Verdict issued in long-running trial into former columnists and editors of Zaman daily; indictment against jailed reporter Berzan Güneş accepted 

 

An Istanbul court on July 6 convicted six former Zaman columnists and editors of “membership in a terrorist organization” while acquitting five of the defendants in the long-running case.

The 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul found columnists Ahmet Turan Alkan, Ali Bulaç, Şahin Alpay, Mümtazer Türköne, Zaman’s Ankara representative Mustafa Ünal and the newspaper’s night shift editor İbrahim Karayeğen guilty of the “membership in a terrorist group” charge, handing down prison sentences of various lengths between 8 years and 9 months and 10.5 years.

The panel acquitted columnists Lale Sarıibrahimoğlu, Nuriye Ural, İhsan Dağı, editor Mehmet Özdemir and lawyer Orhan Kemal Cengiz of all charges.

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

Jailed reporter Berzan Güneş set for first hearing in August

The indictment against jailed journalist Berzan Güneş has been issued.

Güneş, a reporter for the Mezopotamya news agency, was jailed pending trial on June 11. In pretrial detention in the Şırnak T Type Prison, Güneş will appear before the High Criminal Court of Iğdır on August 7 for the first hearing of his trial.

Güneş is charged with “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” on account of his news stories about Turkey’s military operation on Syria’s Afrin. 

Artı Gerçek’s Fadıl Öztürk appears in court for social media posts

Fadıl Öztürk, a poet and a contributor to the news website Artı Gerçek, appeared in an Izmir court on July 3 for the first hearing of a trial in which he is accused of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” via his social media posts and his articles.

Addressing the 2nd High Criminal Court of Izmir during the trial, Öztürk denied the accusation, while his lawyer, Aysun Akşehirlioğlu, requested for the judicial control measures and the overseas travel ban imposed on Öztürk to be lifted.

Following the defense statements, the prosecutor submitted his final opinion, in which he requested that Öztürk is convicted of “propaganda.” 

Öztürk’s lawyer requested for additional time to prepare a defense statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion. Issuing an interim ruling, the court ruled for the continuation of the judicial control measures imposed on Öztürk and adjourned the trial until October 2, 2018, for the defense statement to be prepared.

Öztürk was taken into custody on January 5 in Izmir based on an arrest and search warrant on grounds that he “conducted propaganda for a terrorist group in his articles.” He was released from custody four days later, on January 9, under judicial control measures.

Court rules non-jurisdiction over Kemal Demir case, sends file to Mersin

Kemal Demir, a former camera operator for TV10, imprisoned since November 2017, appeared before an Istanbul court on July 3 for the first hearing of his trial.

Demir, in pretrial detention in Silivri Prison, is standing trial alongside Kemal Karagöz, another former TV10 employee, in the case.

Addressing the court during the hearing, Demir said he had a family he had to take care of and requested for his release pending trial.

The 28th High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled it had no jurisdiction over the case and ruled to transfer the case file to a high criminal court in Mersin, while also ordering the continuation of Demir’s pretrial detention.

TV10 was closed down by a statutory decree.

Seda Taşkın remains behind bars after second hearing

Jailed Mezopotamya news agency reporter Seda Taşkın, on July 2, appeared before a court in Muş for the second hearing of a trial in which she is indicted for “terrorism propaganda” and “membership in a terrorist group.”

The 2nd High Criminal Court of Muş ruled for the continuation of Taşkın’s pretrial detention and adjourned the trial until September 12, 2018.

For a detailed report on the hearing, monitored by P24, click here. 

2 journalists sentenced to judicial fine for failing to blur photo

The 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul on July 2 sentenced two journalists from Yurt daily to a judicial fine of TL 20,000 on grounds of a news photo featured in a March 2016 edition of the newspaper.

The court found Yurt editors Bahadır Akdeniz and Sibel Köklü guilty because they failed to blur the face of a child victim of a March 19, 2016, suicide attack by ISIS on Istanbul’s Istiklal Street in the said photo.

Other free expression cases of the past week 

  • A court in the central Anatolian city of Nevşehir on July 5 jailed a Nevşehir citizen pending trial on grounds that he “insulted the president” on social media. The suspect had been in custody based on a complaint.
  • Actress Berna Laçin is facing a criminal investigation for “insulting the religious values of the people” in one of her social media posts. Laçin was reacting to the ongoing public debate concerning the reinstitution of capital punishment in Turkey in her Twitter post, which prompted the Istanbul Anadolu Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office to launch the investigation.
  • Stage actor Bülent Bektaş, a conscientious objector, appeared before an Ankara court on July 3 to give his defense statement in a case where he is indicted for his social media posts. The 29th High Criminal Court of Ankara adjourned the trial until November 6, 2018.

 

  • An Istanbul court on June 26 jailed advertising professional Hakan Aykut Nili for “inciting the public to hatred and animosity” on social media. Nili was arrested on June 25, one day after Turkey’s June 24 elections, on grounds of one of his social media posts that included a remark concerning the election results. His lawyer announced on July 6 that Nili has been released pending trial.

List of journalists and media workers in prison 

Following the release of imprisoned journalists Ahmet Turan Alkan and İbrahim Karayeğen at the end of the Zaman trial on July 6, at least 179 journalists and media workers remain behind bars either as convicts or in pretrial detention in Turkey’s prisons.

The full list can be accessed here.