Home / Articles / Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 218

03 December

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 218

T24’s Doğan Akın to stand trial over Fuat Avni reports; 6 journalists handed down jail terms in a week; prosecutor seeks prison terms for 6 HRDs

Journalist Berivan Altan’s custody period extended
Berivan Alan, a reporter for Mezopotamya news agency, was arrested in Ankara on 26 November 2019 based on an arrest warrant against her issued by the Mersin 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace. The custody period for Altan, who was subsequently brought to Mersin, was extended by another four days on 29 November.
Altan was initially imposed a restriction on access to a lawyer. The grounds for Altan’s arrest were not disclosed as of 29 November.
T24 Editor-in-Chief Doğan Akın to stand trial over website’s reports
Journalist Doğan Akın, the founder and editor-in-chief of the news portal T24, and one of the founding members of P24, will stand trial on the charge of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.”
Akın faces a possible jail term of five to 15 years in the case, where the accusation stems from T24’s news coverage of “108 Twitter posts by the account named Fuat Avni between MArch 2014 and April 2016.” The indictment was accepted by the 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
Local journalist attacked in Iğdır
Metin Işık, the owner of a news website in the eastern province of Iğdır, was attacked by a group of assailants holding bats. Mahmut Oral, the Diyarbakır representative of Turkish Journalists Union (TGS), posting a video of the assault on Işık on Twitter, wrote that the journalist was targeted because of his critical comments about MHP lawmaker Yaşar Karadağ.
Lawyers seek repetition of hearing in Cumhuriyet retrial
Lawyers of former staffers of Cumhuriyet daily have filed for a repetition of the retrial hearing held on 21 November 2019, saying that the court failed to act in accordance with procedural law despite the lawyers’ request for recusal.
At the retrial, the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul first heard the defense statements and then asked the defendants their last words before the verdict. Defense lawyers objected to the court, saying this was against the Criminal Procedure Code and that the panel should declare its decision on whether to comply with the Supreme Court of Appeals ruling first. The panel ruled to proceed with the last words of the defendants before the announcement of the verdict along with their decision on whether to comply with the Supreme Court of Appeals ruling. The panel cited “criminal procedure economics” and “the principle of judicial independence” as the grounds for their decision. Defense lawyers objected to the decision, demanding the recusal of the panel for bias. The court rejected the request, saying it was “aimed at prolonging the proceedings.”
Following the hearing, lawyer Bülent Utku, who is one of the defendants in the case, and his lawyers filed for recusal and the repetition of the hearing, citing both the court’s refusal to act in line with the Criminal Procedure Code and the legal provision preventing the appointment of the same judge in cases of retrial as one of the reasons for their move.
Cumhuriyet reporter faces trial after non-prosecution decision
Journalist Zehra Özdilek, a reporter for Cumhuriyet daily, will stand trial on the charge of “making those involved in the fight against terrorism a target” for disclosing the name of a secret witness in an interview she conducted with a teacher dismissed form duty through a statutory decree.
The case was filed although the prosecutor leading the investigation initially issued a non-prosecution decision on the grounds that “the act in question was a journalistic act and was part of press freedom.” The indictment, issued 20 days after the non-prosecution decision, seeks a jail term between one to three years for Özdilek.
Ahmet Altan’s trial on charge of “failure to publish correction” dismissed
The first hearing of Ahmet Altan’s trial on the charge of “failure to publish a correction,” launched over a complaint by Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu, the president of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) was held on 28 November 2019 at the Anadolu 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.
The accusation stems from a news report published on 22 January 2010 in the shuttered newspaper Taraf.
Altan, the former editor-in-chief of Taraf, who was sent to prison on 13 November, eight days after he was released from pre-trial detention, did not attend the hearing. He was represented by his lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu.
Altan’s lawyer requested the court to dismiss the case because they appealed the verdict against Altan on the charge of “insulting the president” rendered by the 32nd Criminal Court of First Instance, which was the reason for the reopening of the present case.
The court ruled to dismiss the case, citing the ongoing appeal process against the verdict rendered by the 32nd Criminal Court of First Instance.
Journalists Yasul, Kırkaya, Paksoy and Keleş sentenced to 5 months in prison each
The final hearing in the trial of journalists Selman Keleş, Özgür Paksoy, Aziz Oruç, Kenan Kırkaya, İshak Yasul and Ersin Çaksu over a number of news reports published in October 2016 in the now-defunct newspaper Özgürlükçü Demokrasi took place on 28 November 2019 at Istanbul’s 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.
Issuing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court sentenced Yasul, Kırkaya, Paksoy and Keleş to five months in prison each on the charge of “publicly degrading the judicial bodies of the state.” The court separated the files of Oruç and Çaksu. The court deferred the sentences of Yasul, Kırkaya and Paksoy while Keleş’s sentence was suspended.
Journalist Deniz Kılıç handed down 3-year sentence
Journalist Deniz Kılıç, the former Batman bureau chief of the shuttered Kurdish-language newspaper Azadiya Welat, appeared before the 2nd High Criminal Court of Batman on 28 November 2019 for the first hearing of his trial on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” over his social media posts between 2014 and 2015.
