DİHA reporter Nedim Türfent sentenced to eight years and nine months on “membership” charges
Nedim Türfent, a reporter with the shuttered Dicle News Agency (DİHA) was convicted on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” in the fifth and final hearing of the trial against him being heard by the Hakkari 2nd High Criminal Court on December 15.
The court in its ruling handed down seven years to Türfent on the same charge, but increased this term to eight years and nine months on the grounds that his “actions had been continuous.” The court also ruled not to release Türfent for the duration of the appeals process. The journalist has been imprisoned since May 2016.
The hearing on December 15 started four hours later than scheduled, waiting for a witness who was understood to have been released from prison to be readied. However, like all of the other witnesses who have so far spoken in the trial, that witness also said he had not known Türfent.
All the witnesses have said their earlier testimony against the journalist was extracted under torture.
A total of 20 witnesses as well as a secret witness testified in the previous hearings of the trial. Only one named witness and the secret witness testified against the journalist.
Türfent’s attorney Harika Karataş submitted the testimony of the single named witness given in the course of another trial. The witness says in that testimony that she didn’t leave the house for a month during a curfew imposed in Yüksekova district, contradicting her testimony for Türfent’s trial. Karataş then declared that no evidence against Türfent was left.
The prosecutor asked that Türfent remains imprisoned on the grounds that he is a flight risk.
Türfent, who submitted his final defense statement after the prosecutor submitted his opinion, said the prosecutor was acting in bad faith and that the investigation against him was launched by the police department, adding that the prosecutor had stuck to that argument.
Türfent, who testified in Kurdish at the Van prison through the court video-conferencing system SEGBİS, said the prosecutor was acting as if he hadn’t heard the witnesses who said they had not known him. He said the prosecutor was trying to create a crime by tweezing out statements from his news reports or social media posts.
“The prosecutor knows that I am being tried for my journalism. We are in prison because we are opposition. We will never let the government have its way. Journalism is the conscience of the people, there is no other way for us to report than this. Journalism is about holding power to account.”
Türfent said he was arrested for reporting on a special operations officer violating detention procedures and yelling racist remarks at a group of people detained in the country’s mostly Kurdish populated southeast. Türfent’s report featured a video showing a special officer shouting, “What has this state ever done to you? You will see the power of the Turk,” at the detainees lying face down on the ground.
An investigation was launched into the video, featuring a number of procedural violations as well as a violation of human rights.
In the trial, the journalist said he had engaged in journalism, denied the “membership” charges and asked for acquittal.
His lawyer said there was no proof showing that Türfent was part of a hierarchical structure inside any terrorist organization. “We are in the fifth hearing but there is not a single evidence that can be discussed.”
Barış Oflas, another lawyer representing Türfent, said the only reason why he was in prison was his covering the news during curfews in Hakkari’s Yüksekova district, where security operations allegedly commit a large number of human rights violations against civilians.
Prosecutor asks for life in the Altans trial
A prosecutor has submitted his final opinion asking for life for journalists Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak in a trial heard on December 11 at the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court.
The prosecutor alleged that the three journalists and three other suspects committed the crime of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” under Turkish Penal Code (TCK) Article 309/1.
The court ruled to keep all suspects in prison and adjourned the trial until February 12 -14. The prime minister has asked for a leave to intervene in the case and also for the suspects’ assets to be seized. The court has said it will rule on the intervention request later but rejected the request to seize the suspects’ assets.
It also lifted limitations imposed on visiting hours by lawyers.
Three advertising salespeople released in Zaman trial
Three former employees of the shuttered Zaman daily were released in a trial where thirty-one people including journalists Şahin Alpay, Ali Bulaç, Mümtazer Türköne, Ahmet Turan Alkan and Mustafa Ünal have been imprisoned for more than 500 days on membership in the “Fethullah Terrorist Organization,” the name given to the Fethullah Gülen network by the Turkish state.
The case was heard on December 8. The court ruled to keep the arrest warrants for all of the journal sites in place but released three people who accepted used cars from Zaman in return for their unpaid premiums or severance payments.
The next hearing will be heard on 5 April 2018.
Turkey responds to ECtHR in Şık trial
The Turkish Government sent a response to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in the trial of journalist Ahmet Şık who has been in prison for 11 months, Şık’s newspaper Cumhuriyet reported.
The government argued that the government argued that Şık was not arrested because of his “journalistic activities” and that his 11 months of imprisoned amounted to a reasonable period, citing a decision of the Court which found the two years and eight months imprisonment of 40 mafia members in Italy reasonable.
Turkey has the highest number of journalists in prison
Turkey was the biggest jailer of journalists in 2017, according to a report published by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on December 13.
According to the CPJ, there are 262 journalists in prison around the world. The report says 73 journalists are in Turkey – a figure much lower than the numbers reported by local organizations such as P24, due to the methodology the CPJ uses.
The report said: “Despite releasing some journalists in 2017, Turkey remains the world’s worst jailer for the second consecutive year, with 73 journalists behind bars, compared with 81 last year. Dozens more still face trial, and fresh arrests take place regularly. In several other cases in Turkey, CPJ was unable to establish a link to journalism. Other press freedom groups using a different methodology have higher numbers. Every journalist CPJ found jailed for their work in Turkey is under investigation for, or charged with, anti-state crimes, as was true of last year’s census.”
Constitutional Court rules in favor of press freedoms
The Constitutional Court said, in a ruling issued on December 14, that access bans to news reports can be applied only in exceptional cases.
The ruling concerned a news report published at Airporthaber.com, banned by a decision of the Ankara 5th Criminal Judgeship of Peace. The high court said the access ban in this case was a violation of Constitution Article 28 which protests press freedoms and called for a retrial.
The ruling said access bans can be imposed only in exceptional situations. “The higher the value of public information in a news report or an article, the more a person has to submit to the fact that the said article is published.” The ruling further said several freedoms vital to democracy, such as freedom of communication, right to information and freedom of spreading thought and expression are today exercised by the Internet, and that local courts should act with restraint when dealing with the internet.
Presidential insult case against Oğuz Güven
A court case has been initiated against Oğuz Güven, the editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet’s internet website.
The journalist is accused of insulting the president in the case which will be heard on 11 April in the Ankara 15th Criminal Court of First Instance in relation with a report that originally appeared in the Washington Post.
Güven was sentenced to three years and one month in prison earlier over a news report Cumhuriyet shared on Twitter.
Reaction to the televised calls for torture
Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Barış Yarkadaş said he had brought to the attention of the Supreme Board of Radio and Television (ETÜK) and the Justice Ministry the
scandalous remark from pro-government columnist and TV commentator Cem Küçük suggesting that individuals charged with membership in “FETÖ” should be tortured.
On December 12, Cem Küçük said suspects in “FETÖ” cases weren’t giving away too much, suggesting that “there are methods” such as torture, executions or the killing of family members to get suspects to talk.
1HaberVar news platform under investigation
The 1HaberVar Platform, founded by journalists from the shuttered news agencies, face an investigation on charges of “PKK propaganda in the press“ the socialist daily Evrensel reported.
The Diyarbakır Chief Prosecutor’s Office has launched the investigation on the basis of events, press statements, demonstrations and other activities which the 1HaberVar platform reported on its website.
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.