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17 February

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 229

Three defendants acquitted in Özgür Gündem trial; journalist Emre Orman sentenced at first hearing; Ferhat Tunç's sentence upheld

https://expressioninterrupted.com/

Three acquitted 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 were facing terrorism-related charges, resumed on 14 February 2020 at the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
 
Issuing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court acquitted Necmiye Alpay and Bilge Aykut of all charges. The court also acquitted Aslı Erdoğan of “disrupting the unity and integrity of the state” and “terrorist group membership” and dropped the “propaganda” charge against her, citing the expiry of the four-month statute of limitations for pressing charges.
 
The court separated the files of Zana Kaya, İnan Kızılkaya, Kemal Sancılı and Eren Keskin, granting all four additional time for their final defense statements, and also ruled to separate the files of Filiz Koçali and Ragıp Zarakolu, who are yet to give their statements and for whom arrest warrants are still in place.
 
A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
 
Journalist Yunus Duman taken into custody, released
 
Yunus Duman, a reporter for Mezopotamya news agency (MA) based in Van, was arrested on 14 February 2020 during a police raid on his home. Duman was taken to the anti-terror branch of the Van Police Department and he was imposed a 24-hour restriction on access to a lawyer.
 
Duman and 21 others who were taken into custody as part of the same operation were released by the prosecution on 16 February after giving their statements at the Police Department. Mezopotamya reported that Duman and others were arrested based on an anonymous tip that turned out to be baseless.
 
Prosecutor seeks prison sentence for Deniz Yücel
 
The trial of Deniz Yücel, Die Welt’s former Turkey correspondent, on the charges of “disseminating terrorist group propaganda” and “inciting hatred and animosity” resumed on 13 February 2020 at the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
 
Submitting their final opinion two days ahead of the sixth hearing, the prosecution requested the court to convict Yücel of “disseminating propaganda for the PKK/KCK terrorist group” and “inciting the public to hatred and animosity.” The prosecution additionally requested a criminal complaint to be filed against Yücel on the charge of “insulting the president” over an article by Yücel published on 6 November 2016.
 
Granting Yücel’s lawyer additional time to prepare their final defense statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion, the court adjourned the trial until 2 April.
 
A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
 
Journalist Emre Orman handed down sentence at first hearing
 
Journalist Emre Orman appeared before the 34th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 13 February 2020 for the first hearing of his trial over posts he allegedly shared on social media.
 
The court sentenced Orman to 1 year, 6 months and 22 days in prison for “systematically disseminating terrorist propaganda.” The sentence was deferred.
 
A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
 
Adil Demirci’s trial adjourned
 
The seventh hearing in the trial of Etkin News Agency (ETHA) reporter Adil Demirci and 22 others on terrorism-related charges was held on 13 February 2020 at the 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
 
P24 monitored the hearing, where eight of the defendants and their lawyers were in attendance. Demirci, who lives abroad, was absent. The defense requested the court to lift the judicial control measures imposed on the defendants. Rejecting the request to lift the judicial control measures on account of the case being on “terrorism” charges, the court adjourned the trial until 16 June.
 
Ali Sönmez Kayar’s trial adjourned awaiting witness testimony
 
The sixth hearing of a trial where ETHA reporter Ali Sönmez Kayar and eight others are accused of “terrorist group membership” took place on 13 February 2020 at the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
 
P24 monitored the hearing, where a secret witness who uses the alias “Zafer Atılım” was expected to testify in connection with the allegations against Kayar. However, the secret witness could not be heard due to a technical malfunction in the judicial video-conferencing system SEGBİS.
 
Ruling to hear the secret witness at the next courtroom hearing, the court adjourned the trial until 9 June.
 
Ahmet Severs’s trial on “insult” charge adjourned until May
 
The trial of Ahmet Sever, a columnist for T24 and the former press consultant of Turkey’s 11th President Abdullah Gül, for allegedly insulting President Erdoğan and politicians Mustafa Şentop and Mustafa Varank, took place on 13 February 2020 at an Istanbul court.
 
Ruling to wait for the response concerning the inquiries about Sever, who is abroad, and for his lawyer to prepare a defense statement in response to the allegations in all three files, the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance adjourned the trial until 14 May.
 
