Çağdaş Kaplan handed down 6-year prison sentence in long-running case; Hayri Demir convicted for his social media posts 

A court in Sakarya on May 31 sentenced journalist Çağdaş Kaplan to 6 years and 3 months in prison for “membership in a terrorist organization.” Kaplan, who recently became the founding editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper Yeni Yaşam, launched earlier in May, was also handed down a travel ban pending the appeal process.

A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.

Court lifts Çağdaş Erdoğan’s travel ban

Photojournalist Çağdaş Erdoğan on June 1 appeared before an Istanbul court for the second hearing of a trial in which he stands accused of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization,” facing up to 22.5 years in prison. 

P24 monitored the hearing at the 33rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul. 

Addressing the court during the hearing, Erdoğan said he was not linked with any terrorist group, adding that he believed he would be acquitted of the charges eventually. “I have four upcoming exhibitions abroad in the next couple of months,” Erdoğan said, requesting the court to lift the travel ban imposed on him as a judicial control measure.

The court ruled for the lifting of the travel ban imposed on Erdoğan and exempted him from attending the hearings. The trial was adjourned until November 2, 2018.

Erdoğan was arrested on September 2, 2017, while taking photos in Istanbul’s Kadıköy district. Accused of photographing a social facility for the employees of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), Erdoğan was imprisoned 11 days later. He remained in detention on remand for more than 5 months before the trial court ruled for his release at the end of his first hearing on February 13, 2018.

Journalists to appear in court for publishing Afrin statement

A prosecutor in the Aegean town of Didim is pressing charges against three local journalists for reporting on an anti-war press statement. The statement by representatives from the local branch of Turkey’s Labour Party (EMEP) was about Turkey’s military operation on Syria’s Afrin.

Mustafa Öge, the owner of the local newspaper Didim Özgürses, Ergün Korkmaz, who owns the newspaper Mavi Didim, and Erdem Özden, an employee for Mavi Didim, as well as the district chair of EMEP, Kazım Temiz, are indicted for “inciting the public” and are set to appear before a Didim court on June 22 for the first hearing of their case.

Yusuf Karataş trial adjourned until November

Yusuf Karataş, a columnist for Evrensel daily, on May 30 appeared in the third hearing of a trial against him at the 9th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır. The trial is one of many such cases that were opened on account of audio recordings of speeches delivered by participants during Democratic Society Congress (DTK) meetings.

Karataş was arrested and jailed in July 2017 as part of the investigation into DTK and was released pending trial on September 22. Karataş faces up to 22.5 years in prison on charges of “establishing and leading a terrorist group.”

Karataş and his lawyer were in attendance at the May 30 hearing, monitored by P24. Karataş demanded that the judicial control measure imposed on him be lifted. The court rejected Karataş’s request but ruled to reduce the judicial control from once every 15 days to once a month, and adjourned the trial until November 21, 2018.

Sözcü trial adjourned 

The third hearing of the Sözcü trial, in which four executives and reporters of the daily stand accused of terrorism-related charges, was held on May 30 at the Istanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan.

Sözcü’s web editor Mediha Olgun, Financial Affairs Manager Yonca Yücekaleli, İzmir correspondent Gökmen Ulu and owner Burak Akbay are indicted in the case. Akbay is accused of “leading an armed terror organization,” while the other three are accused of “aiding the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization [FETÖ] while not being its members.” An arrest warrant has been issued for Akbay, who is abroad.

None of the defendants were in attendance at the May 30 hearing, monitored by P24 and representatives from the Turkish Journalists Union (TGS).

Akbay’s lawyer Celal Ülgen requested for additional time for defense statements during the hearing. Lawyers also requested for the travel bans imposed on Ulu and Olgun to be lifted and the lifting of the arrest warrant for Akbay. The 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul rejected the requests and adjourned the trial until November 7, 2018, awaiting the execution of the arrest warrant for Akbay.

The accusations in the indictment mostly owe to a news report uploaded on the newspaper’s website on the day of the July 15, 2016, coup attempt, showing that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was holidaying in Marmaris. The prosecutor claimed Sözcü had assisted putschists locate the president.

Hayri Demir handed down prison sentence for social media posts

A court in Diyarbakır on May 29 convicted Hayri Demir of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” on social media, handing down the journalist a suspended prison sentence of 1 year, 6 months and 22 days.

Demir did not attend the hearing at the 5th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır, which issued its verdict despite the fact that Demir’s lawyers had yet to make their final defense statement.

The court deemed four Facebook posts by Demir about slain journalists as “propaganda” material, the Mezopotamya news agency reported.

Ali Ergin Demirhan briefly detained in Istanbul 

Sendika.org editor Ali Ergin Demirhan was taken into custody by the police on May 28 on grounds that he “conducted terrorism propaganda.” The accusation was based on content featured on the website Sendika.org, including an article headlined “We can stop the dictatorship” and cartoons by Carlos Latuff, as well as Demirhan’s social media posts. Demirhan was released the same day following his statement before the prosecutor at the Istanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan.

Other freedom of expression cases of the past week

  • On May 29, Çayan Demirel and Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, the co-directors of the documentary Bakur (North), appeared before a Batman court for the first hearing of the case in which they stand accused of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” in the movie. The 2015 documentary is about the PKK’s withdrawal during the “Peace Process.” During the hearing, monitored by P24 and Susma, Rozerin Seda Kip, the lawyer representing Demirel and Mavioğlu, submitted to the 2nd High Criminal Court of Batman an expert opinion issued by the London-based NGO Article 19 concerning the case. The lawyer also requested for Demirel and Mavioğlu to be exempted from attending the hearings. The court accepted the request and adjourned the trial until October 23, 2018.
  • A Turkish court this week convicted stage actor Cenk Dost Verdi of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization,” and handed down the actor a prison sentence of 2.5 years on account of his social media posts. Verdi was indicted based on a criminal investigation that had been launched following a complaint. Announcing the ruling against him on his social media account, Verdi said the verdict could only be appealed at a regional court due to the ongoing state of emergency.
  • Police in Ankara took 10 individuals into custody during early morning raids on June 1 on the charge of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” in their social media posts. Zeyno Bayramoğlu, a politician from the Ankara branch of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) was among those detained. The operation is part of a criminal investigation launched by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and arrest warrants have been issued for 11 people.

P24 updates its list of jailed journalists

P24 has updated its list of jailed journalists and media workers, a list compiled from open sources using information available to the general public.

It has recently become evident that former TRT employees Cumali Çaygeç and Sezai Yavaş, and former Bugün newspaper reporters Hasan Bozkurt and Metin Arslan have been in pretrial detention as part of ongoing journalist trials in various courts in Ankara. In light of this new information, as of June 1, 2018, there are at least 178 journalists and media workers in Turkey’s prisons either in pretrial detention or serving a sentence.

The full list can be accessed here.