Former responsible managing editor and publisher of Evrensel fined for “insulting the president”; up to 7.5 years in prison sought for writer Eliaçık

Vural Nasuhbeyoğlu, the former responsible managing editor of the Evrensel daily, and Mehmet Arif Koşar, the newspaper’s former publisher, on March 29, were each handed down one year in prison for “insulting the president” in a news story published in the newspaper on October 14, 2015. The Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance then commuted both sentences to a fine of TL 7,000.

Koşar and Nasuhbeyoğlu did not attend the hearing, where they were represented by the newspaper’s lawyer, Devrim Avcı. The lawyer told the court that the news story, which reported on the reactions from 16 Latin American political parties in the wake of the deadly suicide bombing of October 10, 2015, in Ankara, should be seen as exercising the freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

Avcı said the case was opened after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordered the removal of a previous order issued by a public prosecutor that held that the said news story did not include any expressions that amounted to insult.

“This verdict proves that the press is not free in Turkey,” Avcı said, adding that they would appeal the verdict.

Özgürlükçü Demokrasi responsible managing editor taken into custody

İshak Yasul, the responsible managing editor of the Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper, whose head office in Istanbul was raided by police earlier in the week, was taken into custody on March 30.

More than 20 employees of both the newspaper and Gün Matbaa, the printing company which prints the newspaper, had been detained during the raids, conducted as part of an investigation launched into the paper by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on allegations of the newspaper’s ties with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Those in custody are accused of “membership in an armed terrorist group” and “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization.” A Criminal Judgeship of Peace had also appointed a board of trustees to both Özgürlükçü Demokrasi and Gün Matbaa.

Printing companies ordered not to print Welat newspaper 

In a related development, the March 30, 2018, edition of the Kurdish-language newspaper Welat, which used to be printed by the same printing company as Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, could not be printed due to the company being seized by the government. The newspaper’s Friday edition was instead printed through xerox.

The Mezopotamya news agency reported that other newspaper printing companies contacted by Welat executives refused to print the newspaper as they had received “orders not to print” Welat.

Eren Keskin, Reyhan Çapan handed down 7.5 years in prison each

Lawyer Eren Keskin, who briefly served as the co-editor-in-chief of the shuttered pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem, and the newspaper’s former managing editor Reyhan Çapan were each sentenced to a total of 7.5 years in prison in two separate trials against them.

A detailed report about the March 29 hearings can be found here.

Case against Murat Aksoy dismissed 

A non-pecuniary compensation case against journalist Murat Aksoy, launched in December 2015 upon a complaint filed by the executives of the Yeni Şafak newspaper on grounds that the journalist violated their personal rights in a documentary, was dismissed.

The 18th Court of General Jurisdiction of Istanbul on March 30 ruled that Aksoy’s remarks featured in the documentary “Persona non Grata” did not constitute a violation of the personal rights of Yeni Şafak executives and dismissed the case.

Jin News reporter Filiz Zeyrek taken into custody

Filiz Zeyrek, a reporter for the feminist news outlet Jin News, was taken into custody on March 30 in Adana during early morning raids by the police. Zeyrek was detained on the allegation of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist group” in her social media posts. Police also searched the homes of the suspects detained during the raids and confiscated digital material found during the searches. The detainees were taken to the Adana Police Department.

Writer İhsan Eliaçık faces prison term for his articles 

A prosecutor is seeking a prison term of up to seven years and six months for writer and theologian İhsan Eliaçık for allegedly “conducting propaganda for the PKK” in his articles posted online.

Presenting his final opinion during the latest hearing of the trial against Eliaçık on March 28 at the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, the prosecutor alleged that the writer and theologian had attempted to create a negative public image of the operations conducted by state security forces. Some of the articles penned by Eliaçık were also included in the prosecutor’s final opinion.

The court adjourned the trial to allow time for Eliaçık’s defense statement to be ready.

Özgürlükçü Demokrasi and Welat distributor briefly detained 

Mizgin Fendik, a Van-based distributor for the Özgürlükçü Demokrasi and Welat newspapers, was briefly detained on March 29 by the police.

Mezopotamya news agency reported that Fendik was taken into custody early on March 29 on Maraş Street as she was distributing the Welat newspaper to its subscribers. She was released from custody a few hours later.

Azadiya Welat distributors acquitted 

Twelve distributors of the shuttered Kurdish-language newspaper Azadiya Welat, who were among 24 distributors of the paper detained during a raid on the the paper’s head office on August 28, 2016, were acquitted of “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization” charge during the second hearing of the case against them on March 28 at the 10th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır.

The Mezopotamya news agency reported that distributors Hamdullah Bayram, Hayat Yılmaz, Mehmet Emin Kaya, Pusat Bulut, Mecrum Tekol, Ziyan Karahan, Ercan Yeltaş, Esra Solin Dal, Mehmet Aydın, Mehmet Emin Akgün, Cengiz Aslan and Ahmet Kızılay are acquitted due to a lack of substantial evidence that they had committed the alleged offense. The 12 were standing trial in groups of three for distributing the newspaper. They each faced up to 15 years imprisonment.

Academics issue “Turkey: Freedom of Expression in Jeopardy” report 

Academics Yaman Akdeniz and Kerem Altıparmak have jointly issued a report on the state of freedom of expression in Turkey titled “Freedom of Expression in Jeopardy: Violations of the Rights of Authors, Publishers and Academics under the State of Emergency.”

Akdeniz presented the report, compiled for English PEN and issued in both Turkish and English languages, on March 28 at the Free Word Centre in London.

The report highlights that Turkey is currently “going through a period in which anyone thought to be in the opposition, including but not limited to academics, members of the parliament, artists, journalists and writers, can be investigated, arrested and prosecuted for disseminating terrorist propaganda or for being a member of a terrorist organization.”

The report also provides a detailed account of the circumstances faced by 80 writers being investigated, 77 of whom are journalists in its section titled “Violations against Publishers and Writers.”

The English version of the report can be reached 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.