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21 January

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 225

İsmail Çoban sentenced to 7 years 6 months in prison; Mehmet Y. Yılmaz appears in court on insult charge; İsmail Evren given 6-year sentence

https://expressioninterrupted.com/

Trial of Bloomberg reporters and 36 others adjourned until May

A trial in which Bloomberg journalists Fercan Yalınkılıç and Kerim Karakaya stand accused of “violating the Capital Market Law” over an August 2018 report about Turkey’s 2018 currency crisis resumed on 17 January 2020 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 report on Twitter. Among them are journalists Sedef Kabaş and Merdan Yanardağ, economist and columnist Mustafa Sönmez, and stage actor Orhan Aydın.
 
P24 monitored the second hearing, where the court heard defendants whose statements were not taken during the first hearing. Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to issue arrest warrants for defendants Gazi Kozanoğlu, Orçun Çakır, İbrahim Gezici and Mustafa Sarıtaş. Rejecting the defendants’ requests for immediate acquittal, the court adjourned the trial until 8 May 2020.
 
“Insult” case against Can Dündar and Abbas Yalçın dismissed
 
The trial of Cumhuriyet daily’s former Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar and former responsible editor Abbas Yalçın on the charge of “insulting the president” over a news report published on 11 August 2015 resumed on 16 January 2020 at Istanbul’s 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.
 
P24 monitored the 12th hearing, where Yalçın was in attendance. Addressing the court, Yalçın asked the judge to dismiss the case.
 
The judge ruled to lift the arrest warrant against Dündar that had been issued as part of this case on the grounds that his defense statement would not contribute to the case file. Issuing her verdict at the end of the hearing, the judge ruled to dismiss the case, citing the expiry of the four-month statute of limitations in Article 26 of Turkey’s Press Law.
 
Court dismisses “insult” case against journalist Seyhan Avşar
 
The first hearing in a trial where Cumhuriyet reporter Seyhan Avşar was accused of “insulting a public official” over a March 2019 report took place on 16 January 2020 at Istanbul’s 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. Avşar’s report was about two public prosecutors who allegedly took bribes from suspects in criminal investigations.
 
P24 monitored the hearing. The judge announced her verdict at the end of the hearing, ruling to dismiss the case based on the expiry of the four-month statute of limitations in Turkey’s Press Law.
 
Trial of Arif Aslan and Selman Keleş to resume in May
 
The trial of journalists Arif Aslan and Selman Keleş on the charge of “membership of a terrorist group,” which was planned to resume on 16 January 2020, was postponed to a later date when one of the defense lawyers submitted to the court a letter of excuse. The trial will resume on 7 May at the 5th High Criminal Court of Van.
 
Court rules for continuation of arrest warrant against Ferhat Tunç
 
The third hearing in a trial where musician and human rights activist Ferhat Tunç faces up to 20 years in prison on charges of “terrorism propaganda” and “membership of a terrorist group” took place on 16 January 2020 at the 5th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır. Accepting a letter of excuse submitted by Tunç’s lawyer, the court ruled to keep the arrest warrant issued for Tunç in place and adjourned the trial until 26 March 2020.
 
İsmail Evren handed down 6-year sentence and released
 
The final hearing in the trial of jailed journalist İsmail Evren on the charge of “membership of a terrorist group” took place on 15 January 2020 at the 29th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
 
The court sentenced Evren to 6 years and 3 months in prison on the charge of “membership of an armed terrorist organization” under Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) and ruled to release him pending the conclusion of the appeal process.
 
Arrest warrant against Sözcü publisher Akbay lifted
 
The 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul has lifted the arrest warrant against Burak Akbay, the publisher of Sözcü daily, who was among the defendants in the Sözcü trial and charged with “aiding a terrorist group without being its member.” Ruling in favor of a petition filed by Akbay’s lawyers, the trial court also ruled to withdraw the Interpol red notice issued against Akbay.
 
At the final hearing of “Sözcü trial” on 27 December 2019, the court had sentenced seven columnists and staff members of the newspaper for “aiding a terrorist group without being its member” and ruled to separate the file against Akbay, who has been living abroad since the beginning of the trial.
 
Jailed journalist İsmail Çoban sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison
 
A trial where jailed journalist İsmail Çoban, the former responsible editor of the shuttered Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat, is accused of “membership of a terrorist group” resumed on 15 January 2020 at the 7th High Criminal Court of Mersin. Announcing their verdict at the end of the hearing, the court sentenced the journalist to 7 years and 6 months in prison. The court did not grant any reductions in Çoban’s sentence. Çoban is currently in pre-trial detention as part of another trial.
 
Top court’s Wikipedia judgment published in Official Gazette
 
The Constitutional Court’s ruling dated 26 December 2019, which held that Turkey’s access ban on Wikipedia violated freedom of expression, was published in the Official Gazette on 15 January 2020.
 
