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15 June

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 246

Müyesser Yıldız jailed pending trial; Supreme Court upholds convictions of 17 journalists; Mevlüt Öztaş sent back to prison despite medical report

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Odatv journalist Müyesser Yıldız jailed pending trial

Odatv news portal’s Ankara news director Müyesser Yıldız was jailed pending trial on 12 June 2020 after spending four days in custody. Yıldız was arrested on 8 June in Ankara along with Tele 1 TV Ankara Bureau Chief İsmail Dükel and a non-commissioned officer who goes by the initials E.B.

All three were sent to the Ankara Courthouse late on 11 June after giving their statements at the Ankara Police Department. The Ankara 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace jailed Yıldız and E.B. for “Disclosing confidential information relating to the security or political interests of the state.” Dükel was released under judicial control measures.

For details, see this report.

Supreme Court upholds convictions of 17 journalists in “FETÖ media trial” 

The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals has upheld the convictions of 17 journalists in the case publicly known as the “FETÖ media trial,” where 25 of the 26 defendants were convicted of terrorism-related charges in 2018. The court overturned the convictions of eight defendants in the case.

The Supreme Court’s verdict, which was made public on 12 May by the pro-government daily Yeni Şafak, was uploaded on the National Judiciary Informatics System (UYAP) on 8 June 2020, finally becoming official.

For details, see this report.

Journalist Mevlüt Öztaş sent back to prison despite medical report

Jailed journalist Mevlüt Öztaş, who was hospitalized in April after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, was sent back to prison on 1 June 2020 despite a medical report by his doctors, who said that Öztaş’s condition was not fit for detention. The medical report dated 28 May 2020 said Öztaş needed medical care during the course of his treatment for pancreatic cancer and that his sentence should be postponed.

For details, see this report.

Separately, in a parliamentary question filed this week, opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Şevin Coşkun asked Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül whether claims that Öztaş was handcuffed while he was receiving chemotherapy were true.

CHP files second appeal against early release law

On 11 June 2020, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) filed a second appeal with the Constitutional Court against the early release law, which came into force in April. The appeal seeks the annulment of provisions in the law that are against the principle of equality in the Constitution.

Following the enactment of the law, up to 90,000 prisoners -- excluding those behind bars over political reasons -- were released.

On 6 May, the Plenary of the Constitutional Court found the CHP’s initial appeal to be admissible, however, the top court has yet to deliberate on the appeal. In its initial appeal, the CHP sought the annulment of the law with regard to form, saying the amendments introduced amounted to a covert special amnesty for ordinary crimes and therefore should have been voted on by an absolute supermajority of lawmakers in the Parliament.

Investigation against journalist Ahmet Kanbal dismissed 

The Mardin Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has dismissed a recent investigation against Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporter Ahmet Kanbal, launched upon a complaint filed by the Mardin Provincial Directorate of Health. The directorate had claimed that Kanbal’s report about a hospital in Mardin, where children who tested positive for Covid-19 were being kept in the same unit with those who tested negative, “incited the public to hatred and animosity.”

Files against two Twitter users transferred for lack of jurisdiction 

Two criminal courts in Ankara ruled to transfer the case files against Mesut Aykın and Oktay Yaşar, purported to be the users behind the Twitter accounts “Türkiye Gerçekleri” and “Ankara Kuşu,” to courts in other provinces for lack of jurisdiction.

Aykın and Yaşar were both jailed pending trial in April on the allegation that they were making “propaganda for FETÖ (the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization) on social media.”

The case against Aykın was transferred to the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul, where he is currently on trial over his social media posts concerning the 15 July coup attempt as part of a separate indictment. The indictment against Yaşar was transferred to the Kocaeli 5th High Criminal Court.

ESP district exec faces investigation over social media post

Tugay Köse, the chairman of a local branch of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) in the Rize province, is facing a criminal investigation on the allegation of “terrorism propaganda” for reposting on Facebook a public statement issued by the ESP. The statement was about Helin Bölek, a Grup Yorum band member who died in April 2020 after 288 days of hunger strike in protest of a long-standing concert ban on her band and the criminal lawsuits against fellow band members. Köse was recently called in to the Fındıklı Police Department for questioning as part of the investigation.

 Arrest warrant issued for writer Aziz Tunç 

 The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has issued an arrest warrant for writer Aziz Tunç as part of a recent indictment, where he is accused of “libel” over an article he penned in 2017. The indictment was prepared based on a complaint by Doğu Perinçek, the chairman of the nationalist Vatan (Patriotic) Party. In his article published on 24 October 2017 on the website alevinet.com, Tunç had claimed that Aydınlık, a newspaper affiliated with Vatan Party, was paving the way for potential pogroms targeting Turkey’s Alevi community.

List of journalists and media workers in prison

As of 12 June 2020, at least 103 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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