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26 December

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 274

Can Dündar sentenced to 27.5 years; Supreme Court upholds 3 convictions in Zaman trial; Dindar Karataş charged with “membership of terrorist group”

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Supreme Court upholds 3 convictions, overturns 4 judgments in Zaman trial

The Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the convictions of Ahmet Turan Alkan, Mustafa Ünal and İbrahim Karayeğen on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization” in the trial of 11 former columnists and editors of the shuttered Zaman newspaper.

The Court overturned columnists Mümtazer Türköne, Şahin Alpay and Ali Bulaç’s convictions and held that they should have been charged with “aiding a terrorist organization.” The Court also overturned the acquittal of editor Mehmet Özdemir, saying he should have been convicted of “membership in a terrorist organization.”

The files against Türköne, Alpay, Bulaç and Özdemir have been sent to the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court for a retrial.

Columnist Ahmet Turan Alkan and night editor İbrahim Karayeğen, who were sentenced to 8 years and 9 months and 9 years in prison, respectively, and released from prison upon sentencing, will have to return to prison to serve the remainder of their sentences.

The Court also upheld the acquittals of Lale Sarıibrahimoğlu, Nuriye Akman, İhsan Dağı and Orhan Kemal Cengiz.

For further information, see this report.

Olay TV goes off air less than a month after launch

Olay TV, a news channel that began broadcast on 30 November, went off the air on 25 December 2020 following its evening news broadcast. The channel had allegedly been facing pressure for airing the Parliament group meeting of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) live.

According to recent Twitter posts by independent lawmaker Ahmet Şık, the channel’s license owner Cavit Çağlar was allegedly receiving threats that his companies would be seized by the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF). It’s also been claimed that the channel’s management was forced to hire staff members from the pro-government TV station Kanal 7 as executives for Olay TV, which they refused.

MA reporter Dindar Karataş charged with “membership of terrorist organization”

Dindar Karataş, a Van-based reporter for the Mezopotamya news agency (MA), who was arrested on 24 October and jailed pending trial on 26 October as part of an investigation in Erzurum, is charged with “membership of a terrorist organization” in the indictment against him.

Recordings of Karataş’s phone conversations with his sources and his reports are held as evidence against the journalist in the 17-page indictment. The indictment was accepted by a high criminal court in Erzurum, which set 9 February 2021 as the date for Karataş’s first hearing.

“Özgür Gündem main trial” adjourned until February

The trial of Özgür Gündem former Co-Editor-in-Chief Zana Kaya, lawyer Eren Keskin, publisher Kemal Sancılı and Responsible Editor İnan Kızılkaya, whose files were separated from the rest of the defendants in the final hearing of the main trial in February, resumed on 24 December 2020 at the Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court.

P24 monitored the hearing, where Keskin, Kızılkaya and their lawyers were in attendance. Kaya and Sancılı were not present. After hearing defense statements by those in attendance, the court adjourned the trial until 15 February 2021 for a new judge on the panel to review the case file.

Can Dündar’s “Özgür Gündem solidarity trial” adjourned until June

The 13th hearing of a trial where journalist Can Dündar is charged with "publishing statements by terrorist groups" for participating in a 2016 solidarity campaign for Özgür Gündem daily, took place on 24 December 2020 at the Istanbul 22nd High Criminal Court.

Ruling to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant for Dündar and the response to a letter rogatory issued for Dündar’s statement to be taken in Germany, the court adjourned the trial until 24 June 2021.

Propaganda” trials against Eren Keskin merged

The second hearing of lawyer and human rights defender Eren Keskin's trial on the charge of "terrorism propaganda" over her social media posts took place on 24 December 2020 at the Istanbul 36th High Criminal Court.

Ruling in line with the prosecutor's opinion, the court decided to merge the file with an ongoing case against Keskin on the same charge, overseen by the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court.

