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13 December

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 272

Ayşegül Doğan sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison; appellate court upholds Özgür Paksoy’s sentence; case against Ferhat Parlak dismissed

https://expressioninterrupted.com/

Journalist Mehmet Çakmakçı's final hearing postponed

The eighth hearing of journalist Mehmet Çakmakçı's trial on the charge of "membership of a terrorist organization” over his reports, his interviews with his sources, and lectures he gave at the political academy of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), was held on 11 December 2020 at the Diyarbakır 10th High Criminal Court.

The hearing was overseen by a temporary panel. The panel adjourned the trial until 30 December for Çakmakçı’s final defense statement. The court is expected to issue its judgment at the next hearing.

Top Court to examine Osman Kavala’s application on 15 December

The Constitutional Court will review the application against the ongoing detention of jailed businessperson and civil society leader Osman Kavala on 15 December. The top court was originally scheduled to rule on the application in September but postponed its review indefinitely when the prosecution issued the new indictment against Kavala.

The First Section of the Constitutional Court will either adjudicate on the application itself or refer it to the Plenary.

The new trial against Kavala on “coup” and “espionage” charges is set to get underway on 18 December, only three days after the top court’s review of his current application. The Court’s decision to review Kavala’s application follows immediately on the heels of an Interim Resolution adopted on 3 December 2020 by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe urging Turkey to ensure that the Constitutional Court completes its examination of Kavala’s complaint without further delay.

Medyascope reporter Ufuk Çeri arrested

Journalist Ufuk Çeri, a reporter for Medyascope, was taken into custody on 10 December 2020 in Istanbul along with former employees of Atlas Global Airlines who were staging a protest, demanding their unpaid salaries from the company that filed for bankruptcy in February. Çeri was covering the protest. He and eight protesters were released after giving their statements before a prosecutor.

Trial of Aziz Oruç and Ersin Çaksu adjourned until March

The fourth hearing of journalists Aziz Oruç and Ersin Çaksu’s trial on the charge of “publicly denigrating the state of the Turkish Republic, the government, judicial bodies, the military and security forces” (TCK 301) over articles and columns published in October and November 2016 in the shuttered Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper was held on 10 December 2020 at the Istanbul 2ndCriminal Court of First Instance.

The court ruled to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant for Çaksu and adjourned the trial until 16 March 2021. The court had separated Oruç and Çaksu’s files at the November 2019 final hearing of the original trial because their statements had not yet been taken. They stood trial alongside journalists Selman Keleş, Özgür Paksoy, Kenan Kırkaya and İshak Yasul.

Journalist Arif Aslan’s trial adjourned until February

Journalist Arif Aslan’s trial on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization” resumed on 10 December 2020 at the Van 5th High Criminal Court. This was the ninth hearing of the trial.

Aslan and his lawyer were in attendance. Accepting the prosecutor’s letter of excuse, the court adjourned the trial until 11 February 2021. Aslan’s file was separated from the case where he was on trial with journalist Selman Keleş at the previous hearing held in September.

Banu Özdemir acquitted in “Bella Ciao trial”

Banu Özdemir, former deputy provincial chair of main opposition CHP’s Izmir branch, was acquitted of “inciting hatred and hostility” at the third hearing of her trial held on 10 December 2020 at the Izmir 50th Criminal Court of First Instance.

Özdemir was on trial for sharing on social media footage of the song “Bella Ciao” being broadcasted from several mosques in Izmir in May. Özdemir remained in pre-trial detention for nine days as part of the investigation launched by the Izmir Public Prosecutor's Office.

“Taraf trial” adjourned until March

The 33rd hearing in the “Taraf trial,” where the now-defunct newspaper’s former executives and former reporter Mehmet Baransu are accused of publishing a secret military document, resumed on 9 December 2020 at the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court.

The presiding judge was on leave so a temporary judge oversaw the hearing. Baransu addressed the court from the Silivri Prison via SEGBİS. Baransu’s lawyer was in the courtroom. She asked the court to separate the “membership of a terrorist organization” charge against her client to be dropped and to rule for his release pending trial since Baransu is currently on remand pending appeal because of a recent sentence he was given in a case overseen by the Mersin 2nd High Criminal Court.

The court ruled for the continuation of Baransu’s detention and adjourned the trial until 4 March 2021.

Journalist Nurcan Yalçın appears in court on “terror” charges 

The first hearing of journalist Nurcan Yalçın’s trial on the charges of “terrorism propaganda” and “membership of a terrorist organization” took place on 9 December 2020 at the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court.

Yalçın’s membership in the Rosa Women’s Association and her social media posts are held as evidence against her in the indictment.

Yalçın and her lawyer were in attendance at the first hearing. When Yalçın told the court that she was a journalist during her defense statement, the presiding judge asked her if she held an official press card.

Yalçın’s lawyers demanded that a secret witness who testified against Yalçın be heard in a courtroom hearing where the defense is present. The court rejected the request on the grounds that “this could expose the identity of the secret witness” and ruled to hear the witness during a separate hearing. The court gave Yalçın’s lawyers 10 days to submit to the court their questions for the secret witness and set 3 March 2021 as the date for Yalçın’s second hearing.

Regional court upholds journalist Özgür Paksoy’s conviction

The 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Gaziantep Regional Court of Justice has upheld a prison sentence given last year to journalist Özgür Paksoy on the charge of “terrorism propaganda.” 

