Government expected to submit defense in ECtHR cases; number of imprisoned journalists is now 152 following Sözcü reporter’s release

 

The Turkish Government is due to respond to several cases of Turkish journalists which now stand before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

Most recently, the Court rejected a request from the Turkish Government to be granted additional time to present its statement in the case of journalist Şahin Alpay. The Court, which informed Alpay’s lawyers about developments regarding the Government’s response on November 6, said the Government had requested additional time for a second time, but it had rejected this request.

Reports said a similar request by the Turkish Government in the cases of journalists Murat Aksoy and Atilla Taş, who were released from prison on October 26, was also rejected. The government’s deadline for answering the Court in those cases was November 8.

The final date for responding in the cases of Ahmet and Mehmet Altan was November 8. The Strasbourg court had said earlier that the Turkish government requested an extension but that it had rejected the request.

The last date for responding in the Cumhuriyet journalists’ and executives’ case was November 7. The European Court had similarly announced earlier that it wouldn’t give any more additional time.

The Turkish Government’s response was communicated on November 10 to lawyers of the Cumhuriyet applicants and the Altan brothers respectively.

In two other cases — Ahmet Şık and Deniz Yücel’s applications — the Court has given additional time to the Government to respond however. The Turkish Government now has until 15 November to respond in Şık’s case and until November 28 in Yücel’s case.

Sözcü reporter released from prison

The Istanbul 37th High Criminal Court ruled on November 8 for the release of Sözcü journalist Gökmen Ulu, who was in prison since May 27.

The first hearing in the Sözcü trial was held over two days. Sözcü Internet editor Mediha Olgun, Financial Affairs Manager Yonca Yücekaleli, İzmir correspondent Gökmen Ulu and owner Burak Akbay are being tried in the case. Akbay is accused of “leading an armed terror organization,” while the other three are accused of “aiding the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) while not being its members.”

FETÖ is the name given by Turkish authorities to the Islamist Fethullah Gülen community.

Ulu was the only person in prison in the case, although Yücekaleli and Olgun were arrested for four months in the case previously. Akbay is abroad and there is an arrest warrant out for him.

The accusations mostly owe to a news report — uploaded on the newspaper’s internet website during the daytime on the day of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt — showing that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was holidaying in Marmaris. The prosecutor said Sözcü assisted putschists locate the president.

In his defense statement, Ulu, who described himself as a “patriotic journalist and a follower of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk,” said he categorically rejected the “FETÖ membership” accusation.

Saying that holidays of political leaders is newsworthy, he showed news reports from other outlets about Erdoğan’s Marmaris holiday, and said he was among the journalists who went to the Yazıcı Hotel — where Erdoğan was staying during the coup attempt — after the president invited local journalists to come and report on his statement, calling on the people to take to streets to resist the putschists.

Ulu also said that reports from a parliamentary commission in the coup clearly showed that the putschists had explored the hotel and its surrounding area prior to the coup attempt, and it was clear as day that they didn’t need a journalist to tell them his whereabouts.

Sözcü internet editor Olgun said she wasn’t even an opposition journalist and couldn’t comprehend the basis of the charges against her.

Yücekaleli, the finance manager, said she had no influence over editorial decisions and her daily business was limited to following Sözcü’s accounts.

A four-page defense statement sent by Burak Akbay was also read out in the trial. Akbay said the accusations were part of a plot against Sözcü.

Former Gülenist Hüseyin Gülerce, pro-government journalists Cem Küçük and Ersoy Dede testified in the case on the second day. They all spoke against the indictment, saying there was no proof that Sözcü collaborated with FETÖ.

The next hearing in the trial will be heard on January 23.

The number of journalists imprisoned in Turkey is at least 152, following Ulu’s release. For the full list, visit this link or scroll down.

Court overturns acquittal ruling for Hasan Cemal

An appeals court has issued final rulings in three cases where P24 President and T24 Columnist Hasan Cemal was on trial. The court overturned a local court’s decision to acquit Cemal of “terror propaganda charges” in one of the three cases and upheld a one-year-and-three-month prison sentence for “terror propaganda” and a TL 6000 fine for “publishing statements of an armed terror organization” in two other cases.

The ruling was made by the 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court and concerned previous rulings by the 22nd and 24th High Criminal Courts over Cemal’s articles and his participating in a solidarity campaign for the shuttered daily Özgür Gündem.

