Ömer Çelik, a news editor at the shuttered pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), was arrested by the police in his home on December 25, 2016.
Reports in pro-government media said Çelik and five other journalists who were detained in a series of coordinated police raids on the same day had “connections with RedHack” hackers group and that they were the “perception management team” of the group.
In addition to Çelik, DİHA reporter Metin Yoksu, former Diken news portal editor Tunca Öğreten, BirGün newspaper employee Mahir Kanaat, ETHA news agency Responsible Managing Editor Derya Okatan and Yolculuk daily Managing Editor Eray Sargın were also detained as part of the same investigation.
The six journalists were held in police custody for 24 days. They gave their statements to the prosecutor at the end of the lengthy detention period, following which they were referred to the Istanbul 8th Criminal Judgeship of Peace with a request for their imprisonment on remand. The prosecutor said in his request that e-mails of Turkish Energy Minister Berat Albayrak were leaked by hackers in September 2016 and claimed that the information obtained from the hacked e-mail account was “manipulated” and used in news reports to “undermine the energy minister and the elected, legitimate government” and that “a campaign of negative perception was launched to hinder strategic activities of the energy minister and the national energy policy.”
The prosecutor also maintained that the journalists “conducted propaganda” for a number of terrorist groups, including the PKK, DHKP/C and FETÖ, in their social media accounts.
The Istanbul 8th Criminal Judgeship of Peace jailed Çelik, Tunca and Kanaat pending trial while releasing Okatan, Sargın and Yoksu with an overseas travel ban.
An indictment was prepared into the six journalists in July 2017. The indictment accuses Çelik of “propaganda on behalf of a terror organization” and “disrupting or preventing an IT system, amending or destroying data.”
The indictment says Çelik, through several social media posts, had committed the crime of “terror propaganda” several times.
The indictment into the six journalists can be found here (in Turkish).
Çelik appeared before the Istanbul 29th High Criminal Court at the first hearing of the trial on October 24, 2017, giving his defense statement in Kurdish via an interpreter. Çelik said he did not consider the actions described as crime in the indictment to be crimes and therefore he would make a statement of the facts, not a defense statement. “When I look at the indictment, I see nothing except the news reports I have written about Minister Albayrak,” he said.
Çelik also said that he had been subject to torture when he was taken into custody by the police but that a petition he submitted to file a complaint about the torture was not to be found in the case file.
At the end of the hearing, the court ruled for the release of Çelik from prison, taking into consideration the charges against Çelik and the time he spent in pre-trial detention.
At the second hearing of the trial on December 6, 2017, the court released Öğreten and Kanaat after 323 days of imprisonment, imposing on the journalists judicial control terms as well as a foreign travel ban. The court adjourned the trial to April 3, 2018.