Journalist and author Nurcan Baysal was taken into custody on 22 January 2018 during a midnight police raid on her home in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır. Her lawyer, Reyhan Baydemir, told reporters at the time that the grounds for Baysal’s detention was her social media posts concerning Turkey’s military operation on the Syrian city of Afrin.
Baysal is one of the founders of the Diyarbakır Political and Social Research Institute (DISA). As a journalist and columnist for various news outlets and periodicals, she particularly writes about the Kurdish issue and covers development and poverty issues. Baysal is also an advisor for various non-profit foundations, including the Global Fund for Women, the Women Labor and Employment Platform and the Urgent Action Fund, among others.
Baysal was arrested as part of an investigation launched by the Istanbul Anadolu Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office into those who reacted via social media to the Turkish Military’s “Operation Olive Branch” targeting Afrin.
Following the completion of her interrogation at the police department, Baysal was referred to the courthouse on 24 January. The prosecutor referred her to a Criminal Judgeship of Peace for arrest on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.” The judgeship released Baysal under judicial control measures.
Following the completion of the investigation, the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in April launched a criminal lawsuit against Baysal with the accusation “inciting the public to hatred and animosity,” which is punishable by up to three years in prison. The indictment was accepted by the 7th Criminal Court of First Instance of Diyarbakır.
The first hearing of the trial was held on 17 May 2018. Baysal could not attend because she was abroad and was represented by her lawyer Reyhan Yalçındağ Baydemir, who requested that the trial be adjourned because her client was abroad. The court then adjourned the trial and set 16 October 2018 as the date for the next hearing.
The second hearing on 16 October was monitored by P24. During her defense statement, Baysal rejected the accusation and told the court that the posts for which she was indicted were aimed at calling for peace and at criticizing the government’s foreign policy.
Addressing the court following Baysal, her lawyer made references to ECtHR judgments in favor of the right to freedom of expression and also submitted to the court a judgment by the 10th High Criminal Court of Antalya, which acquitted the defendant in a trial with similar facts, as precedent.
In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court adjourned the trial until 14 February 2019 for the final defense statement to be prepared.
During the hearing on 14 February, Baysal’s lawyer submitted to the court another court ruling about Baysal in which she was acquitted of the charge against her. The trial was then adjourned until 18 April because the judge was on leave.
At the request of Baysal’s lawyer, the court rescheduled the hearing for 21 February.
Baysal, who was abroad, could not attend the hearing on 21 February, where she was represented by her lawyer. Issuing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the 7th Criminal Court of First Instance of Diyarbakır acquitted Baysal of “inciting the public to hatred and animosity” charge.
10-month prison sentence for article about Cizre
On 20 February 2018, an Istanbul court gave Baysal a 10-month prison sentence for her 2016 report in which she recounted scenes from Cizre in the aftermath of an operation by the Turkish military in the southeastern town.
Announcing its verdict at the conclusion of the fifth hearing of that trial, the Istanbul 54th Criminal Court of First Instance initially sentenced Baysal to one year in prison for “publicly denigrating the security force.”
The court then reduced the sentence to 10 months for good conduct and deferred the sentence, meaning that Baysal will be subject to probation for five years.