Two journalists in Van handed down suspended prison sentences for their 2015 reporting; editor’s house raided by police

Bedran Babat and Mustafa Ece, two reporters for the shuttered Dicle news agency (DİHA), each received suspended prison sentences on February 23, 2018, for “publicly insulting a civil servant” in a 2015 news report.

Babat and Ece were among four journalists standing trial — alongside DİHA Executive Board Chairperson Zekeriya Gözüpek and reporter Ferhat Çelik — in the case, where the fifth suspect was Nezahat Sümer, a former Gevaş provincial co-chair for the People’s Democratic Party (HDP).

The case was based on a news report titled “Gevaş Emniyeti seçmenleri fişliyor” (Gevaş police profiling voters) and dated June 2, 2015.

The Gevaş Criminal Court of First Instance sentenced Babat and Sümer to six months in prison, granting a reduction of one month to each sentence and suspending the sentences by five years while acquitting the rest of the suspects.

Police raid editor Çağlar Özbilgin’s house

Police raided editor Çağlar Özbilgin’s house in Ankara on February 22. Özbilgin, who was not in the house during the early morning raid was not taken into custody but police searched his house in the presence of his relatives.

Lawyers for said the allegation against Özbilgin was “membership in a terrorist organization” on account of his social media posts regarding Turkey’s ongoing military operation on the Syrian town of Afrin.

New indictment issued against Dihaber reporter Keleş

A new indictment has been issued against Selman Keleş, a former reporter for the shuttered Dicle media news agency (Dihaber), the Mezopotamya news agency reported on February 23.

The news came as Keleş and fellow journalist Arif Aslan appeared as co-defendants before the 5th High Criminal Court of Van on February 22 at the second hearing of an ongoing trial on “membership in a terrorist organization” charges.

The new indictment, issued by the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Van, accuses Keleş of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” and involves a number of Keleş’s social media posts in which he shared news reports from various dates and by various news outlets, including the Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The indictment, which mentions the ongoing case against Keleş and Aslan, was accepted by the court, which ruled to merge the two case files.

During the February 22 hearing, both Keleş and Aslan rejected the accusations against them. The journalists’ lawyer requested the lifting of the judicial control terms imposed on Keleş and Aslan, who were released pending trial on November 21, 2017, during the first hearing of their trial, after around eight months of pretrial detention.

The court rejected the lawyer’s request and adjourned the trial to June 5.

Defense statements in “FETÖ media” trial to continue in March

The 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on February 23, 2018, continued hearing final defense statements in what was the second session of the latest hearing in the case publicly known as the “FETÖ media trial,” in which 26 defendants, including former T24 columnist Murat Aksoy and former singer and newspaper columnist Atilla Taş, are standing trial on “membership in a terrorist organization” charges.

Five of the defendants, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Cihan Acar, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Habib Güler and Halil İbrahim Balta, gave their final defense statements on the second day of the hearing, monitored by P24 at the courtroom.

A detailed report on the hearing can be found here.

845 taken into custody for social media posts

The Interior Ministry announced on February 26 that a total of 845 individuals have been taken into custody in connection with social media posts and/or demonstrations against Turkey’s ongoing military operation on the Syrian town of Afrin since the launch of the operation on January 20. In its weekly press statement posted Monday on its official website, the ministry said that it has identified “648 incidents of propaganda over social media” since the launch of the operation until the week of February 26.

3 Academics for Peace handed down prison sentences

Three academics who signed a 2016 petition calling for peace received prison sentences of 1 year and 3 months each on February 23, at the second hearing of the cases against them. The sentences were suspended.

The 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul handed down Istanbul University academics Ayda Rona Aylin Altınay Cingöz, Ezgi Pınar and Professor İzzettin Önder 1 year and 3 months in jail on the charge of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

The sentences marked the first verdicts to be issued in the “academics trials,” opened into more than 100 academics who signed the same petition, on the same charges.

Halkın Günlüğü reporter jailed pending trial 

Sertan Önal, a local reporter based in Tunceli for the magazine Halkın Günlüğü, was sent to prison by an Istanbul court, the magazine reported on February 25. Önal, who was taken into custody by police on February 23 in the Gazi neighborhood in Istanbul’s Sultangazi district, was initially sent to Metris Prison to be later transferred to Silivri. The grounds for his arrest included the Newroz celebrations he attended to cover as a reporter.

The jailing of Sertan Önal pending trial has brought the number of journalists in prison in Turkey 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.