Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey – 162

Hüseyin Aykol, İnan Kızılkaya, İhsan Çaralan given jail terms for “insulting the president”;




An Istanbul court on 25 October convicted journalists Hüseyin Aykol, the former co-editor-in-chief of the shuttered pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem, İnan Kızılkaya, the newspaper’s managing editor, and Evrenselcolumnist İhsan Çaralan of “insulting the president” in an article published in Özgür Gündem.

The 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul initially sentenced Aykol and Kızılkaya to 18-month prison terms. The sentences were increased to 1 year and 9 months on grounds that the offense was committed publicly and then to 2 years, 2 months and 8 days on grounds that the same offense was committed multiple times. Taking into account the journalists’ good behavior during the proceedings, the court then reduced both sentences to 1 year 10 months and 26 days.

As for Çaralan, the court initially ruled for a 1-year sentence. It then increased the jail term to 1 year and 2 months on grounds that the offense was committed publicly. On grounds of good behavior during proceedings, the court reduced Çaralan’s sentence to 11 months and 20 days.

The court deferred the sentences for Kızılkaya and Çaralan by five years, but Aykol risks going to prison in the event his sentence is upheld by an appeals court.

Ziya Ataman remains behind bars in fourth hearing 

Jailed former Dicle news agency (DİHA) reporter Ziya Ataman on 26 October appeared before a court in Şırnak for the latest hearing in a case where he and 18 others are on trial on eight different charges.

Ataman is among nine jailed defendants in the case, where the charges include  “disrupting the unity and integrity of the state,” “attempting to intentionally kill with premeditation a civil servant because of the performance of a public duty” and “attempting to premeditated murder.”

Ataman and other jailed defendants addressed the 1st High Criminal Court of Şırnak via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEBGİS during the hearing. 

Reiterating their previous defense statements, the defendants requested for their release pending trial.

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ordered the continuation of detention of all jailed defendants and adjourned the trial until 17 January 2019. 

The court also decided that it would render its decision regarding a request for this case to be merged with another case file against the same defendants before the 2nd Criminal Court of Şırnak at a later date.

Court rejects appeal requests in major media trial, upholds convictions

An appellate court in Istanbul overseeing the appeal requests in the case publicly known as the “FETÖ media trial” rejected the appeals against prison terms given to 25 defendants on “terrorism” charges.

The 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice rendered its decision on 22 October. The court made the ruling without a public hearing despite the defense lawyers’ requests for a hearing. The appellate court also ruled for the continuation of detention of all jailed defendants in the case.

At the end of the trial’s final hearing in March, the 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul had convicted 25 of the 26 defendants in the case.

Twenty-three of the defendants (journalists Abdullah Kılıç, Ahmet Memiş, Ali Akkuş, Bayram Kaya, Bünyamin Köseli, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Cihan Acar, Cuma Ulus, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Habip Güler, Halil İbrahim Balta, Hanım Büşra Erdal, Hüseyin Aydın, Muhammed Sait Kuloğlu, Mustafa Erkan Acar, Mutlu Çölgeçen, Oğuz Usluer, Seyid Kılıç, Ufuk Şanlı, Ünal Tanık, Yakup Çetin, Yetkin Yıldız and school teacher Davut Aydın) were convicted of “membership in an armed terrorist organization” and sentenced to prison terms of various lengths.

Columnists Murat Aksoy and Atilla Taş were convicted of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” and were sentenced to 2 years and 1 month, and 3 years, 1 month and 15 days in prison, respectively.

The appellate court’s recent decision means prison sentences given to Aksoy and Taş have now become final as sentences below five years cannot be taken to the Supreme Court of Appeals if they are upheld by an appellate court.

Convictions against the rest of the journalists are now expected to be taken to the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Kemal Özer remains behind bars in third hearing

Kemal Özer, a reporter for Evrensel daily who has been jailed pending trial since September 2017, appeared before a court in Tunceli on 24 October for the third hearing of his trial.

