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14 September

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 259

Ahmet Altan marks 4 years behind bars; 5 journalists sentenced for “exposing” MİT operative; Müyesser Yıldız ordered to pay compensation


Mehmet Altan files compensation case over false imprisonment 

A compensation case filed by journalist, columnist and academic Mehmet Altan, seeking compensation for his detention between 2016 and 2018 as part of the “Altans trial,” was held at the Istanbul Anadolu 11th High Criminal Court on 10 September 2020.

Pursuant to Article 141 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CMK), Altan is seeking pecuniary and non-pecuniary compensation for his false imprisonment during the trial, where he was eventually acquitted in 2019.

Granting 10 days for Altan’s lawyer to present relevant evidence, the court adjourned the trial until 2 December 2020.

A report about the hearing can be accessed here.

Ahmet Altan marks 4 years behind bars

Well-known novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan, the former chief editor of the now-defunct Tarafnewspaper, marked four years behind bars on 10 September 2020.

Altan was arrested on 10 September 2016 along with his brother, Mehmet Altan, as part of an investigation into the 15 July 2016 coup attempt, where they faced “coup” allegations over their political commentary on TV and their newspaper columns. The aggravated life sentences they were handed down in 2018 were overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeals and at the end of their retrial, on 4 November 2019, Ahmet Altan was handed down a prison sentence of 10 years and 6 months on the charge of “aiding a terrorist organization” and released under judicial control measures. However, two days later, the prosecutor objected to his release, and on 13 November 2019, Ahmet Altan was re-arrested and sent to the Silivri Prison, where he has been imprisoned since.

In the meantime, Ahmet Altan’s individual application has been pending before the European Court of Human Rights for more than three years.

Detailed case information can be accessed here.

Journalists Abdullah Kılıç, Habip Güler and Bayram Kaya released

Journalists Abdullah Kılıç, Habip Güler and Bayram Kaya, who were each sentenced in 2018 to 6 years and 3 months in prison on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization” as part of the trial publicly known as the “FETÖ media trial,” were released on 10 September 2020 from the Silivri Prison, where they had been in imprisoned since 2016.

The news of Güler’s release was made public by his lawyer Çiğdem Koç on social media.

The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the convictions of 17 of the 26 defendants in the case in March. Kılıç, Güler and Kaya were being held in prison by the prison management despite being eligible for parole since March 2020.

Compensation case against Pelin Ünker and Orhan Erinç adjourned

A compensation case against journalists Pelin Ünker and Orhan Erinç, in which Çalık Holding is seeking TL 10,000 in damages over Ünker’s coverage of the Paradise Papers leaks for Cumhuriyetdaily, resumed on 10 September 2020 at Istanbul’s 21st Civil Court of First Instance.

This was the sixth hearing in the lawsuit. P24 was in the courthouse to monitor the hearing, where Ünker and Erinç were represented by their lawyers. No spectators were allowed in the courtroom due to Covid-19.

Ünker’s lawyer Abbas Yalçın told the court that a criminal case against his client overseen by Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance has been dismissed and that the Regional Court of Appeals has recently ruled for her acquittal and that the judgment was final. 

Ruling to ask for a copy of the acquittal judgment from the trial court, and to inquire once again about Erinç’s socioeconomic status, the court adjourned the lawsuit until 22 December.

Courts keep arrest warrants for Ferhat Tunç in place 

The third hearing in a trial where self-exiled musician Ferhat Tunç is charged with “terrorism propaganda” over his social media posts was held on 10 September 2020 at the 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

The court merged a new indictment against Tunç with the ongoing case. In the new indictment, dated 8 July 2020, the musician’s social media posts and the cover of his latest album are cited among grounds for the “propaganda” charge.

In its interim ruling, the court decided to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant for Tunç and adjourned the trial until 29 December 2020.

Another trial against Tunç, where he is charged with “terrorism propaganda” and “membership of a terrorist organization,” resumed on 8 September at the 5th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır. This was the fourth hearing in the case. The court ruled to keep the arrest warrant for Tunç in place and adjourned the trial until 25 February 2021.

Onur Emre Yağan’s trial on “insulting the president” charge adjourned 

Journalist Onur Emre Yağan’s trial on the charge of “insulting the president” over four social media posts he had shared in 2014 and 2015, during his time as the chief editor of the news portal İleri Haber, resumed on 10 September 2020.

