Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey – 163

Trial of Taraf executives and reporter Baransu adjourned until January; Ece Sevim Öztürk remains behind bars after first hearing



The 10th hearing in a case against former executives of the shuttered Taraf daily and the newspaper’s reporter Mehmet Baransu was held on 1-2 November at the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
The accusations stem from the alleged publication of a document called “Egemen War Plan.”
P24 monitored the hearing where Baransu, the only imprisoned defendant in the case who is in pretrial detention in the Silivri Prison, and defense lawyers, as well as plaintiffs Dursun Çiçek and retired army Colonel Suat Aytın were in attendance.
Baransu made his defense statement during the two-day hearing. He explained to the court that his defense statement was taking too long to complete because some digital files he had requested had only been delivered last week, and that he has also been busy preparing defense statements for numerous other ongoing cases against him.
Recounting to the court how he had received the four CDs that included the “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) coup plan documents, Baransu said following the publication of the relevant news stories in Taraf, an investigation was launched and that he handed the said CDs to the prosecution. As for the alleged war plans that constitute the basis of the allegations in this case, Baransu said they had not seen any such document. “Right now I am being put on trial in relation to some document which I have never seen or heard of,” Baransu said, adding that this was a politically motivated trial.
Continuing his defense statement on the second day of the hearing, Baransu said he had not been allowed to bring in the courtroom newspaper clippings and books to use in his defense. Adding that the said book constituted evidence, Baransu said his right to a fair trial was being violated.
After Baransu had completed his defense, his lawyer Yahya Engin addressed the court. Noting that his client had been in detention on remand for almost four years, Engin called the court’s attention to Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is about the right to liberty and security. Adding that the relevant law stipulated a maximum five years of pretrial detention, Engin requested that his client be released pending trial. Engin also asked the court to reject the plaintiffs’ requests for becoming intervening parties in the trial.
The prosecution requested that Baransu be remanded in detention and given additional time to complete his defense statement, as well as the decision concerning the plaintiffs’ requests to be made following the completion of defense statements.
Announcing its interim ruling at the end of the two-day hearing, the court ruled to keep Baransu in pretrial detention and adjourned the trial until 3-4 January 2019 to allow additional time for the defense.
Çağdaş Erdoğan trial adjourned until March
The third hearing in the trial where photojournalist Çağdaş Erdoğan stands accused of terrorism-related charges for his photographs and his social media posts, was held on 2 November in Istanbul.
Erdoğan, who is exempt from appearing in the court, did not attend.
The hearing at the 33rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul was monitored by a barrister from the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales, Michael Ivers, as well as P24.
Announcing its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court adjourned the trial until 26 March 2019, awaiting the outcome of the examination of digital material belonging to Erdoğan, and the response from the Gendarmerie General Command concerning an inquiry by the court.
Karşı newspaper trial gets under way after two files merged
The “Karşı newspaper trial,” where 12 defendants, including the former publisher of the shuttered daily, Turan Ababey, and the newspaper’s former employees, including its one-time editor in chief Eren Erdem, stand accused of various criminal charges on account of their work at the newspaper, got under way on 31 October in Istanbul. At the end of the three-day hearing, the court ruled for the continuation of Eren Erdem’s detention.
Erdem, a former CHP MP, was jailed pending trial in June on accusations stemming from his time as Karşı editor in chief as part of the case overseen by the 35th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. Erdem is charged with “knowingly and willingly aiding an armed terrorist organization without being part of its hierarchical structure,” “revealing the identity of a secret witness” and “violating the confidentiality of an investigation.”
The 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which later accepted an indictment into the publisher and employees of Karşı, ruled to merge the case file with the file before the 35th High Criminal Court against Erdem. An appellate court later ruled that the 23rd High Criminal Court should have jurisdiction over the merged case.
