Şahin Alpay was released but placed under house arrest, while two other journalists were jailed pending trial
After nearly 20 months behind bars, journalist Şahin Alpay was released on March 17 but placed under house arrest following a second Constitutional Court ruling against his pre-trial detention.
The Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court, which oversees Alpay’s ongoing trial on coup charges, ruled to release Alpay late on March 16, hours after the Constitutional Court ruling. The same court had refused to release Alpay after the top court’s first ruling on January 11, which said his pre-trial detention amounted to rights violation.
A more detailed report on Alpay’s release can be accessed here.
Prosecutor seeks prison terms for Cumhuriyet journalists
The prosecutor submitted his final opinion in the Cumhuriyet case at the seventh hearing of the trial, held on March 16.
The prosecutor requested up to 15 years in prison for 13 journalists and executives of the newspaper, including Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu, investigative reporter Ahmet Şık and columnist Kadri Gürsel, for “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.”
A more detailed report on the hearing can be reached here.
Özgür Gündem reporter Göktaş arrested
Mustafa Göktaş, a local reporter for the shuttered Özgür Gündem daily, was imprisoned pending trial in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa on March 16 on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “spreading propaganda” after spending 14 days in police custody.
Göktaş was arrested during a regular police security control in Istanbul on the grounds that an arrest warrant had been issued against him. He was brought to the anti-terrorism police department in the city of Şanlıurfa. He remained in custody for 13 days before his statement was taken by the prosecutor.
Göktaş was sent to a prison facility in Şanlıurfa following the court decision.
Özgür Gündem trials postponed
Eight journalists who face “terrorism propaganda” charges for their participation in a solidarity campaign with Özgür Gündem newspaper and nine columnists and employees of the shuttered daily were on trial again on March 15 at the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court in two separate cases.
Both trials were adjourned until May 7.
The nine columnists and other employees of Özgür Gündem consist of Reyhan Çapan, Eren Keskin, Ayşe Batumlu, Nuray Özdoğan, Ayşe Berktay, Reyhan Hacıoğlu, Celalettin Can, Hüseyin Aykol and Filiz Koçali. The court agreed to give time to the defense to respond to the prosecutor’s final opinion, which was presented in the previous hearing.
The prosecutor had requested prison terms for co-editors-in-chief of the newspaper, Eren Keskin and Hüseyin Aykol, and responsible managing editor Reyhan Çapan on the charge of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization,” while stating that there was no ground for sentencing the rest.
At the Özgür Gündem solidarity hearing, which was also overseen by the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court on the same day, the court sent the case file to the prosecutor’s office so that the prosecutor’s final opinion could be prepared. Defendants in the case are Faruk Eren, Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, Celal Başlangıç, Ömer Ağın, İhsan Çaralan, Celalettin Can, Fehim Işık and Öncü Akgül, who symbolically edited Özgür Gündem for a day as part of a solidarity campaign with the daily in the summer of 2016. The newspaper was eventually closed down with an emergency decree in October 2016.
Fifth hearing in MİT trucks report case
The fifth hearing in a case, where former Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar, the newspaper’s Ankara representative Erdem Gül and the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Enis Berberoğlu are on trial on “terrorism” charges in connection with a report on the 2014 interception of Syria-bound trucks operated by the National Intelligence Agency (MİT), was held on March 14 at the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court.
Berberoğlu, who was convicted and jailed for “espionage” in connection with the same report that was published in Cumhuriyet, attended the hearing through court videoconferencing system SEGBİS. Gül, who is not imprisoned, also attended the hearing.
The court ruled that two appeals rulings, handed down by an Istanbul appellate court and the Supreme Court of Appeals, shall be awaited.
The appellate court ruling concerns Berberoğlu’s earlier conviction on the charge of espionage. The appeal court overturned the lower court ruling which sentenced Berberoğlu to 25 years in jail and handed down a prison term of 5 years and 10 months as a result of a retrial. The Supreme Court of Appeals ruling, on the other hand, concerns an earlier ruling that convicted Gül and Dündar of “exposing secret documents.” The supreme court overturned that ruling, saying Dündar should have been convicted of the more serious charge of “obtaining classified information for espionage purposes” while stating that Gül should have been acquitted.
The Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court decided to adjourn the trial until May 9.
“Defamation” case against journalists postponed
A defamation case launched upon a complaint by former Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ against two journalists, Cumhuriyet daily’s İzmir reporter Hasan Dirik and BirGün daily reporter Erk Acarer, was held at the Istanbul 2nd Civil Court of First Instance on March 15. Both journalists stand trial for reporting on the allegations that raw materials used in the production of sarin gas had been transported to jihadist groups fighting in Syria.
The trial was postponed to September 27, 2018, to hear the testimony of Acarer, who couldn’t attend the trial as he was in Germany. Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Eren Erdem was also summoned to be heard as a witness.
“Paradise Papers trial” begins
The first hearing in a compensation case where two Cumhuriyet journalists are on trial in connection with publication in the daily of reports on Paradise Papers leaks began at an Istanbul court on March 15.
The journalists, reporter Pelin Ünker and columnist and Cumhuriyet Foundation Executive Board Chairman Orhan Erinç, had been sued by by Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and his two sons over two articles related to Paradise Papers leaks. The prime minister and his sons demanded TL 500,000 in compensation for non-pecuniary damages that they said they suffered as a result of the reports.
The trial was postponed to July 17, 2018.
Antropolog magazine editor-in-chief jailed over social media posts
Tolga Kubilay Çelik, the managing editor-in-chief of Antropolog magazine, a magazine on anthropology, was sent to jail pending trial in Kocaeli on March 14. Çelik is also the co-president of a local culture association in Darıca, a district in Kocaeli province east of Istanbul. Çelik, along with three others, was imprisoned pending trial on the charge of “terrorism propaganda.”
Çelik was detained March 9 for “spreading propaganda for several terror organizations,” his lawyer Tamer Doğan told the media. Çelik's Twitter posts dating back to 2012 were used as evidence, Doğan said.
With the imprisonment of Çelik and Özgür Gündem’s Göktaş, and the release of Alpay from prison, the number of journalists in prison has reached 154. The full list can be viewed below and 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.