Arrest warrant issued for Sendika.Org editor Ali Ergin Demirhan for his social media posts; trial against German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel gets underway
Police on June 28 raided the Istanbul offices of the news website Sendika.Org as part of an ongoing investigation into Sendika.Org editor Ali Ergin Demirhan.
The raid took place at around 02:15 a.m. and police knocked down the door of the Sendika.Org office to search the premises without any Sendika.Org employees or lawyers present. Sendika.Org lawyers told reporters that the raid was conducted on grounds of an arrest warrant against the website’s editor Demirhan on account of his social media posts, and that an order for his mobile phone to be confiscated was also in place.
“Özgür Gündem raid” trial adjourned until January
On June 29, an Istanbul court continued hearing the trial into 22 journalists who were forcibly taken into custody by the police during a 2016 raid on the offices of the now closed down pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem.
The journalists are charged with resisting arrest and insulting police officers.
Twenty-four journalists were taken into custody during the August 2016 raid, which took place after a court had ordered the closure of the paper. In addition to Özgür Gündem employees, several journalists from other news outlets who were at the scene to cover the raid were also detained. The journalists were later released, however, an indictment was issued against 22 of them, accusing them of resisting arrest and insulting the police officers during the raid, and seeking 8 years and 4 months in prison for each.
Özgür Gündem employees Ender Öndeş, Kemal Bozkurt and Elif Aydoğmuş presented their defense statements during the June 29 hearing at the 5th Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul. All three journalists asked for their mobile phones, confiscated during the investigation phase, to be returned.
The court rejected journalists’ requests and adjourned the trial until January 30, 2019.
Trial against Deniz Yücel gets underway
The first hearing of the trial against Deniz Yücel, the Turkey representative of the German newspaper Die Welt, was held on June 28 at the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
Yücel, who has dual Turkish-German citizenship, is accused of “conducting propaganda for FETÖ/PDY and PKK/KCK” and “inciting the public to hatred and animosity.”
Yücel was represented by his lawyer Veysel Ok during the hearing, monitored by P24. Ok told the court that Yücel was arrested on account of his news stories and that there were numerous translation errors in those articles. Ok requested for his client to be acquitted.
The prosecutor requested that the plea for Yücel’s acquittal was rejected and that Yücel’s statement was taken by the court.
Issuing an interim ruling, the court rejected plea for Yücel’s acquittal and ordered that Yücel’s statement be taken in Germany. The court set December 20, 2018, as the date of the second hearing.
Yücel was arrested in February 2017 in connection with a probe into leaked emails of Energy Minister Berat Albayrak. He was jailed pending trial after 13 days in custody on “terrorism propaganda” and “inciting hatred and enmity” charges. Yücel was released from prison a year later, on February 16, 2018, after the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul accepted the indictment against Yücel.
Evrensel columnist standing trial for “insulting the president”
Evrensel columnist Kamil Tekin Sürek on June 28 appeared before an Istanbul court for the first hearing of a trial in which he is accused of “insulting the president” in an article he wrote titled “Faşist Diktatörlük” (Fascist Dictatorship).
The case was opened following a complaint filed by one of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s lawyers.
Sürek told the Bakırköy 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance that his article had not personally targeted the president, but was about the system, the government and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Erdoğan’s lawyer requested to participate in the trial as plaintiff.
Sürek’s lawyer Devrim Avcı Özkurt also told the court that the said article included criticism aimed at the government as a whole.
Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the judge accepted Erdoğan’s lawyer’s request to be a plaintiff in the case on grounds that the president was “harmed by the crime” and adjourned the trial until October 24, 2018.
Mehmet Altan released from prison by appellate court decision
The 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, an appeals court, ruled on June 27 for Mehmet Altan’s release from prison.