The indictment for the merged case file seeks up to 15 years of imprisonment for Alaaddin Akkaşoğlu, the owner of the newspaper’s website, karşı, and a partner of the shuttered Akis Publications; karşı chief editor Mehmet Aydoğmuş; Our Kala, who is purported to be the owner of the Twitter account “@Fedakarkisi”; Murat Kazancı, the news director for the hardcopy; and Emrah Direk, on the charge of “membership in an armed terrorist organization.” Also indicted is Kutlu Esendemir, the newspaper’s general coordinator, for “knowingly and willingly aiding an armed terrorist organization without being its member.” He also faces 15 years in prison.
The indictment also seeks up to 18 years in prison each for Karşı reporter Ufuk Emin Köroğlu and former editor in chief of the shuttered Millet daily, Değer Özergün, on charges of “membership in an armed terrorist organization” and “disclosing the identities of public officials who have taken part in the fight against terrorism.”
The prosecution did not seek jail terms for Ababey, reporter Emre Erciş, and responsible managing editor Mehmet Bozkurt, who are charged with “knowingly and willingly aiding an armed terrorist organization without being its member.” Instead the prosecution asked that they benefit from effective remorse.
The 23rd High Criminal Court had also issued arrest warrants for five of the suspects: Alaaddin Akkaşoğlu, Değer Özergün, Mehmet Aydoğmuş, Murat Kazancı and Onur Kala, who are accused in the indictment of using ByLock, an encrypted messaging app purported to be exclusively used by the members of the Fethullah Gülen network, which the government accuses of being the perpetrators behind the 2016 coup attempt.
The first hearing after the merging of the files took place over three days in Silivri. Eren Erdem, Turan Ababey, Emre Erciş, Mehmet Bozkurt and Kutlu Esendemir as well as defense lawyers were in attendance at the court.
Erdem gave his defense statement on the first day of the hearing, responding to the accusations against him.
Onur Kala, who was recently arrested, also addressed the court for his defense statement via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS from the Istanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan. He denied the accusations.
After the completion of the defense statements, the prosecutor requested continued detention for Erdem on grounds that “the collection of evidence was ongoing” and that there was “strong suspicion of crime.” The prosecution also asked that Onur Kala be jailed pending trial and that the case file against Alaaddin Akkaşoğlu be separated.
Announcing its interim ruling on the last day of the hearing, 2 November, the court ruled to keep Erdem behind bars, and jailed Kala pending trial, as well as separating Akkaşoğlu’s file. The court also ruled to await the execution of arrest warrants against Ufuk Emin Köroğlu, Emrah Direk, Değer Özergün, Mehmet Aydoğmuş and Murat Kazancı and set 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 January 2019 as the dates for the next hearing.
The investigation into Karşı was launched on grounds that the newspaper had revealed leaked tapes as part of the graft probes targeting the government in 2013, publicly known as “17-25 December.”
Ece Sevim Öztürk remains behind bars after first hearing
Ece Sevim Öztürk, the editor in chief of the news website Çağdaş Ses, who has been jailed pending trial since June, on 1 November appeared before an Istanbul court for the first hearing of her trial.
Öztürk is accused of “aiding a terrorist organization” on account of her journalistic work exploring the 15 July 2016 coup attempt and her social media posts.
P24 monitored the hearing at the 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
Making her defense statement during the hearing, Öztürk told the court that she was an investigative journalist and that she had been in jail for five months for her journalistic work. Explaining that she had been trying for a year to unravel the less explored parts of the 15 July coup attempt, Öztürk said she wrote in her news stories about the shortcomings of the judiciary, but that she did not aim to harm the reputation of the courts.
Also speaking about her social media posts for which she is indicted, Öztürk said those were her personal opinions concerning rights violations such as lengthy detention periods, and an exercising of her right to freedom of expression.
“I stand behind every single news story I wrote and every single tweet I posted, but none of them included any criminal intent. I was just practicing journalism,” Öztürk said.