No spectators were allowed in the courtroom due to Covid-19. Through a petition submitted to the court by his lawyers, Erdoğan withdrew his complaint. The Anadolu 53rd Criminal Court of First Instance adjourned the trial until 22 October 2020 because the judge was on leave.

Journalist Müyesser Yıldız ordered to pay TL 20,000 in compensation

compensation case between Odatv news portal’s Ankara News Director Müyesser Yıldız and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar resumed on 10 September 2020 at Ankara’s Dışkapı 7th Civil Court of First Instance. The case comprised a lawsuit initially filed by Akar against Yıldız over a news report in which she quoted claims about Akar in a court testimony by a secret witness, and a counter lawsuit filed by Yıldız in response to Akar’s claim.

Announcing its judgment at the end of the hearing, the court ordered that Yıldız pay Akar TL 20,000 in compensation and that a reprimand against Yıldız be published in the newspaper with the highest circulation number. The court rejected the counter lawsuit Yıldız filed against Akar.

Müyesser Yıldız ordered to remain behind bars

The Ankara 4th Criminal Judgeship of Peace ruled on 8 September 2020 to keep Müyesser Yıldız, who has been jailed since June, behind bars. The judgeship rendered its ruling without hearing Yıldız’s lawyer, who had requested to attend the hearing.

Yıldız told the judgeship that she was being accused over her journalistic work and that she had no information as to the accusation(s) she is facing due to the restriction imposed on the investigation file. She asked to be released pending trial. The judgeship rejected her request, citing “strong suspicion of crime” as the grounds for its ruling.

Musician Yılmaz Çelik’s trial adjourned until November

The second hearing in the trial of musician Yılmaz Çelik on “terrorism propaganda” and “membership of a terrorist organization” charges took place on 10 September 2020 at the 2nd High Criminal Court of Tunceli. The court lifted the international travel ban imposed on Çelik and set 12 November 2020 as the date for the next hearing, where the court will hear witnesses.

Yılmaz was jailed shortly after a concert performance in Tunceli on 8 December 2019 and released pending trial at his first hearing in March.

90-year-old retired teacher briefly detained in Istanbul

Hasan Basri Aydın, a retired teacher and an author, was taken into custody on 10 September 2020 in Istanbul on the charge of “insulting a public official” over a previous case where he stood trial for “insulting” former ministers Cemil Çiçek and Şevket Kazan.

Following his arrest, Aydın was referred to a criminal judgeship of peace, which ruled to imprison the 90-year-old man. Aydın was freed before the completion of procedures for admission to prison as the prison management was informed about previous judgments that ruled for Aydın’s acquittal. It was later discovered that Aydın was arrested because although the cases against him were dismissed, they were not formally removed from his criminal record.

5 journalists sentenced for “exposing” MİT operative

The second and final hearing in the trial of seven journalists and one municipal press officer over news coverage and social media posts about a National Intelligence Organization (MİT) operative killed in Libya in February was held on 9 September 2020 at the 34th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

Odatv journalists Barış Pehlivan, Barış Terkoğlu and Hülya Kılınç, Yeni Yaşam daily Editor-in-Chief Ferhat Çelik and Responsible Editor Aydın Keser, Yeniçağ columnist Murat Ağırel, BirGüncolumnist Erk Acarer, and municipal press officer Eren Ekinci, were the defendants in the case.

The court acquitted all defendants except Acarer of “Disclosing classified information related to the security of the state.” However, the court sentenced Kılınç and Pehlivan to 3 years and 9 months and Çelik, Keser and Ağırel to 4 years, 8 months and 7 days each for “violating the Law on the National Intelligence Organization.”

Considering the time they spent in pre-trial detention, the court ruled to release Kılınç, Pehlivan and Ağırel under a ban on traveling abroad.

A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.

Final hearing in Özgür Gündem trial adjourned until December

Rights defender Eren Keskin, former Özgür Gündem editors İnan Kızılkaya and Zana Bilir Kaya and publisher Kemal Sancılı’s final hearing in the “Özgür Gündem main trial” that was set for 9 September 2020 was adjourned until 24 December 2020 as defense lawyers were unable to attend. Their files had been separated at the final hearing of the main trial in February when the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul granted them additional time for their final defense statements.

ETHA journalists Semiha Şahin and Pınar Gayıp’s trial adjourned

Etkin news agency (ETHA) editor Semiha Şahin and reporter Pınar Gayıp’s trial on charges of “membership of a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” resumed on 9 September 2020 at the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul. This was the 10th hearing in the trial.