Özer, who is charged with “membership in a terrorist organization,” addressed the 1st High Criminal Court of Tunceli for his defense statement during the hearing. Özer told the court that he had traveled to the Pamuk village near the Hozat district for news coverage and then while there he was threatened for his life by a group of persons who were wielding guns. Özer requested to be released pending trial. 

In its interim ruling, the court ordered the continuation of Özer’s detention and adjourned the trial until 28 December.

“Insulting the president” case against Evrensel columnist adjourned

The second hearing in the case where lawyer and Evrensel columnist Kamil Tekin Sürek stands accused of “insulting the president” in a newspaper column was held on 24 October in Istanbul.

Sürek and his lawyer Devrim Avcı, as well as the lawyer representing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attended the hearing at the Bakırköy 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.

Lawyer Avcı told the court that based on the amendments introduced to the Turkish Constitution as part of the recently implemented presidential system, the president of Turkey was not an impartial head of state anymore but the leader of a political party. Adding that for this reason the provisions in Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code were unconstitutional, Avcı requested that the court take into consideration said amendments while rendering its decision.

The judge issued an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, adjourning the trial until 6 December 2018.

The judge also ruled that the court would make a decision regarding Avcı’s previous motion for unconstitutionality at a later date, after reviewing the relevant petition and the case file.

Police raid Yürüyüş magazine office in Istanbul 

Anti-terror police on 24 October raided the office of the Yürüyüşmagazine in Istanbul’s Sultangazi district.

Armored police vehicles and a water cannon cordoned off the street during the raid, conducted after midnight. Reports said the police searched the office and arrested several persons whose names were not disclosed.

Nalin Öztekin receives threat after reporting on murder case

Nalin Öztekin, a reporter for the news portal Artı Gerçek, was threatened by an anonymous caller over the phone following her coverage of the controversy surrounding the murder case of Muhammed Fatih Safitürk, the district governor of Derik who was assassinated in a bomb attack in 2016. The person who called Öztekin told her over the phone to “Watch what you’re writing, or we will break your fingers.”

Fox TV reporters banished from minister’s program

Fox TV reporter Beril Oğuz and camera operator Serhat Yağmur on 26 October were ousted from an event they were covering where Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Bekir Pakdemirli was the speaker.

Last week, the minister had avoided answering another Fox TV reporter’s questions concerning claims that 300 truckloads of meat was imported to Turkey without a tender. The minister had accused the journalist of trying to besmirch the government.

The minister’s press advisor Uğur Alıcı had Fox TV reporters who were accredited to cover Friday’s meeting where Pakdemirli was the speaker removed from the venue.

“Incitement” case against musician Ferhat Tunç adjourned 

Musician Ferhat Tunç on 26 October appeared before an Istanbul court for the latest hearing of a trial in which he stands accused of “inciting the public to hatred and animosity” via a social media post.

Tunç and his lawyer Fatma Hopikoğlu attended the hearing at the Büyükçekmece 4th Criminal Court of First Instance. After the reading of the indictment, Tunç was asked to deliver his defense statement. Tunç requested additional time to prepare his defense statement. The court accepted Tunç’s request for additional time and set 29 March 2019 as the date for the next hearing.

The prosecution seeks up to 3 years imprisonment for Tunç. The accusation stems from an image and a piece of writing Tunç had shared on Twitter in relation to the results of Turkey’s 16 April 2017 referendum.

Five more academics given jail terms for signing peace petition 

Two Istanbul courts this week convicted five more academics of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” for signing a 2016 declaration by the Academics for Peace initiative.

The 36th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 22 October sentencedformer Bahçeşehir University academic Naciye Gülengül Altıntaş to a prison term of 1 year and 3 months at the end of the fourth and final hearing of her trial.

The same court on 23 October sentenced academics İpek Merçil, O.A. and Yücel Candemir to 15-month prison terms each.

On 25 October, the 28th High Criminal Court of Istanbul also gave academic Fevziye Deniz Tarba Ceylan a 15-month prison sentence on the “propaganda” charge at the end of the second hearing of her trial.

All five sentences were deferred.

List of journalists and media workers in prison 

As of 26 October 2018, at least 176 journalists and media workers are in prison in Turkey, either in pretrial detention or serving a sentence.

The full list can be accessed here.