Addressing the court following Öztürk, her lawyer Efkan Bolaç said the indictment did not include any evidence to link Öztürk with a criminal organization and requested that his client be acquitted and released. Other defense lawyers also argued that indictments such as the one against Öztürk were aimed at intimidating independent journalists to prevent them from covering certain topics.
The prosecution then requested for the continuation of Öztürk’s detention. Announcing its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ordered the continuation of Öztürk’s pretrial detention and adjourned the trial until 11 December 2018.
Yürüyüş magazine raided by police, 1 taken into custody
Police on 1 November raided the offices of the left-wing magazine Yürüyüş in Istanbul’s Sultangazi district. Various documents were confiscated and one employee of the magazine was taken into custody, reports said.
Ali Sönmez Kayar released at second hearing
Ali Sönmez Kayar, a reporter for the Etkin news agency (ETHA), who had been jailed pending trial since February, was released on 31 October at the end of the second hearing of his trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group.”
All nine defendants in the case are accused of membership in the MLKP (Marxist-Leninist Communist Party), each facing up to 15 years of imprisonment.
The 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled that all five jailed defendants in the case be released under judicial control measures that also include an international travel ban, and adjourned the trial until 19 February 2019.
Former TRT employees face up to 15 years in jail on terrorism-related charge
The prosecution requested up to 15 years of imprisonment for 42 of the 44 former employees of Turkish state broadcaster TRT who are standing trial before an Ankara court on the charge of “membership in FETÖ.”
The case is overseen by the 22nd High Criminal Court of Ankara. Submitting his final opinion of the case during the latest hearing on 31 October, the prosecutor requested that 42 of the defendants, including former news anchor Hamza Günerigök, be given up to 15 years in prison each for “membership in a terrorist group.”
In addition to Günerigök, the prosecutor is seeking jail terms for Abdullah Yeldan, Ahmet Çat, Ahmet Özdemir, Ali Hancı, Ayhan Baykara, Beşir Elmas, Cumali Çaygeç, Enes Bora, Ertan Rıha, Eşref Üzüm, Evren Kara, Eyüp Keser, Koray Demirci, Mehmet Akif Öztürk, Mehmet Salih Helvacı, Niyazi Özkan, Orhan Tokmak, Osman Taha Sirkeci, Özkan Püsküllü, Selçuk Çelik, Serkan Canbaz, Sezai Yavaş, Sinan Güneş, Şaban Harman, Tuğral Çakır, Yunus Ayhan, İbrahim Öztürk, Hüseyin Arslan, Murat Karaca, Hakan Karaca, Ali Fuat Ayhan, Özgür Aksoy, Salih Üzer, Nurdan Ayşe Coşkun, Kubilay Süslü, Şefik Cürebal, Ali Suat Günek, Emrah Timuçin Yazıcı, Mehmet Kuş and Safiye Tokgöz. The prosecutor also requested that defendant Murat Kaban benefit from effective remorse, and the files of Sultan Öztürk and Sedat Turhan be separated.
Nine of the defendants in the case are currently in pretrial detention.
The court adjourned the trial to allow time for the final defense statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion to be prepared.
Mehmet Gündem remains behind bars in second hearing
Mehmet Gündem, a former columnist for the daily Milliyet, who has been jailed pending trial since November 2017, appeared before an Istanbul court on 30 October for the second hearing of his trial.
Gündem is charged with “membership in a terrorist organization (FETÖ)” and is accused of using the encrypted messaging application ByLock.
P24 monitored the hearing at the 35th High Criminal court of Istanbul.
Addressing the court for his defense statement, Gündem rejected the prosecution’s allegations that he had connections with certain persons. As for the ByLock allegation, Gündem told the court that he was reiterating his previous defense statement and rejected the accusation.
Gündem’s lawyer Ömer Faik Çetiner, addressing the court following his client, asked that Gündem be released since the collection of evidence was finalized. Macit Ceylan, another lawyer representing Gündem, told the court that the ByLock allegations in the case file were riddled with conflicting records.
Announcing its interim decision at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to keep Gündem in pretrial detention and adjourned the trial until 8 January 2019.
