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23 September

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 208

Trial of two Bloomberg reporters and 36 others over currency crisis gets under way; a journalist and a musician convicted in one week

A trial in which Bloomberg journalists Fercan Yalınkılıç and Kerim Karakaya stand accused of “violating the Capital Market Law” over an August 2018 news story, in which they reported about Turkey’s currency crisis at the time, got under way on 20 September 2019 at the 3rd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul.
 
Yalınkılıç and Karakaya are on trial alongside 36 others who commented on or shared the news story on Twitter. Among them are journalists Sedef Kabaş and Merdan Yanardağ, as well as economist and columnist Mustafa Sönmez.
 
The prosecution had named the investigation against Yalınkılıç and Karakaya as “the financial coup attempt investigation.” All 36 defendants in the case face up to five years in prison as per Article 107/2 of Turkey’s Capital Market Law, if convicted.
 
P24 monitored the first hearing, where 19 of the defendants, including Yalınkılıç, Karakaya, Kabaş, Yanardağ and Sönmez, were in attendance, accompanied by their lawyers. Making their defense statements in response to the indictment, all 19 rejected the accusation and asked to be acquitted.
 
Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court rejected the immediate acquittal requests on the grounds that the remaining 17 defendants’ statements had yet to be heard. The court set 17 January 2020 as the date for the second hearing.
 
Journalist Cem Şimşek acquitted of “defying access ban”
 
On 20 September 2019, Evrensel daily’s former responsible managing editor Cem Şimşek appeared before an Istanbul court for in the third hearing of his trial on the charge of “defying an access ban ordered by a court.”
 
Istanbul’s 16th Criminal Court of First Instance acquitted Şimşek on the grounds that the elements of the offense were not present.
 
Court overseeing Özgürlükçü Demokrasi trial issues reasoned decision
 
The Istanbul court that oversaw the trial of 14 former staffers of the shuttered newspaper Özgürlükçü Demokrasi has issued its reasoned decision.
 
At the final hearing of the Özgürlükçü Demokrasi trial on 28 June 2019, the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul had convicted the newspaper’s publisher and its four editors, handing down a combined prison sentence of 14 years and 4 months to all five.
 
In its reasoned decision, the court wrote: “Even though freedom of the press and freedom of expression are enshrined in the law and the Constitution, these freedoms are not limitless. It is inevitable for a state and a society to restrict certain freedoms in order to survive. It is a fact that [...] limitless freedom would lead to anarchy and eventually destroy freedoms. Therefore, freedoms can be restricted in the event they are in conflict with public peace, public order and national security.” The court wrote in the judgment that the news stories published in Özgürlükçü Demokrasi “targeted the Turkish Armed Forces’ fight against the PKK and in particular the Afrin operation in Syria.”
 
Ailing journalist Metin Duran released after one week in detention
 
Ailing journalist Metin Duran, who was rearrested last week, has been released. Duran, who was transferred to the Mardin State Hospital after being arrested, was released during the week after the Forensic Medicine Council renewed its report confirming that Duran is medically unfit for detention.
 
Duran was jailed last year to serve a 3-year sentence despite being paralyzed from a stroke and released after the Forensic Medicine Council report confirmed his condition. He was rearrested on 10 September after the report expired.
 
Supreme Court issues reasoned decision in Cumhuriyet case
 
The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals has issued its reasoned decision in the Cumhuriyet trial. On 12 September 2019, the Chamber had overturned the convictions in the trial on the charge of “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.”
 
The reasoned decision of the Chamber, issued around a week after the ruling itself, said that the convictions were not based on concrete evidence proving guilt. The Chamber said the trial court had failed to properly evaluate evidence.
 
The decision also highlighted that in order for the charge of “aiding a terrorist organization” to be present, the defendants must have “knowingly” and “willingly” aided the organization in question, in addition to “being aware that the organization in question was established with the purpose of committing crimes.”
 
The decision also recalled that the indictment was issued after the expiry of the four-month statute of limitations stipulated in Turkey’s Press Law.
 
The case file will now be sent back to the trial court, the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

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