In their reasoned judgment, taken by a majority vote of 6 to 10, the top court wrote that the access ban was not in compliance with the requirements of a democratic society. Access to Wikipedia was subsequently restored on 15 January after the Ankara 1st Criminal Judgeship of Peace revoked its ban order.
 
Mehmet Y. Yılmaz appears in court in “insult” case
 
T24 columnist Mehmet Y. Yılmaz appeared before the Anadolu 37th Criminal Court of First Instance on 14 January 2020 for the first hearing of a trial where he is accused of “insulting a public official” over a series of articles in which he inquired about the rise in former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and his sons’ wealth.
 
Binali Yıldırım’s lawyer Muhammed Gök addressed the court, claiming that Mehmet Y. Yılmaz “attempted to manipulate public opinion about Binali Yıldırım’s income” in his articles and asked the court to grant the plaintiff intervening party status.
 
The court granted Mehmet Y. Yılmaz exemption from attending hearings, agreed to grant Yıldırım’s lawyer intervening party status and adjourned the trial until 9 April 2020.
 
Trial of journalist Rojhat Doğru adjourned until March
 
The fifth hearing in the trial of journalist Rojhat Doğru on charges of “disrupting the unity of the state,” “membership of a terrorist group,” “terrorism propaganda” and “willful injury” took place on 15 January 2020 at the 8th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır.
 
Doğru was arrested as part of the case on 5 December 2018 based on a witness testimony alleging that he participated in 2014’s Kobani protests. The journalist was released from pre-trial detention in February 2019.
 
P24 monitored the hearing, where Doğru and his lawyer Resul Tamur were in attendance. The court heard the testimony of the plaintiff as a witness during the hearing. The witness claimed he saw Doğru during the Kobani protests holding a gun in one hand while holding a camera with the other. The witness said he recognized Doğru through photographs.
 
Addressing the court in response to the allegations by the witness, Doğru said he was at the scene and that there was gunfire from the direction where the witness was standing. Telling the court that he got injured from gunfire, Doğru said the footage he recorded at the scene proved the direction from which guns were fired. Doğru told the court he was being targeted because of his coverage, which was deemed worthy of a journalism award.
 
Doğru’s lawyer addressed the court next, asserting that the witness could not be telling the truth and that it was impossible for a person to hold a camera in one hand while shooting a gun with the other.
 
Issuing an interim ruling after hearing all statements, the court ruled to have an expert analyze the footage and draft a report about the scene as well as to inquire about the plaintiff’s hospital records and adjourned the trial until 24 March 2020.
 
Prosecution seeks conviction for Osman Akın in first hearing
 
A trial where Osman Akın, the former responsible managing editor of Yeni Yaşam daily, is accused of “systematically spreading terrorism propaganda” over two reports published in the newspaper, got under way on 14 January 2020 at the 24th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
 
P24 monitored the hearing, where Akın and his lawyer Özcan Kılıç were in attendance.
 
Akın presented his defense statement in writing to the court and asked to be acquitted, saying the news stories in question were solely aimed at reporting. Kılıç addressed the court next, asking the court to hear the lawyers whose comments were featured in both news stories as witnesses. The prosecution asked the court to reject Kılıç’s request, arguing that it would not contribute to the case file. The prosecutor then submitted their final opinion, asking the court to convict Akın as charged.
 
Granting Akın and his lawyer a continuance for the preparation of the final defense statement, the court adjourned the trial until 24 January 2020.
 
Prosecutor seeks prison terms for 5 defendants in Özgür Gündem trial
 
The “Özgür Gündem main trial,” where nine former editors, executives and members of the editorial advisory board of the shuttered newspaper Özgür Gündem face terrorism-related charges, resumed on 13 January 2020 at the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
 
The prosecutor presented his final opinion during the hearing, asking the court to convict Aslı Erdoğan and Zana Kaya of “terrorism propaganda” while seeking prison sentences for Eren Keskin, İnan Kızılkaya and Kemal Sancılı on the charge of “membership of a terrorist group.” The prosecutor asked the court to acquit Bilge Aykut and Necmiye Alpay of all charges and to separate the files of Ragıp Zarakolu and Filiz Koçali.
 
Granting the defendants and their lawyers additional time for the preparation of their final defense statements, the court adjourned the trial until 14 February 2020.
 
A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
 
Journalist Cevdet Akgün freed under probation
 
Cevdet Akgün, a local journalist based in Zonguldak, who was admitted to prison on 9 January 2020 to serve a 5-month sentence he had been given on the charge of “insulting a public official,” was released three days later, on 12 January, under probation. The journalist will be subject to probation for five months and will have to report to the nearest police station weekly to give his signature.
 
List of journalists and media workers in prison
 
As of 17 January 2020, at least 101 journalists and media workers are in prison in Turkey, either in pre-trial detention or serving a sentence.
 
The full list can be accessed here.

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