Two journalists released in RedHack trial while no one was released in coup trial where 20 journalists are imprisoned
Journalists Tunca Öğreten and Mahir Kanaat, who had been imprisoned for 323 days for reporting on leaked e-mails of Turkey’s Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, were released on December 6 in the second hearing of the trial where they face terrorism charges.
The court imposed a foreign travel ban on the two journalists. They will also have to check in with their local police stations twice a week.
BirGün employee Mahir Kanaat, Dicle News Agency (DİHA) News Editor Ömer Çelik, former Diken editor Tunca Öğreten, DİHA reporter Metin Yoksu, ETHA Managing Editor Derya Okatan and owner of the copyrights to Yolculuk newspaper Eray Saygın were taken into police custody on December 25, 2016 on charges of reporting on e-mails of Albayrak, which were hacked by a group that calls itself RedHack and as such being a part of a “psychological operation to form public perceptions”. Yoksun, Okatan and Sezgin were released after 24 days in custody while Kanaat, Çelik and Öğreten were placed in pre-trial detention.
Çelik was released in the first hearing of the trial, held on October 24, 2017. No defendant remains in jail following the release of Öğreten and Kanaat.
The case of a seventh journalist, Deniz Yücel from Die Welt, who was also arrested initially as part of the same investigation was separated from the RedHack investigation. Yücel is now facing charges of “conducting terrorist propaganda” and “inciting the public to hatred and hostility,” although no indictment has so far been prepared for the journalist, who has been behind bars since February 27, 2017.
“I have worked in every challenging and dangerous branch of journalism including war reporting. But I have never felt in such danger,” Öğreten told the court at the second hearing, followed by P24. Denying once again having any links with any terrorist organization, Öğreten said: “I have been deprived of my liberty, my wife for a year because of a slanderer.”
“I cannot give an answer to the question of why we have been in jail for a year, when I think in terms of the universal principles of law, freedom of expression and the press, and the principles of journalism. Apparently, you don’t have the answer either,” he told the court.
No release in "FETÖ media" trial
On December 3-4, the Istanbul 25th High Criminal Court continued hearing the trial of 29 journalists, including Murat Aksoy and former Meydan newspaper columnist Atilla Taş in a case where the defendants stand accused of having acted as the media arm of the “Fethullahist Terror Organization,” or “FETÖ”, the name given by Turkish authorities to the Islamist network led by Fethullah Gülen which Turkey says was behind the coup d’état attempt of July 15, 2016.
Not a single one of the 20 journalists who are imprisoned in the case was released in the trial. P24 monitored the trial inside the courtroom.
The trial was adjourned until February 6.
The latest hearing lasted two days. Six witnesses for the prosecution testified, responding to questions about Bünyamin Köseli, a journalist who was released in the previous trial, Sait Sefa -- who has at large status -- and the imprisoned journalists Bayram Kaya, Ahmet Memiş and Muhammed Sait Kuloğlu.
A witness said Bünyamin Köseli, who formerly worked for the shuttered Aksiyon newsweekly, had collected money for the Gülen network. However, the same witness said he only had heard such rumors and had no first-hand information on that claim. Another witness said Zaman reporter Bayram Kaya attended chat meetings organized by supporters of Fethullah Gülen in 2006. However, Kaya said he was in London in 2005 and 2006.
Another witness, who connected via videoconferencing to the courtroom, said he didn’t have enough information, in response to a question on whether defendant Muhammed Sait Kuloğlu was related to the Gülen network.
Former employees of the Haberdar news website -- founded by Sait Sefa, who is believed to be abroad -- also testified about Sait Sefa and Haberdar employee Ahmet Memiş. The witnesses said they had no information about any “FETÖ” links the website might have had.
Defendants Seyit Kılıç and Ufuk Şanlı objected to reports showing their call history, pointing out to many discrepancies in the records. The two journalists are accused of having used an encrypted messaging application that authorities say was used exclusively by members of the Gülen network.
İbrahim Balta, a finance reporter for the shuttered Zaman daily, asked for his release citing health reasons.
Intense schedule of journalist and academic trials
More than 70 journalists are appearing before judges in a series of ongoing trials while some 46 academics are also set to have their first day in court as trials of the Academics for Peace group get under way.
Here is a list of the trials between the dates December 4 and December 15:
December 4: The latest hearing in the trial of 29 people, including ex-singer Atilla Taş and journalist Murat Aksoy, was held. The two-day hearing was concluded on December 5.
December 4: The sixth hearing of a trial where former executives of the shuttered Taraf daily -- Yasemin Çongar, Ahmet Altan and Yıldıray Oğur – as well as former Taraf correspondent Mehmet Baransu and Tuncay Opçin, face charges relating to publication of confidential state documents, was held at the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court.
