Executives of the shuttered Hayatın Sesi television appeared before a court on May 30 for the first hearing of their trial on charges of terror propaganda.
Two of the three executives on trial, Mustafa Kara and İsmail Gökhan Bayram, presented their defense at the hearing, which was held at Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court, while Gökhan Çetin did not attend the session on health grounds. Kara, Bayram and Çetin are charged with “collectively making continual propaganda for a terrorist organization” based on five broadcasts in 2015 and 2016 covering three bombing attacks in Turkey, military operations in the southeastern district of Cizre and abduction of Turks working in Iraq by Shiite militants. They each face up to 7.5 years in prison if convicted.
Kara and Bayram both rejected the accusation that the broadcasts amounted to propaganda for different, and rival, terrorist organizations. Kara said he was charged with terror propaganda even though he, as a company owner, had no involvement in setting the editorial policy.
Bayram, for his part, said Hayatın Sesi always maintained an editorial policy that praised peace and rejected violence while he personally never condoned or made propaganda for terrorism.
The court turned down a request to reject the indictment and scheduled the next hearing for November 7.
BirGün executives sent to prison
Two executives of the leftist opposition BirGün daily, İbrahim Aydın and Berkant Gültekin, were sent to a prison in the northwestern province of Kırklareli on May 29 to serve a prison sentence handed down earlier.
Aydın and Gültekin were sentenced to 21 months in prison for a news story that the court deemed contained “insult to the president.” They are expected to be released in the coming days under recently amended laws which grant release on probation for those who have been given a prison term of less than 24 months.
Two journalists released in Antalya
Two journalists, Bizim Antalya local news website owner Olgun Matur and Antalya correspondent of the shuttered Zaman daily Özkan Mayda, were released pending trial on May 24.
Mayda and Matur are charged with “terrorist group membership,” along with 15 other people. They were released at the end of a hearing held at Antalya 2nd High Criminal Court.
The court also imposed a travel ban on Mayda and Matur and decided to adjourn trial until October 6.
French journalist held in Turkey ends hunger strike
French photojournalist Mathias Depardon, who was arrested on May 8 in the southeastern province of Batman and has been detained in a repatriation center in Gaziantep for three weeks, ended a hunger strike on May 27.
Christophe Deloire, the secretary general of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), announced the news of Depardon ending his hunger strike on his Twitter account. Deloire wrote that the French photojournalist ended his hunger strike “after he learned that a visit by a diplomat would be allowed.”
Depardon was arrested in Hasankeyf, a district in Batman, while doing a report for National Geographic magazine. He was transferred on May 9 to a repatriation center operated by the Directorate for Migration Affairs in Gaziantep, where he has remained ever since. On May 11, authorities issued an order for his deportation but he has remained in detention since then.
German officials allowed to visit journalist in prison
Turkish authorities have allowed German officials to visit Meşale Tolu, a German journalist for Etkin Haber Ajansı (ETHA) who is imprisoned in Turkey, German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said on May 29.
Tolu was arrested on April 30 in a police raid of her home in Istanbul and was placed in pre-trial detention on “terror propaganda” charges on May 6.
Schaefer said detention conditions of Tolu will be examined during the visit, which is planned to take place on June 2.