Enis Berberoğlu to be tried on December 1 at appellate court

Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Enis Berberoğlu, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison in relation to a news story published in the Cumhuriyet newspaper claiming that trucks operated by the National Intelligence Agency  (MİT) delivered arms supplies to jihadi groups in Syria will appear before an appeals court on December 1.

The CHP deputy has been imprisoned since June 14.

Berberoğlu was convicted on charges of “obtaining classified state information for purposes of political and military espionage” by the 14th High Criminal Court but the 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, which is an appeals court, had overturned the decision. However, the lower court had stuck to its earlier ruling, saying that the appeals’ court’s ruling was against “procedures and the law.”

The 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, which re-evaluated the case, ruled for Berberoğlu to be retried at the appeals court. The 2nd Criminal Chamber will hear the case on December 1. The higher court has also ruled to keep Berberoğlu in pre-trial detention.

Prosecutor submits opinion before verdict in Zaman journalist’s case

A prosecutor has submitted his final opinion in a trial that is being heard by the 14th High Criminal Court in Ankara, where former Zaman newspaper reporter Ayşenur Parıldak risks up to 15 years on charges of “membership in FETÖ.”

The hearing was heard on November 9. Prosecutor Mustafa Manga said Parıldak tweeted posts in favor of “FETÖ”, and used the ByLock chat application — which shows affiliation with “FETÖ” according to the Turkish judiciary — to communicate with other members of the organization.

The prosecutor asked for between 7.5 – 15 years on charges of “membership in an armed terrorist organization” for Parıldak. The next hearing will be on November 21.

Hayatın Sesi TV trial

On November 7, the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court heard the second hearing in a case where executives of the Hayatın Sesi television network, which was shut down under cabinet decrees, are accused of spreading propaganda for the Islamic State (ISIS), the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) organizations.

General Manager of Hayatın Sesi, who is also the editor who bears legal liability for the station’s broadcasts, attended the trial. Two other executives on trial didn’t come to the hearing.

Çetin denied the allegations saying Hayatın Sesi always broadcast to promote peace. He said the indictment was prepared only to create an excuse for the decision to shut the station down under a cabinet decree.

The trial was adjourned until 1 March 2018.

Cumhuriyet reporter Hakan Direk on trial

Hakan Dirik, a Cumhuriyet correspondent who is on trial for reporting on allegations that Turkey delivered chemicals used for manufacturing the deadly sarin gas, appeared before the Istanbul 2nd Court of First Instance on November 9. Dirik defended himself saying the report was published under freedom of press and as a journalistic activity.

Another journalist who is being tried in the same case is BirGün newspaper’s Erk Acarer. The court has decided to seek out his residential address in the foreign country where he currently resides.

The next hearing in the trial will be heard on March 15, 2018.

Ahmet Şık acquitted in case

Cumhuriyet reporter Ahmet Şık, who is currently imprisoned in the trial of Cumhuriyet journalists and executives, was acquitted in another case where he was being tried for remarks he made in 2012 when he was released from prison in a case against Oda TV.

Şık had said “Whoever is behind this plot into OdaTV will go to prison,” on that occasion in 2012.

He was accused of “insulting a civil servant” and “threatening a civil servant” following his remarks. He was acquitted in a hearing on November 8.

Sabahattin Önkibar attacked

Sabahattin Önkibar, who recently wrote a book titled Asena, which is a biography of İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener, was attacked by a group of about ten people in İstanbul’s TÜYAP Book Fair on November 4.

Önkibar attributed the attack to “organized bodyguards for Nationalist Party Leader (MHP) Devlet Bahçeli.”

Expelled academics, jobless journalists launch newspaper

A new news website, www.halagazeteciyiz.net, founded by academics expelled from state universities and journalists who have lost jobs in Turkey’s crackdown on the press, was launched on November 5.

Journalist Sibel Hürtaş is the editor-in-chief of the newspaper and Hayat TV editor Sultan Özer is the news editor of the website, which also offers reports in English.

 

For a full list of all the imprisoned journalists in Turkey, visit this spreadsheet. Lists of all of the foundations and associations as well as media outlets shut down can also be found at the same link, although on different tabs of the same spreadsheet.