kemal Göktaş are facing up to three years in jail as part of the case. The indictment also lists Evrensel Editor-in-Chief Fatih Polat and then Editor-in-Chief of Cumhuriyet Can Dündar as suspects for their role in publication of the reports on the attack.

Cumhuriyet executives and journalists remain in jail

The 27th High Criminal Court held the fourth hearing in a trial where nearly a dozen Cumhuriyet executives and employees are on trial and where reporter Ahmet Şık, Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu and the newspaper’s Executive President Akın Atalay remain imprisoned on October 31.

In its interim-ruling, the court decided that Şık, Sabuncu and Atalay should remain in prison. The newspaper’s accountant, Emre İper, is also imprisoned in the case.

The trial was adjourned until December 25 – 26.

The defendants are accused of “aiding an armed organization,” and/or “abuse of power.”

Forensic IT specialist Tuncay Beşikçi testified in the session, saying although Iper’s phone had connected to a ByLock server, Iper had never downloaded the mobile chat application, which Turkish authorities say is indicative of participation in the coup attempt.

Ipekçi said Iper’s phone was diverted to ByLock servers unbeknownst to him, through third-party applications. The IT specialist said many people arrested across Turkey on ByLock related charges might be in the same situation as İper, but said it was easy to differentiate between people who downloaded the app or whose phones were hijacked by third-party software.

In a confusing twist in the case, the judge read out WhatsApp conversations between civil society leader Osman Kavala, Cumhuriyet columnist Aydın Engin and the former Editor-in-Chief of the daily, Can Dündar. Defense lawyers said the same documents had been linked to pro-government and government-controlled press, saying it was a violation of fair trial rights.

Third session heard in trial of Nedim Türfent 

On November 1, Dicle News Agency (DİHA) reporter Nedim Türfent appeared before the 2nd High Criminal Court of Hakkari for the third time.

Türfent has been kept imprisoned since May 13, 2016 and he has complained of physical abuse. About 12 witneses, who had testified against him in the initial indictment, had also claimed that their initial testimony had been extracted under torture.

In the hearing,  secret witness testimony claiming that Türfent acted under orders from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — classified as a terrorist organization in Turkey. The same witness said Türfent was a member of the organization, and that he was responsible for influencing the media.

In response, the journalist said the secret witness testimony was false, recalling that suspects who testified earlier had confessed to having given false testimony under torture.

Four other witnesses who testified via the courtroom conferencing system, just like the previous witnesses, said they didn’t know who Türfent was and that they had been forced to identify him and testify against him under torture at the Police Department.

Türfent said police officers who had been investigated by the Interior Ministry after his video-story documenting maltreatment of Yüksekova (Hakkari) locals by police had put together the case against him to seek revenge.

The prosecutor asked to keep Türfent in jail saying he’s a “flight risk” and that more witnesses had to testify. Türfent, who has been imprisoned for 539 days, said he had refused to flee in spite of receiving death threats, in response to the prosecutor’s opinion.

The court ruled to keep Türfent in place. His next hearing will be on November 17.

Kanal A television station shut down

The Ankara-based Kanal A television, which is widely believed to have been supported by the city’s former Mayor Melih Gökçek, said it won’t be continuing its broadcasts in a statement on October 31. 

Ahmet Kara, the owner of the station, told Hürriyet that he had decided to shut down for economic reasons.

Gökçek, like many other mayors whose performance in the 16 April referendum upset President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, recently resigned, in response to an order from Erdoğan to step down as mayor.

Imprisoned journalist denied treatment

The daughter of Tuncer Çetinkaya, a reporter for the shuttered Zaman newspaper, claimed  her father was being denied potentially life saving renal treatment in the Antalya Prison where he has been kept since July 23, 2016.

She said her father has lost 20 kilos in prison, and that 54 percent of his kidney function has been lost due to lack of treatment.

IT journalists briefly detained in probe

Serdar Kuzuloğlu, an IT journalist, was briefly detained on November 1 as part of an investigaiton into the Fethullahist Terrorist Network/Paralel State Structrue (FETÖ/PDY) organization, the name used by Turkish officials to refer to an Islamist network allegedly behind last year’s coup attempt. He was released in the evening of November 1 and reportedly had to answer questions about a “FETÖ’s Silicon Valley,” although no information was immediately available as to what that implies.

Journalist Perihan Mağden on trial on insult charges

Journalist Perihan Mağden appared before the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on charges of “insulting the president” for likening a contestant on the TV show Survivor to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Journalist İnan Ketenciler, an editor for a website who reprinted Mağden’s words, is also being tried as a defendant.

The next hearing will be on February 15. The court granted intervention to lawyers for President Erdoğan.

Sol writer given monetary fine

Orhan Gökdemir, a columnist for the Sol news portal, was fined TL 2,900 in an insult trial initiated by theoogician Nureddin Yıldız.

Gökdemir had referred to Yıldız as “pedophile Nureddin Yıldız, who finds it acceptable for five-six year old girls to be married off to older men” in an article published on 21 May 2016.

Click here to view the list in a spreadsheet file; where figures on shuttered media and civil society associations are also available on separate tabs.