Former TRT executive Ali Ahmet Böken convicted of “membership in an armed terrorist organization” sentenced to 9 years, 9 months in prison

Jailed journalist Ali Ahmet Böken, a former executive for the Turkish public broadcaster TRT, was sentenced to 9 years and 9 months in prison on April 3, 2018, on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” during the final hearing of the trial against him at the 18th High Criminal Court of Ankara.

Böken’s imprisonment on remand will continue during the appeal process, the court also ruled.

In his closing statements, the prosecutor requested between 7.5 years and 15 years in prison for Böken for “membership in FETÖ,” the name given by the Turkish government to the religious Fethullah Gülen network.

Böken said in his defense statement that he didn’t commit any crime and only did his job as a journalist. Böken also said he has never used ByLock, an encrypted mobile messaging application purported to be used exclusively by the members of the Fethullah Gülen network. He only used KakaoTalk, another application under scrutiny, Böken said, adding that his use of the app wasn’t related to the activities of any organization.

“I didn’t do anything other than serving my country,” Böken said, as his lawyers

demanded his acquittal. Böken has been in pretrial detention since August 2016 and was dismissed from the TRT in September 2016.

Hasan Cemal handed down prison sentence for 2013 articles

P24 founding president and T24 columnist Hasan Cemal was sentenced to 3 months and 22 days in prison on April 3, 2018, for a series of articles published in 2013 at the end of the retrial of a case in which he was previously acquitted.

A detailed report about the trial can be found here.

Özgürlükçü Demokrasi editors detained

Five journalist of the pro-Kurdish Özgürlükçü Demokrasi daily, which was seized by the government last week, were taken into custody during police raids on their homes on April 4.

Editors Reyhan Hacıoğlu and Hicran Ürün, journalists Pınar Tarlak and Nedim Demirkıran and a former reporter for the paper, Mehmet Beyazit, were taken into custody during midnight raids, the Mezopotamya news agency reported.

There was no official word as to the grounds for the detentions. Police said a gag order was issued concerning the investigation.

Police raided the Istanbul offices of Özgürlükçü Demokrasi and Gün printing house on March 28. Both the newspaper and the printing house were seized by the banking system watchdog Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF).

Mücadele Birliği and Önsöz editors jailed 

Three journalists who were among six individuals taken into custody on March 23 during police raids on the offices of Mücadele Birliği newspaper and Önsöz magazine were jailed on March 30 pending trial.

Önsöz Editor in Chief Songül Yücel, Mücadele Birliği Editor in Chief Süleyman Acar and reporter Serpil Ünal were arrested on account of their social media posts alongside three readers of the Önsöz magazine. All six gave thier statements before a prosecutor on March 30, after which they were referred to a court for arrest. The court arrested all six on “membership in a terrorist group” charges.

Acar was sent to Metris Prison and Yücel was sent to Bakırköy Women’s Prison.

Journalist Çağdaş Kaplan risks up to 15 years in prison

A prosecutor has sought up to 15 years in prison on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” for Çağdaş Kaplan, an editor for the online newspaper Gazete Karınca.

Submitting his final opinion during the latest hearing of an ongoing case against the journalist at the Sakarya 2nd High Criminal Court in March, the prosecutor requested that Kaplan is convicted for “terrorist group membership” based on the allegation that the journalist had “direct ties with TV stations and websites through which the terrorist group broadcasts.”

The allegation and the case stem from a criminal investigation launched into the journalist following a news story he penned in 2010, during his time as a reporter for the shuttered Dicle News Agency (DİHA), concerning investigations the administrators of a school in Sakarya launched into the Kurdish students of the school.

Kaplan had been taken into custody as part of the investigation, and was released four days later by the Chief Public Prosecutor.

The court is expected to issue its verdict in the next hearing of the case, which is scheduled for May 31.

Police raid Mezopotamya agency reporter’s house, detain his father

Police raided the house of Mezopotamya news agency reporter Berzan Güneş in the eastern province of Iğdır on April 4. Güneş was not home during the raid, conducted on grounds of an arrest warrant against the journalist. Police detained Güneş’s father, Ahmet Güneş (68) on grounds of several books they found during the search.

TL 1.5 mln compensation case against Çiğdem Toker to begin June 19

The first hearing in a lawsuit filed by Agrobay, a Turkish agricultural company, against Cumhuriyet journalist Çiğdem Toker, seeking a record TL 1.5 million in non-pecuniary damages for an article she wrote in November 2017, will be held on June 19, 2018, at Ankara’s 1st Civil Court of First Instance.

Toker’s article concerned Turkish agricultural companies approved to export tomatoes to Russia following the lifting of restrictions Russia imposed on Turkey after Turkey downed a Russian jet fighter in November 2015.

Agrobay’s executives claimed Toker’s article “destroyed the company’s public image” and “damaged its commercial standing.” The 1st Civil Court of First Instance of Ankara accepted the case file in January.

Court orders red notice issued for journalist Can Dündar

The Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court on April 2 issued an arrest warrant against the former editor in chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper Can Dündar and ordered that Turkey asks Interpol to issue red notice for the exiled journalist as part of the case concerning the newspaper’s publishing of a news story and images of National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks that allegedly carried weapons to insurgents in Syria in 2014.

The Second Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals had recently reversed a previous court decision that sentenced Dündar to five years and 10 months in prison for “disclosing classified information” concerning the publication of the news report, saying Dündar should be accused with “espionage” charges in the case.

The Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court issued the arrest warrant and the Interpol red notice order upon receiving the case file for retrial.

The court also set May 7, 2018, as the date of the first hearing in the retrial.

Other violations of freedom of expression 

Professor Zübeyde Füsun Üstel, from Galatasaray University, and Associate Professor Veli Polat, from İstanbul University, two academics facing “terrorism propaganda” charges on grounds that they signed a 2016 declaration by the Academics for Peace initiative, were each sentenced to 1 year and 3 months in prison on April 4. Polat’s sentence was suspended. The hearings took place at the 32nd and 14th High Criminal Courts of Istanbul at the Istanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan.

The 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul acquitted Şanar Yurdatapan and Doğan Özkan of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” charges on April 3 at the final hearing of the trial against the two rights defenders. Yurdatapan and Özkan were on trial for protesting the arbitrary detentions of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu, Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) President Şebnem Korur Fincancı and writer Ahmet Nesin.

Nine of the 16 Boğaziçi University students who were taken into custody in late March after protesting against a rally on the school campus in support of Turkey’s ongoing military operation on Syria’s Afrin, were jailed pending trial on April 3. The students were jailed on the charge of “spreading terrorist propaganda.” Six of the students were released on judicial control terms.

List of journalists in prison 

Following the imprisonment of Mücadele Birliği and Önsöz editors and reporter on March 30, the number of journalists in prison on remand or as convicts has gone up to at least 154. For the full list, click here.