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03 November

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 214

Prosecutor seeks higher than minimum sentences in Altans case; Mümtazer Türköne fined over 2014 column; 3 more journalists freed after judicial reform

The prosecutor has submitted his final opinion in the retrial of Altans case, seeking convictions for all five jailed defendants -- novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan, journalist Nazlı Ilıcak, former Zaman staffers Fevzi Yazıcı and Yakup Şimşek, and former Police Academy lecturer and political commentator Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül -- who have all been in detention on remand for over three years as part of the case.
Submitting his final opinion to the court via the online judicial network UYAP on 31 October 2019, the prosecutor asked the court to sentence Altan and four of his co-defendants on terrorism charges and sought sentences above the minimum prison term prescribed by the law. The prosecutor asked the court to acquit Mehmet Altan, who was released from pre-trial detention in June 2018 based on a judgment by the Constitutional Court, which found that his detention violated his rights to liberty and security and freedom of the press and freedom of expression. The prosecutor also requested the continuation of the detention of all five jailed defendants.
The retrial, which comes after the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the aggravated life imprisonment sentences the trial court rendered in February 2018 on charge of “Attempting to overthrow the constitutional order,” will resume on 4 November.
Ahmet and Mehmet Altan’s lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu issued a public statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion on 1 November. In her statement, Çalıkuşu said the prosecutor was once again seeking punishment for expression of opinions. The prosecutor’s “scandalous” opinion “nullifies the judicial reform,” which went into force last month, Çalıkuşu said.
A report about Çalıkuşu’s statement can be accessed here.
Journalist Ergin Çağlar to stand trial on “propaganda” charge
Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporter Ergin Çağlar will stand trial on the charge of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” at a Mersin court. The first hearing is set for 5 December 2019 at the 8th High Criminal Court of Mersin.
Çağlar, who was detained for several days in August on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group,” is accused based on his reporting about demonstrations in Mersin in support of hunger strikes in prisons across Turkey that took place earlier this year.
Journalist Emre Orman released after 1 week in prison
Emre Orman, a reporter for Net news agency, who was jailed pending trial last week in Istanbul on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” over his social media posts, was released from prison on 31 October 2019 after his lawyers objected to his pre-trial detention.
Imprisoned former MP and journalist Eren Erdem released
Former main opposition CHP lawmaker Eren Erdem and Turan Ababey, the former publisher of the shuttered newspaper Karşı, were released from prison on 31 October 2019 by a Regional Court of Justice, an appellate court.
Erdem, the former editor-in-chief of Karşı, had been imprisoned since June 2018 as part of the trial, where 12 former staffers of the newspaper faced terrorism charges. The trial court had sentenced Erdem and Ababey 4 years and 2 months in prison each for “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.”
The 3rd Criminal Chamber of Istanbul Regional Court of Justice ruled to release Erdem and Ababey considering the time they served as part of their convictions in the “Karşı trial.” The court imposed an international travel ban on both Erdem and Ababey.
Jailed columnist Mümtazer Türköne fined over 2014 article
The trial of jailed academic and former Zaman columnist Mümtazer Türköne on the charge of “insulting a public official” resumed on 31 October 2019 at Istanbul’s Bakırköy 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.
This was the seventh hearing in the case, where Türköne was accused for an article he penned on 16 March 2014 titled “Mecbur olmasa bu kadar kötü olur mu” (Would he be that evil if he didn’t have to?).
P24 monitored the hearing, where Türköne, who is currently imprisoned in the Silivri Prison, addressed the court via the judicial video-conferencing network SEGBİS. Türköne’s lawyer Melike Polat and a lawyer representing Recep Tayyip Erdoğan were in attendance in the courtroom.
Türköne presented his final defense statement during the hearing and said the word “nekrofil” (necrophile) in his article was not intended as an insult. He asked the court to dismiss the case. Türköne’s lawyer Polat also reminded the court that another court had dismissed the case when it was first filed in 2014. Polat asked the court to acquit her client.
Announcing her verdict at the end of the hearing, the judge fined Türköne TL 1,740 for his article.
Can Dündar’s trial adjourned until March
The retrial of journalist Can Dündar, the former editor in chief of Cumhuriyet daily, over the newspaper’s 2015 coverage of the alleged transfer of weapons to insurgents in Syria on trucks operated by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT), resumed on 31 Octıber 2019 at the 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
Dündar is accused of “espionage” in the retrial. Two other case files against Dündar on other charges were also merged with this case in February.
Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, was closed to the public, the court decided to wait for the response from German judicial authorities concerning Turkey’s extradition request for Dündar and set 19 March 2020 as the date for the next hearing.
ETHA reporter Ali Sönmez Kayar’s trial adjourned until February
The fifth hearing in the trial of Ali Sönmez Kayar, a reporter for Etkin news agency (ETHA), and eight others on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group” took place on 31 October 2019 at the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
P24 monitored the hearing, which began about an hour later than scheduled. Sıtkı Güngör, a member of the central executive committee of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP), was the only defendant in attendance. He asked the court to acquit him and lift his international travel ban based on the amendments introduced with the Judicial Reform Package.
Gülhan Kaya, the lawyer representing Kayar and Güngör, also addressed the court, requesting the court to acquit her clients based on the judicial reform. Kaya also asked the court to lift Güngör’s travel ban. Other defense lawyers asked the court to lift the judicial control measures imposed on their clients.
The prosecution requested the continuation of the judicial control measures.
Announcing their interim ruling following a brief deliberation without going into recess, the panel ruled to keep the judicial control measures imposed on eight of the defendants, including Kayar, in place and to lift Güngör’s travel ban. The court also ruled to hear a secret witness who uses the alias “Zafer Atılım” and another witness named Sercan Kaya, who will both testify in connection with Ali Sönmez Kayar’s file, during the next hearing and adjourned the trial until 13 February 2020.

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