In its ruling concerning the commencement of proceedings as part of the appeal process, the chamber cited the Constitutional Court’s January 11 ruling in favor of Altan as the grounds for his release. The top court had ruled in January that Mehmet Altan’s detention was in violation of his rights to personal liberty and security and freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
The 2nd Criminal Chamber also set September 21, 2018, as the date for the appeal hearing.
A report about the ruling can be accessed here.
Court rejects “Paradise Papers” case against Odatv
An Istanbul court on June 28 rejected a compensation case against the news website Odatv that had been filed by the outgoing Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and his sons Erkam and Bülent Yıldırım.
The Yıldırım family were seeking a total of TL 500,000 in non-pecuniary damages from Odatv owner Soner Yalçın and Responsible News Manager Barış Terkoğlu on grounds that Odatv’s reporting about the leaked “Paradise Papers” documents “violated their personal rights.”
In the written defense submitted to the Anadolu 28th Civil Court of First Instance of Istanbul, Odatv lawyer Tugay Topbaş said the documents referred to in Odatv’s reporting were neither classified nor did they include insulting comments or libel about the Yıldırım family. The lawyer requested that the court rejects the case for the sake of freedom of the press.
The Anadolu 28th Civil Court of First Instance of Istanbul rejected the case at the third hearing.
Taraf “MGK report” trial adjourned until October
The 15th hearing in the trial of former Taraf reporter Mehmet Baransu and responsible managing editor Murat Şevki Çoban, who are accused of obtaining classified documents and exposing secret information pertaining to the security of state, was held on June 27.
The Istanbul Anadolu 10th High Criminal Court is hearing the case which is related to a news report published in Taraf on November 28, 2013, titled “Gülen’i Bitirme Kararı 2004’te MGK’da Alındı” (Decision to finish off Gülen taken by MGK in 2004). The story said the Fethullah Gülen network was listed as a threat in a National Security Council (MGK) meeting that year. Both journalists face up to 52 years in prison for a variety of charges as part of the case, including divulging state secrets and exposing documents of the National Intelligence Agency (MİT).
Addressing the court during the hearing, monitored by P24, Baransu requested that the court send a writ to the General Staff for some documents to refer to in his defense statement. The court rejected that plea.
Baransu’s lawyer Yahya Engin requested additional time as he had been recently appointed to the case after Baransu’s previous lawyer resigned. The court accepted the lawyer’s request for additional time and adjourned the trial until October 17, 2018.
Other free expression cases of the past week
- On June 29, former Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Eren Erdem was jailed pending trial by an Istanbul court as part of a case in which some of the accusations against Erdem are based on his time as the editor in chief of the now closed down Karşı newspaper. Erdem was arrested in the early hours of June 29 in Ankara and was later brought to Istanbul to appear before the 35th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which had issued an arrest warrant for Erdem the day before on grounds of “flight risk.” Erdem told the court that he was being prosecuted “for reporting about [the corruption probes of] December 17-25.” He said the indictment claimed that the Karşı newspaper was published by a printing company owned by the Fethullah Gülen network, but that the Aydınlık newspaper too was printed at the same facility. Following his statement, the court ruled to jail Erdem pending trial. Erdem was sent to the Silivri Prison. The indictment accuses Erdem of “aiding an armed terrorist organization without being its member,” “revealing the identity of a secret witness” and “violating the confidentiality of an investigation.” Among the grounds for the accusations are that he was in possession of documents concerning the MİT trucks operation and that he visited Zaman newspaper’s head office as an act of solidarity on the day the newspaper was raided by police. The court had previously set September 19, 2018, as the date for the first hearing of the case against Erdem.
- An İzmir court on June 27 jailed five individuals on grounds that they insulted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during an election rally in İzmir by the opposition candidate Muharrem İnce. The arrests brought the total number of people jailed pending trial on the same accusation as part of the same investigation to 12.
List of journalists and media workers in prison
Following Mehmet Altan’s release from Silivri Prison on June 27, there are still at least 181 journalists and media workers either in pretrial detention or serving a sentence Turkey’s prisons.
The full list can be accessed here.