Journalists deny accusations in their defense statements. Trial adjourned until January 

First hearing in the trial of seven journalists who are charged with “making those involved in combatting terrorism a target” for sharing on social media a 2016 news story was held in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır on 3 October.

The court case was launched after a complaint from senior commander Maj. Gen. Musa Çitil, who was cited in the news report. The report, published in February 2016 by the shuttered DİHA news agency, was focused on Çitil’s position as commander of the military operations in Sur district of Diyarbakır at the time despite accusations that he had been involved in the killings of 13 villagers in Mardin’s Derik district in 1993 and 1994.

The defendants include Ömer Çelik, who was the news editor at DİHA at the time, DİHA reporters Çağdaş Kaplan, Hamza Gündüz and Selman Çiçek, journalist Abdulvahap Taş, the shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper’s responsible editor İnan Kızılkaya and owner Kemal Sancılı. Kızılkaya and Sancılı are on trial because the DİHA report was also shared on Özgür Gündem’s social media accounts.

Prosecutor additionally seeks up to five years in jail for Çiçek on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” for his social media posts.

Three of the defendants, Abdulvahap Taş, Selman Çiçek and Ömer Çelik, attended the first hearing held at the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court. Kızılkaya and Kaplan were to give their defense statements at a criminal court in Istanbul, where they reside. Sancılı, who is in prison in Edirne as part of another trial, was expected to address the court via court videoconferencing system SEGBİS but he could not as SEGBİS facilities were made available to politician Selahattin Demirtaş who is held in the same prison.

Journalist Taş told the court that he had only retweeted the report, that he acted within bounds of the right to information and that he had no intention to expose any official as a target.

Çiçek and Çelik similarly denied the accusation, saying they had no criminal intent and that there were multiple news reports about the military operations in Sur. Çelik said the news report in question was a journalistic activity carried out in the name of public’s right to information and emphasized that the complainant in the case was a known public figure whose actions were the subject of the news report.

Lawyer Resul Temur said the news report’s emphasis was on the fact that Maj. Gen. Çitil was assigned to lead the operations in an area with a large civilian population despite past accusations against him regarding the killing of 13 villagers in Derik, which culminated in a court case.

Announcing its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court adjourned the trial until 16 January 2019.