Şahin and Gayıp did not attend the hearing. No spectators were allowed due to Covid-19. Şahin’s lawyer Özcan Karakoç was present in the courtroom. The court adjourned the trial until 22 December 2020, awaiting the submission of requested documents.

Journalist Engin Korkmaz’s trial adjourned until January

The third hearing in Antalya-based journalist Engin Korkmaz’s trial on the charge of “insulting the president” took place on 9 September 2020 at Antalya’s 19th Criminal Court of First Instance.

Korkmaz, the responsible editor of the local newspaper Antalya Körfez, and the president of the Mediterranean branch of Turkey’s Progressive Journalists Association (ÇGD), is on trial over his social media posts.

Korkmaz and his lawyer were in attendance. No spectators were allowed in the courtroom due to Covid-19. The prosecutor who was newly appointed to the case requested additional time to review the case file. Granting the prosecutor additional time, the court adjourned the trial until 15 January 2021.

Journalist Oktay Candemir arrested over Twitter post

Journalist Oktay Candemir was arrested in the eastern province of Van on 7 September 2020 following a police raid on his home. Initial reports said Candemir was taken into custody on the allegation of "terrorism propaganda" but it became clear later that afternoon that the journalist was arrested over a Twitter post he had shared about Diriliş Ertuğrul (Resurrection: Ertuğrul), a historical series about the father of the founder of the Ottoman state, that airs on Turkish state broadcaster TRT.

After spending the night in detention, Candemir was brought to the Van Courthouse on 8 September, where he was referred to a criminal judgeship of peace. He was charged with “insulting the memory of a dead person” under Article 130 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). Candemir was released by the judgeship under judicial control measures in the form of reporting to the nearest police station once a week and a ban on traveling abroad.

Religious Affairs Directorate files complaint against Erol Mütercimler

The Directorate of Religious Affairs filed a complaint against TV commentator Erol Mütercimler over his remarks about graduates of Turkey’s Islamic imam hatip schools during a political talk show on 7 September 2020.

The complaint filed with the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office claimed that Mütercimler “publicly insulted and slandered” imam hatip schools graduates and “incited enmity through discriminatory remarks and hate speech.”

The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) also launched an inquiry into Mütercimler’s comments.

Trial of BirGün editors adjourned 

BirGün daily editors Uğur Koç, Mustafa Kömüş and publisher İbrahim Aydın’s trial on the charge of “insulting a public official” over an online news report published in June 2019 resumed on 8 September 2020 at Istanbul’s 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.

P24 monitored the hearing, which was the third in the trial. None of the defendants were in attendance. They were represented by their lawyer Tolgay Güvercin.

Under new rules that came in to effect in the new judicial year, the prosecutor was also in attendance. The prosecutor requested additional time to prepare their final opinion.

Güvercin asked the court to wait for the outcome of their Constitutional Court application claiming violations of the right to a fair trial and freedom of expression over the access ban on BirGün’s report.

The court rejected the request on the grounds that the Constitutional Court judgment would not contribute in resolving the matter. Ruling to send that case file to the prosecutor, the court adjourned the trial until 19 November.

Journalist Özgür Boğatekin faces new investigation

Özgür Boğatekin, the news director of the Adıyaman-based local newspaper Gerger Fırat, is facing a new investigation over a post he shared on Facebook about agricultural workers who were assaulted in Sakarya. Boğatekin faces the allegation of “inciting the public to hatred and enmity.”

Journalist Kenan Kırkaya handed down prison sentence for “propaganda”

Journalist Kenan Kırkaya, a columnist for Yeni Yaşam daily, was handed down a prison sentence of 1 year, 6 months and 22 days on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.” The sentence was deferred.

The judgment was rendered by the 32nd High Criminal Court of Ankara at the final hearing of his trial, held on 6 July 2020. The accusation stemmed from several posts claimed to have been shared by Kırkaya on his Facebook account. The journalist asserted in his defense statements throughout the trial that he did not share the posts and that his Facebook account had been hacked while he was in prison.

At least 86 journalists and media workers in prison

Following journalists Hülya Kılınç, Barış Pehlivan, Murat Ağırel, Abdullah Kılıç, Habip Güler and Bayram Kaya’s release during the week, as of 11 September 2020, at least 86 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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