On May 16, the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court handed down prison sentences to human rights defender and journalist Murat Çelikkan and academic Beyza Üstün on charges of “terror propaganda” for symbolically editing pro-Kurdish Özgür Gündem for a day as part of a solidarity campaign with the daily, now shuttered.
The court, which tried Çelikkan and Üstün in two separate cases, sentenced Çelikkan to one and a half years in prison under Article 7 of the Anti-Terror Law. Judges refused to reduce the prison term or suspend its execution on the grounds that “the defendant did not show sufficient remorse.” Professor Üstün, on the other hand, was handed down a 15-month suspended prison sentence.
First hearing in Çorum journalists’ trial, 1 released
On Tuesday, six local journalists charged with “membership of a terrorist group” appeared before a court at the first hearing of their trial in the central Anatolian province of Çorum.
The Çorum 2nd High Criminal Court ordered continuation of the detention of five defendants, while releasing one on judicial control. The journalists, who were arrested in August on charges of “membership of FETÖ/PDY terrorist organization,” are former executives of two local newspapers that were subsequently closed down and former employees of the shuttered Zaman newspaper. They were identified in news reports as newspaper executives Lokman E., Nadir Y., and Murat Ö., who was released, and former Zaman employees Musa A., İdris O., and Burçin D.
Each defendant faces up to 10 years in jail.
DİHA correspondent released from jail
Nine people, including former correspondent of the now-defunct Dicle News Agency (DİHA) Mazlum Dolan, were released pending trial at the end of a hearing of their trial in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır on Tuesday.
Dolan was detained along with dozens of other people who were reportedly stranded during a curfew and clashes in Diyarbakır’s Sur district in February. Dolan’s lawyer said at the hearing that Dolan was in Sur as a journalist and that he was arrested for reporting events there.
P24 has updated its list of the journalists in prison in Turkey upon the release of Dolan and Murat Ö. in Çorum and in the light of newly available information. The detailed list of all imprisoned journalists can be viewed here.
New application to ECtHR for imprisoned journalists
Lawyers of two imprisoned journalists, Mahir Kanaat of Birgün daily and former news editor of Diken news portal Tunca Öğreten, applied to the European Court of Human Rights, Birgün reported on May 16.
Kanaat and Öğreten were first arrested on December 24, 2016 in connection with an investigation into the leaked e-mails of Turkey’s Energy Minister Berat Albayrak and were jailed pending trial some 24 days later on terrorism charges. Lawyers for Kanaat and Öğreten filed individual applications with the Constitutional Court on their behalf on March 6.
Letter from imprisoned journalist: I’ve been in solitary for weeks
Nedim Türfent, a local correspondent for the shuttered Dicle News Agency (DİHA) who has been jailed on terrorism charges since May 13, 2016, said in a letter published on Tuesday that he has been held in solitary confinement for 21 days in a high-security prison in the eastern province of Van.
Türfent was transferred to Van T-Type High Security Prison on April 26. In his letter to DİHABER news agency, Türfent said he has been held in a small cell since his transfer to the Van prison. His requests to be moved to one of three-inmate rooms have been rejected by the prison administration, claiming that all these rooms are occupied. Türfent also complained that he has not been given any book yet from the prison library.
Ahmet Altan presents defense in insult case
Renowned journalist and novelist Ahmet Altan presented his defense on May 16 before the Istanbul 30th Penal Court of First Instance in an “insult” case. Altan, currently held in pre-trial detention in a different case, is accused of “insulting the president” in an article titled “Yeni Ergenekon” (New Ergenekon), which was published in Punto24 Platform for Independent Journalism (P24) website on June 13, 2016. He faces up to 4 years and 8 months in jail if convicted.
Altan said in his defense that the article did not contain any insult or personal reference, insisting instead, that it expresses criticism of certain policies and those who implement these policies. “Tyranny is what’s left if you remove criticism from politics,” said Altan.
The court decided to adjourn the trial to September 28 at the end of the hearing.
Wikipedia decision to be taken to Constitutional Court
Anti-censorship and anti-self censorship group Susma Platform said on May 16 that it is preparing to file an application with the Constitutional Court against an Ankara court decision to block access to Wikipedia. Susma Platform has earlier applied to a local court to get the decision reversed but that application was rejected on the ground that the earlier decision to block access to Wikipedia was justified.
Municipality culture magazine shut down
On May 16, the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality (İBB) announced that it was shutting down its cultural publication “1453 İstanbul Culture and Arts Magazine,” because of a photograph published in the latest issue of the magazine which featured the slogan “Erdo-Gone! İnşallah - Maşallah” appearing as graffiti on a city wall.
The magazine is published by Kültür A.Ş, an İBB-owned company.
In a statement about the closure, İBB said: “The ‘1453 İstanbul Culture and Arts magazine published by Kültür A.Ş has been shut down due to the content lacking in reason and sense featured in its latest issue. The contracts of the Publication Coordinator, Managing Editor and editor of the magazine have been terminated. Charges will be filed against those responsible for the inane, disrespectful and provocative content.”
For a full list of journalists or press workers in Turkish prisons serving a conviction or awaiting trial under arrest click here.