Paksoy, currently an editor with the Mezopotamya news agency, was handed down a prison sentence of 3 years, 1 month and 15 days at the final hearing of his trial by the Şırnak 2nd High Criminal Court on 15 February 2019. He was accused over his social media posts. The sentence was not deferred.

Ahmet Şık faces investigation over fake Facebook account

Independent lawmaker Ahmet Şık is facing a new investigation over posts shared on a fake Facebook account purported to belong to him. The public prosecutor recently sent the investigation file to the Parliament, seeking the General Assembly to strip Şık of his immunity. According to legislation, the prosecution is required to initially seek information from Facebook on whether a certain account is owned by a real person.

A total of nine investigation files against Şık is now pending before the Parliament, including the latest one on the allegation of “insulting a public official and disclosing the identity of a state official involved in the fight against terrorism.” Six of the files are on the allegation of “insulting the president” while two other files are on allegations of “insulting the Turkish nation and the Parliament” and “insulting the state, the government or judicial bodies.” 

Journalist Yetkin Yıldız’s trial adjourned until April 

A trial where journalist Yetkin Yıldız is accused of “insult and libel” for a news story published on Aktif Haber during the time when Yıldız was the news portal’s editor-in-chief resumed on 8 December 2020 at the Bakırköy 31st Criminal Court of First Instance. The case was launched upon a complaint by former Interior Minister Efkan Ala. The court accepted letters of excuse submitted by the lawyers representing both parties and adjourned the trial until 6 April 2021.

Journalist Rıfat Doğan acquitted

Former Artı Gerçek reporter Rıfat Doğan’s trial on the allegation that he took photographs inside the courtroom during a hearing of the “Çorlu train crash trial” resumed on 8 December 2020 at Çorlu 4th Criminal Court of First Instance. This was the third hearing in the trial. Issuing its judgment at the end of the hearing, the court acquitted Doğan of “recording or broadcasting audio or visual material during an investigation or a trial without authorization” (TCK 286/1). 

Prosecutor seeks conviction for journalist Mazlum Dolan

The second hearing in the trial of Mazlum Dolan, a former correspondent for the now-defunct Dicle News Agency (DİHA), on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization” was held on 8 December 2020 at the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court.

Dolan, who lives abroad, did not attend. His lawyer Resul Tamur was present at the hearing. Presenting his final opinion, the prosecutor demanded that Dolan be sentenced between 7 years and 6 months and 15 years in prison, citing his news reports during the curfews in the Sur district. The court accepted Tamur's request for time to prepare a defence statement against the final opinion and adjourned the trial until 22 December.

German tourist sentenced for “insulting the president”

Kristian B., a German national who was arrested on 4 November 2020 following an argument at the Antalya Airport and subsequently jailed pending trial on the charges of “insulting the president” and “inciting hatred and animosity,” appeared before the Antalya 12th Criminal Court of First Instance on 8 December for his first hearing.

At the end of the hearing, Kristian B. was sentenced to 11 months and 20 days for “insulting the president” and 5 months for “inciting hatred and animosity.”  The court deferred the sentences and ruled for Kristian B.’s release.

HDP provincial executive sentenced for “insulting the president”

Ömer Cemal Yazıcıoğlu, the provincial deputy co-chair of HDP’s Erzurum branch, was sentenced to 11 months and 20 days in prison for “insulting the president” by the Tekman Criminal Court of First Instance. Yazıcıoğlu was on trial over an article he posted on Blogspot.

Journalist Ayşegül Doğan handed down 6-year sentence

The final hearing in the trial of journalist Ayşegül Doğan, former program coordinator of the shuttered İMC TV, on the charge of "establishing or managing an armed organization" was held on 7 December 2020 at the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court.

Issuing their judgment after a brief recess, the court ruled in line with the prosecutor’s final opinion and sentenced Doğan to 6 years and 3 months in prison on the charge of "membership of a terrorist organization." The court ruled for the continuation of the judicial control measures imposed on Doğan until her sentence is finalized.

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

Case against journalist Ferhat Parlak dismissed 

Silvan Mücadele local newspaper Editor-in-Chief Ferhat Parlak’s trial on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization” resumed on 7 December 2020 at the Diyarbakır 11th High Criminal Court.

Ruling that the evidence in the case file was the same evidence against the journalist in a 2017 case overseen by the Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court,  where he was eventually acquitted, the panel dismissed the case. The court also lifted the international travel ban imposed on Parlak.

Parlak was jailed on 14 April 2018 and remained behind bars for 15 months before being released by the court on 8 July 2019 at the first hearing of this trial.

Two Russian journalists arrested in Istanbul freed

Two correspondents of the Russian TV network NTV, Alexéi Petrushko and cameraman Iván Malishkin, were arrested on 3 December 2020 in Istanbul for taking pictures in an area where the manufacturer of fighter drones Bayraktar is located. Petrushko and Malishkin were referred to the courthouse on 7 December. They were released after giving their statements to the public prosecutor.

Local man jailed over street interview released at first hearing

İsmail Demirbaş, who was arrested for criticizing the government in a street interview in Antalya, appeared before a criminal court in Antalya for his first hearing on 7 December 2020. The court ruled to release Demirbaş pending trial. The second hearing in the case is scheduled for 28 December.

At least 87 journalists and media workers in prison 

As of 11 December 2020, at least 87 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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