Journalist Hakkı Boltan’s trial adjourned until March

The fifth hearing of journalist Hakkı Boltan’s trial on the charge of “insulting the president” took place on 24 December 2020 at the Diyarbakır 12th Criminal Court of First Instance. Deciding to send the case file to the prosecution for the preparation of their final opinion, the court adjourned the trial until 11 March 2021.

Propaganda” trial against journalist Barış Barıştıran adjourned until February

The sixth hearing of a trial where Barış Barıştıran, the former responsible editor of the shuttered local TV station n TV, is charged with 

“terrorism propaganda” took place on 24 December 2020 at the Diyarbakır 8th High Criminal Court. Barıştıran and DTK executives Hilmi Aydoğdu and Mustafa Çukur are on trial because the DTK’s congress was aired live on n TV.

The court decided to send the case file over to the prosecution for the preparation of their final opinion and adjourned the trial until 16 February 2021.

Prosecutor seeks conviction for Xwebûn columnist Mehmet Şahin

The sixth hearing in the trial of Mehmet Şahin, a columnist for the Kurdish newspaper Xwebûn, took place on 24 December 2020 at the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court. Şahin is charged with “establishing and maintaining a terrorist organization” in the indictment. The accusation stems from his alleged involvement in the DTK.

Due to Covid-19, no spectators were allowed in the courtroom. Submitting their final opinion during the hearing, the prosecution asked the court to convict Şahin of “membership of an armed terrorist organization.” Granting time for the preparation of Şahin’s final defense statement, the court adjourned the trial until 19 January 2021.

Trial of Vice News journalists adjourned until May

British journalists Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury and their Iraqi translator Mohammed Ismael Rasool’s trial in absentia on terrorism-related charges resumed on 24 December 2020 at the Diyarbakır 8th High Criminal Court.

This was the 10th hearing in the trial. The court adjourned the trial until 20 May 2021, awaiting response to letters rogatory for the journalists' statements to be taken abroad.

Hanrahan, Pendlebury and Rasool were arrested in Diyarbakır in 2015 while they were shooting a news story for Vice News. All three were subsequently released.

Can Dündar sentenced to 27 years over “MİT trucks” coverage

Exiled journalist Can Dündar was given a combined prison sentence of 27 years and 6 months on two charges on 23 December 2020 at the final hearing of his retrial in the “MİT trucks case.”

The former editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet daily was on trial over the newspaper’s May 2015 coverage of allegations that Turkey sent weapons to insurgents in Syria on trucks operated by the National Intelligence Agency (MİT).

The Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court sentenced Dündar to 18 years and 9 months on the charge of “obtaining information that must be kept confidential for reasons relating to the security or domestic or foreign political interests of the State, for the purpose of political or military espionage” under Article 328 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) and 8 years and 9 months on the charge of “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” (TCK 220/7).

For further information, see this report.

Actors Akpınar and Gezen’s trial on “insulting the president” charge begins

The trial of veteran stage and screen actors Metin Akpınar and Müjdat Gezen on the charge of “insulting the president” over their televised remarks during a talk show that aired on Halk TV in December 2018 got underway on 23 December 2020.

The Anadolu 8th Criminal Court of First Instance granted President Erdoğan plaintiff status. Also ruling to grant Akpınar exemption from personally appearing in court, the judge adjourned the trial until 17 February 2021.

European Court orders Selahattin Demirtaş’s immediate release

The European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand Chamber judgment in the case of Selahattin Demirtaş on 22 December 2020, finding multiple violations of the European Convention on Human Rights and ordering Demirtaş’s immediate release. The Grand Chamber's judgment is final.

The Grand Chamber held by a majority that the lifting of Demirtaş’s parliamentary immunity, his initial and continued pre-trial detention, and the criminal proceedings brought against him for terrorism-related offences on the basis of evidence comprising his political speeches violated his freedom of expression and his right to liberty and security.