December 5: Journalist and writer Ahmet Altan appeared before the Istanbul 21st Criminal Court of First Instance in a case where he faces the charge of “insulting the president.” He appeared before judges of the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court on the same day, at the first hearing of another case where he is charged with “insulting the president” and “terrorism propaganda.”
December 6: The second hearing of the so-called RedHack case was held at the Istanbul 29th High Criminal Court. Six journalists are on trial in the case, facing charges relating to publication of leaked e-mail messages of Energy Minister Berat Albayrak.
December 8: 31 journalists including Şahin Alpay, Ali Bulaç and Mümtazer Türköne will appear before İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court on coup charges.
December 11: Seven people, including journalists Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak will be tried in the fourth session of their trial before the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court.
December 15: The fifth hearing of the case where journalist Nedim Türfent, a reporter with the shuttered pro-Kurdish news agency DİHA, is accused of “membership in a terrorist organization” will be heard at Hakkari 2nd High Criminal Court
Meanwhile, the first of the trials where hundreds of academics will appear before courts for signing a petition calling for an end to military operations against civilians in Turkey’s Kurdish cities last year began on December 5. Ten academics appeared before a court on December 5 while 35 others will be tried for the first time on December 7. One academic will be tried for the first time on December 14.
Taraf trial adjourned until January
On December 4, the sixth session in the trial of former Taraf executives for “exposing state secrets” by publishing confidential documents was heard by the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court.
The case is generally and mistakenly believed to be about the disclosure of a coup plot called Balyoz (Sledgehammer), although the indictment really accuses the journalist of disclosing a war plan called the Egemen (Sovereign) Operation Plan.
The only defendant who is imprisoned in the case is former Taraf reporter Mehmet Baransu, whose lawyer had resigned. A new lawyer was appointed for him by the state.
Baransu said the documents he prepared were seized by the prison administration, and for that reason he would not testify. He also said he hadn’t received a report which supposedly proves that he used ByLock, a mobile application allegedly used by members of the Gülen network.
The court rejected Baransu’s request for release and demanded a report from telecommunications authorities on whether the other defendants and their spouses used ByLock. The case was adjourned until 31 January.
Former Taraf Editor-in-Chief Ahmet Altan, former Executive Editor of the same newspaper Yasemin Çongar and Managing Editor Yıldıray Oğur are also defendants in the trial, facing up to 52 years and 6 months in prison for “destroying, using outside the intended purpose of, and illegally acquiring documents related to the security of the state.” Another defendant, Tuncay Opçin, remains at large.
TV10 cameraman under arrest
Kemal Demir, a cameraman with the shuttered TV10 television network, was detained by police on November 25 and put under arrest by court order on December 1. He is accused of membership in a terrorist organization.
Ahmet Altan submits defense statement in “insult” and “propaganda” case
On December 5, journalist Ahmet Altan submitted his defense statement via the video conferencing system SEBGİS from Silivri Prison at the first hearing of a trial held at the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court.
Altan stands accused of “insulting the president” and “spreading terror propaganda” in an article titled “Ezip Geçmek” (Riding Roughshod). The same article is also used to support coup charges against Altan and five other co-defendants in a separate trial, also overseen by the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court.
The trial was adjourned until January 4, 2018. Altan’s lawyer Figen Çalıkuşu said the article written by her client had not incited violence, and therefore it couldn’t be seen as terror propaganda.
The court decided to review whether the case should be merged with the coup trial, since the same article is the subject of both cases.
On the same day, Altan was also tried by the Istanbul 21st Court of First Instance on “presidential insult charges.” That trial was adjourned until April 26, 2018.
Deniz Yücel’s isolation ends
The German newspaper Die Welt announced on December 3 that the solitary confinement of their reporter Deniz Yücel, who has been imprisoned in Turkey since February, was ended by Silivri Prison authorities.
Yücel will continue to remain at a single person cell, but will get to interact with imprisoned journalist Oğuz Usluer, who is a former coordinator for Habertürk TV.
DİHA reporter given one year and three months in prison
Former DİHA reporter Berivan Altan was given a deferred prison sentence of one year and three months in a trial heard in Mersin province on December 5.
Altan was accused of spreading terror propaganda in her news reports and social media posts.
Archivist and publisher arrested
Emin Şakir, an archivist who collects and makes publicly accessible left-wing publications in Turkey at solyayin.com was arrested on November 28 on “terror propaganda charges.”
For a full list of all the imprisoned journalists in Turkey, visit this spreadsheet. Lists of all of the foundations and associations as well as media outlets shut down can also be found at the same link, although on different tabs of the same spreadsheet.