The indictment against Kılıç was read out at the beginning of the hearing, where Kılıç was in attendance. The journalist was not represented by a lawyer. Addressing the court for his defense statement, Kılıç said the social media posts he is accused for were news stories and that he had exercised his right to freedom of expression.
Presenting his final opinion of the case during the hearing, the prosecutor asked the court to convict Kılıç of “systematically conducting terororism propaganda.”
Kılıç asked to be acquitted.
Before announcing the panel’s verdict, the presiding judge told Kılıç: “The trial has concluded. We have conscientiously reached the verdict that you are guilty.”
The panel sentenced Kılıç to 3 years, 1 month and 15 days in prison on the charge of “terrorism propaganda.” Kılıç will appeal the verdict.
Özgür Gündem main trial adjourned until January
The 14th hearing of the “Özgür Gündem main trial,” where nine defendants, including the shuttered newspaper’s former editors, columnists and members of the editorial advisory board stand accused of terrorism-related charges, resumed on 28 November 2019 at the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
Journalist İnan Kızılkaya, linguist Necmiye Alpay and human rights lawyer Eren Keskin as well as defense lawyers were present in court. The prosecution requested a continuance for the presentation of the final opinion because the prosecutor assigned with the trial was on leave.
Asserting that the trial has been going on for three years, Keskin told the court that this was a violation of their right to a fair trial. The court granted a continuance to the prosecution and adjourned the trial until 13 January 2020.
Trial of Can Dündar over “Özgür Gündem solidarity campaign” adjourned until May
The 11th hearing in a trial where Can Dündar, the former editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper, is being prosecuted for participating in a campaign to lend support to the Özgür Gündem newspaper took place on 28 November 2019 at the 22nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
Dündar is accused of “printing or publishing statements that legitimize the methods of a terrorist organization” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization”in the case.
Ruling to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant issued against Dündar and the return of the letter from the court abroad, the court adjourned the trial until 21 May 2020.
Prosecutor requests Sancılı and Kızılkaya to be sentenced
Kemal Sancılı, the publisher of the shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper, and the paper’s former managing editor İnan Kızılkaya, appeared before the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 28 November 2019 for the ninth hearing in their trial over three news reports that were published in 2016.
Kızılkaaya and Sancılı, who were both absent, were represented by lawyer Sercan Korkmaz. Announcing the prosecution’s final opinion, the prosecutor requested Sancılı and Kızılkaya to be sentenced for “disseminating continuous propaganda for a terrorist organization.”
Accepting Korkmaz’s request for additional time to prepare the defense statements, the court adjourned the trial until 10 December 2019.
Filmmaker Veysi Altay appears in court for participating in Özgür Gündem solidarity campaign
The hearing of director Veysi Altay, who is on trial for participating in a solidarity campaign to support the shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper, was held on 28 November 2019 at the 22nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul. Altay was represented by his lawyer. Ruling for the file to be handed over to the prosecution for the preparation of the final opinion, the court adjourned the trial until 18 February 2020.
Mezopotamya reporter Fırat Öksüz briefly detained
Mezopotamya news Agency reporter Fırat Öksüz, was arrested on 28 November 2019 at the Provincial Security Directorate where he had gone to give his statement over social media posts he made. Öksüz was freed after giving his statement.
Prosecutor seeks jail terms for rights defenders in Büyükada trial
The 10th hearing in the trial where 11 rights activists are accused of “aiding an armed terrorist organization” and “terrorist organization membership” for attending a meeting in İstanbul’s Büyükada concerning the security of rights defenders, took place on 27 November 2019 at the 35th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
Presenting the court’s final opinion during the hearing, the prosecutor requested Taner Kılıç to be sentenced on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” while also requesting Günal Kurşun, İdil Eser, Özlem Dalkıran, Nejat Taştan and Veli Acu to be punished on the charge of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.”The prosecutor asked Peter Frank Steudtner, Ali Gharavi, İlknur Üstün, Nalan Erkem and Muhammed Şeyhmus Özbekli, against whom no convincing evidence was found, to be acquitted.
The trial was adjourned until 19 February 2020 for the preparation of the final defense statements.
A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Journalist İdris Sayılğan released by appellate court
Journalist İdris Sayılğan was freed on 27 November 2019, after spending more than three years behind bars.
Sayılğan, a former reporter from the shuttered Dicle News Agency (DİHA), was sentenced to 8 years and 3 months in prison on the charges of “terrorist group membership” and “disseminating terrorist group propaganda”in January 2019. The appellate court in Erzurum which deliberated on the appeal request of Sayılğan, ruled for Sayılğan to be released.
Last week it was discovered that a new indictment against Sayılğan, on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization through press,”was drafted and the first hearing of the trial is to take place in January.
Academic İbrahim Kaboğlu acquitted
Professor of constitutional law and CHP Istanbul Deputy İbrahim Kaboğlu, who was dismissed from his university employment and was being prosecuted on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” for signing 2016’s Academics for Peace petition was acquitted. Kaboğlu was the latest academic acquitted after the Constitutional Court found a violation of rights in the applications of “Academics for Peace.”

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