Imprisoned BirGün editor Burak Ekici appears in first hearing of trial; court rules to keep Ekici in pretrial detention in Silivri 

The first hearing in a case in which imprisoned journalist Burak Ekici, an editor for the BirGün daily, is on trial on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” was held on February 13, 2018, at the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

P24 followed the hearing at the courtroom in the Istanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan.

The prosecutor requested Ekici’s conviction on “membership in a terrorist organization” charge based on the allegation that he had logged in to an encrypted messaging application called “ByLock” 217 times. The application was purportedly used exclusively by the members of the “Fetullahist Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure” (FETÖ/PDY), the name given by Turkish authorities to the Islamist movement led by Fethullah Gülen.

Lawyers representing Ekici requested additional time for the final defense statement.

At the end of the hearing, the court issued an interim decision, ruling for the continuation of Ekici’s detention on remand, and adjourning the trial until February 27.

Ekici was arrested on August 10, 2017, along with 10 other journalists, on the allegation that they were ByLock users. Ten of the 11 journalists, including Ekici, were jailed pending trial.

Reporter detained twice in one week over same case file

Ahmet Kanbal, an Izmir-based reporter for the Mesopotamia news agency (MA), was arrested again on February 12, 2018, less than a week after he was released from custody, based on a previous arrest warrant against him that had apparently been forgotten to be lifted by the prosecutor investigating the case. Kanbal was released on February 13 after the Mersin Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office lifted the arrest warrant, through which Kanbal was initially arrested on February 8 and released a day later.

Kanbal had said back then that the accusations against him were in connection with his social media posts on Afrin, the northern Syrian town on which Turkey is currently conducting a military operation.

Kanbal said he would file a complaint concerning his February 12 rearrest.

Berberoğlu sentenced to 5 years in prison in the MIT trucks case

Enis Berberoğlu, a deputy for the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), on February 13, 2018, was sentenced to a reduced term of five years and 10 months in jail by an appellate court, which convicted Berberoğlu of disclosing government secrets, in what was the third hearing of his retrial in the so-called “MIT [National Intelligence Agency] trucks case.”

Berberoğlu was initially given a 25-year sentence in June for his alleged role in the publication of a news report in Cumhuriyet newspaper, which suggested that the Turkish government might have sent weapons to armed groups in Syria on trucks operated by MİT. But the Second Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Law, an appellate court, overturned the verdict and ordered the retrial of Berberoğlu.

The defense will appeal the February 13 verdict. In the meantime, Berberoğlu will remain in detention.

Journalist İbrahim Gezici briefly taken into custody 

Journalist İbrahim Gezici was briefly detained on February 11, 2018, at the Sabiha Gökçen Airport in Istanbul upon his arrival on a flight back from Germany. Gezici was brought to the Anadolu Courthouse the following day for an interrogation by the prosecutor concerning his social media posts. Gezici was released from custody the same day with a ban on traveling overseas.

Turkey to pay 4,500 euros for violating freedom of expression

The European Court of Human Rights ruled on February 13, 2018 that Turkey pays 4,500 euros in compensation for refusing to issue a national security clearance certificate to Dara Radio TV,  a local TV station in the southeastern province of Mardin founded with the purpose of broadcasting exclusively in the Kurdish language. The grounds for the dismissal of the certificate, a prerequisite for obtaining a broadcasting license, were not made public due to the “confidentiality of the investigation.” The European Court held in its unanimous ruling that Turkish authorities’ decision not to grant the station the required certificate, with reasons unknown, was in breach of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The application to the European Court was lodged by the company’s chairperson, Türkan Aydoğan, in 2006 after successive appeals to Turkish authorities had failed. Without the required certificate Dara TV was not entitled to broadcast.

474 detained in social media crackdown on Afrin posts

A total of 474 individuals have been taken into custody on account of their social media posts concerning Turkey’s military operation on the Syrian town of Afrin since the operation’s launch on January 20, 2018, the Interior Ministry said in its weekly press release.

In the statement posted February 12 on its official website, the ministry said that 192 others who participated in demonstrations against Turkey’s operation have also been detained.

Separately, Bianet reported that five people in the southern Hatay province who have been in custody on account of their social media posts were sent to prison in the later hours of February 12 on charges of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization,” bringing the number of those imprisoned in connection with social media posts on Afrin to at least 39.

15 Academics for Peace appear in first hearings 

Fifteen more “academics trials,” filed against the signatories of 2016’s Academics for Peace petition, got under way at the Istanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan on February 13.

First hearings of 13 trials were held at the 34th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on Tuesday, while two of the hearings took place at the 36th High Criminal Court.

The indictment accuses the signatories of the petition of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization.” The petition was signed by 1,128 academics. Individual lawsuits have been opened against at least 148 of the academics so far. The trials got under way on December 5, 2017.

Altan brothers and Ilıcak give final defense statements 

Imprisoned journalists Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak gave their final defense statements on the second day of the fifth and final hearing in a case where they are on trial at the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

A detailed report on the hearing, followed by P24 at the courtroom, can be found here.

Çağdaş Erdoğan released from prison in 1st hearing

Imprisoned photojournalist Çağdaş Erdoğan was released pending trial on February 13, 2018 during the first hearing of a criminal case against him, in which he faces 22.5 years in prison on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization.” The 33rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul released Erdoğan on judicial control terms and adjourned the trial to June 1.

A detailed report on the hearing, followed by P24 at the courtroom, can be found here.

Following Çağdaş Erdoğan’s release from the Silivri Prison in Istanbul on February 13, the number of jailed journalists in Turkey dropped to 156. The full list can be seen here.

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.