Abdullah Kaya’s trial adjourned
 
Abdullah Kaya, a former reporter for the shuttered Dicle News Agency (DİHA), appeared before the 2nd High Criminal Court of Ağrı on 13 February 2020 for the eighth hearing of his trial on the charge of “aiding a terrorist group without being its member.”
 
Kaya was in attendance with his lawyer in the courtroom. The court adjourned the trial until 14 May, to hear one of Kaya’s co-defendants in the case, who could not attend the hearing.
 
Journalist Zehra Özdilek’s trial gets under way
 
Zehra Özdilek, a reporter for Cumhuriyet newspaper, appeared before the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 12 February 2020 for the first hearing of her trial on the charge of “disclosing the identity of a state official assigned in the fight against terrorism as a target.”
 
Ruling to send the file to the prosecution for the preparation of the final opinion, the court adjourned the trial until 14 April.
 
A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
 
Indictment issued against jailed journalist Mustafa Gökkılıç and 33 others
 
An indictment has been issued against jailed journalist Mustafa Gökkılıç and 33 other suspects in a criminal investigation concerning February 2012’s “MİT crisis,” in which the head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Hakan Fidan and several intelligence officials were summoned to testify in court.
 
Gökkılıç, a former reporter for Habertürk TV and the now-defunct Radikal newspaper, has been in pre-trial detention since 19 July 2018 as part of the investigation.
 
The indictment, dated 11 February 2020, claims that the plaintiff Mustafa Özer’s phone was tapped, his testimony before a prosecutor was leaked to the press despite a confidentiality order, that Taraf daily disclosed the plaintiff's identity by publishing his name and his photo in its online edition, revealing Özer’s ties with the MİT and making him a target for the PKK/KCK and jeopardizing his safety.
 
The indictment accuses 16 people including Gökkılıç of “attempting to overthrow the government,” “membership of an armed terrorist group,” “procuring the state’s confidential documents for political or military espionage purposes,” “violation of confidentiality,” “forgery of official documents,” punishable by aggravated life imprisonment and an additional prison term between 26.5 and 45.5 years. Fifteen other suspects in the indictment face aggravated life imprisonment and additional prison terms between 26 years and 53 years.
 
Compensation case against Ahmet Altan and Taraf daily rejected
 
On 10 February 2020, Ankara’s 1st Civil Court of First Instance held the retrial of a compensation case filed by former AKP lawmaker Recep Yıldırım over a 2009 news report and a number of articles by Ahmet Altan published in the shuttered Taraf newspaper. The case file had been remitted to the original court by the 4th Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals.
 
The Ankara 1st Civil Court of First Instance rejected the compensation claim concerning Taraf daily, Ahmet Altan, Adnan Demir and Yıldıray Oğur. The court partially accepted the compensation claim concerning defendant Soner Arıkanoğlu and ruled for a compensation worth TL 10,000 be paid to the plaintiff.
 
The case was originally dismissed by the court of first instance in September 2015. Yıldırım’s lawyer had appealed the dismissal verdict.
 
Musician Erhan Güleryüz acquitted
 
Musician Erhan Güleryüz was acquitted in a trial launched over his onstage remarks during a concert appearance on 30 August 2019. The hearing took place on 7 February 2020 at the Kırklareli Demirköy Criminal Court of First Instance.
 
Güleryüz was accused of “publicly degrading a section of the society over social class, race, religion, sect, gender or regional differences” over his remarks about the Directorate of Religious Affairs.
 
Regional court upholds Ferhat Tunç’s prison sentence
 
A regional court of appeals has upheld a prison sentence given in 2018 to musician and activist Ferhat Tunç on the charge of “disseminating terrorist group propaganda” over his social media posts.
 
The 36th High Criminal Court of Istanbul had sentenced Tunç to 1 year, 11 months and 12 days in prison at the final hearing of his trial on 25 September 2018 and had refused to defer the sentence.
 
The 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, acting as an appellate court, rejected the appeal by Tunç’s lawyers on 4 February 2020. The ruling can be appealed at the Supreme Court of Appeals.
 
List of journalists and media workers in prison
 
As of 14 February 2020, at least 97 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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