Also finding a violation of Article 18 of the convention, the Court held by a majority of 16 votes to one that Demirtaş’s detention pursued the ulterior purpose of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate. The Court held unanimously that Demirtaş’s right to be elected and to sit in Parliament had been violated.

For further information and the full text of the judgment, see this report.

Prosecutor seeks conviction for journalist Özgür Boğatekin

The fourth hearing in the retrial of Adıyaman-based journalist Özgür Boğatekin on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” took place on 22 December 2020 at the Adıyaman 2nd High Criminal Court.

Submitting their final opinion during the hearing, the prosecutor asked the court to convict Boğatekin as charged. Granting Boğatekin time to prepare his defense statement, the court adjourned the trial until 12 January 2021.

Compensation case against Pelin Ünker dismissed

A compensation case filed by Çalık Holding against journalist Pelin Ünker and former Cumhuriyet Foundation Chairperson Orhan Erinç over Ünker's "Paradise Papers" reports published in Cumhuriyet newspaper resumed on 22 December 2020 at the Istanbul 21st Civil Court.

Issuing their judgment at the end of the hearing, the court dismissed the lawsuit, where Çalık Holding was seeking TL 10,000 in pecuniary damages.

Prosecutor seeks conviction for 3 journalists 

A trial where journalists Süleyman Acar, Serpil Ünal and Songül Yücel and three other defendants are charged with “membership of a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” resumed on 22 December 2020 at the Istanbul 36th High Criminal Court.

Acar, the editor-in-chief of Mücadele Birliği newspaper, Ünal, the newspaper’s reporter, Yücel, the editor-in-chief of Önsöz magazine, and their co-defendants are accused over their social media posts about Turkey’s 2018 military operation on Syria’s Afrin.

Submitting their final opinion during the hearing, the prosecutor asked the court to convict Acar, Yücel and Nurten Karahancı of both charges, and Ünal and two other defendants of “propaganda.” Granting a continuation for the preparation of the final defense statements, the court adjourned the trial until 9 March 2021.

Trial of ETHA journalists Şahin and Gayıp adjourned until February

The 11th hearing of a trial where Etkin news agency (ETHA) editor Semiha Şahin and reporter Pınar Gayıp and two other defendants are charged with "membership of a terrorist organization" and "terrorism propaganda" took place on 22 December 2020 at the Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court.

Due to Covid-19, no spectators were allowed in the courtroom. Gayıp and Şahin, who did not attend the hearing, were represented by their lawyers. The court decided to adjourn the trial until 11 February 2021, awaiting the submission of a digital forensics report on equipment confiscated from the defendants.

Former HDP lawmaker Leyla Güven sent to prison

Leyla Güven, the co-chairperson of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) and a former HDP lawmaker, whose immunity was lifted by the Parliament earlier this year, was handed down a combined prison sentence of 22 years and 3 months on two separate charges at the final hearing of her trial on 21 December 2020.

Güven, who was on trial over her statements concerning Turkey’s military operation on Syria’s Afrin and her involvement in the DTK, was sentenced to 14 years and 3 months in prison on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization” and 8 years for “terrorism propaganda.” The Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court ruled for Güven’s imprisonment. Güven was subsequently arrested in her home in Diyarbakır and sent to prison.

MA reporter Zeynep Durgut freed under judicial control measures

Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporter Zeynep Durgut, who was arrested on 17 December as she was returning to Cizre from an assignment in Şırnak, and was later transferred to Van province, where she faced an arrest warrant as part of an ongoing investigation, was brought to the Van Courthouse on 21 December 2020 after spending four days in police custody.

At the courthouse, the prosecutor referred Durgut to court for imprisonment pending trial on the charge of “acting on behalf of a terrorist organization.” Durgut was questioned by the judge about news photos on her camera. The Van 2nd Criminal Judgeship of Peace released Durgut under judicial control measures in the form of an international travel ban and reporting to the nearest police station three times a week.

At least 87 journalists and media workers in prison 

As of 25 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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