MP faces criminal investigation for parliament speech
Cihangir İslam, a Saadet (Felicity) Party MP from Istanbul, is facing a criminal investigation on account of a speech he made in the Parliament, which he also posted on social media. The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office said that the accusations against İslam were “insulting the Turkish nation, the Republic of Turkey, and the organs and institutions of the state” as per Article 301, and “praising a crime or a criminal” as per Article 215 of the Turkish Penal Code.
Lawyer to stand trial for “insulting the president in petition”
Özgür Urfa, an attorney, will be standing trial on the charge of “insulting the president” on account of a petition he had filed with an appeals court on behalf of one of his clients. The 30th High Criminal Court of Ankara recently accepted the indictment against the attorney, issued by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s office. The first hearing of his trial is scheduled for 13 February 2019.
List of journalists and media workers in prison
Following the release from pretrial detention of imprisoned ETHA reporter Ali Sönmez Kayar, there are still at least 175 journalists and media workers in Turkey’s prisons, either in pretrial detention or serving a sentence.
The full list can be accessed here.
1                Abdulkadir Turay, DİHA reporter
2                Abdullah Dirican, Zaman local news editor
3                Abdullah Kaya, DİHA
4                Abdullah Kılıç, Habertürk
5                Abdullah Özyurt, Zaman reporter
6                Abdulvahap İş, freelance journalist
7                Adil Demirci, ETHA reporter
8                Ahmet Altan
9                Ahmet Feyzullah Özyurt
10              Ahmet Memiş, Haberdar news website
11              Ahmet Metin Sekizkardeş, Zaman
12              Ahmet Yavaş, TRT (Erzurum)
13              Ali Ahmet Böken, TRT News coordinator
14              Ali Akkuş, Zaman
15              Ali Aşikar, Azadiya Welat
16              Ali Babür Boysal, Zaman page designer
17              Ali Ünal, Zaman columnist
18              Ali Yüce, TRT Radio broadcasts chief
19              Arafat Dayan, Demokratik Ulus
20              Aslı Ceren Aslan, Özgür Gelecek
21              Ayşe Nazlı Ilıcak
22              Ayşenur Parıldak, Zaman, Haberdar
23              Aytekin Gezici, journalist/writer
24              Aziz İstegün, Diyarbakır Zaman representative
25              Bayram Kaya, Zaman reporter
26              Behram Kılıç
27              Beytullah Demir, Cihan news agency deputy general director
28              Beytullah Özdemir, Zaman Düzce bureau chief
29              Burçin Dokgöz, former Zaman and Çorum reporter
30              Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Journalists and Writers’ Foundation
31              Cemal Tunç, Gün Matbaacılık employee
32              Ceren Taşkın, Hatay'ın Sesi
33              Cuma Ulus, Millet newspaper’s publications coordinator
34              Cumali Çaygeç, TRT Şeş news director
35              Cüneyt Seza Özkan, Samanyolu TV
36              Çetin Kurşun, Azadiya Welat
37              Deniz Bakır, Atılım editor in chief
38              Doğan Baran, Odak magazine owner, managing editor
39              Ece Sevim Öztürk, Çağdaş Ses editor in chief
40              Emin Demir, freelancer
41              Emre Soncan, Zaman defense reporter
42              Ercan Gün, Fox TV
43              Erdal Süsem, Eylül magazine editor
44              Erdal Şen, former Meydan managing editor
45              Erdoğan Zamur, Gün Matbaacılık employee
46              Erol Yüksel, TRT News Department vice president
47              Erol Zavar, Odak magazine owner and newsroom director
48              Fahri Öztoprak, Cihan/Zaman Samsun correspondent
49              Faruk Akkan, Cihan news agency
50              Ferhat Çiftçi, Azadiya Welat Gaziantep bureau chief
51              Ferhat Haldun Pehlivan, ETHA intern reporter
52              Ferhat Parlak, Silvan Mücadele newspaper owner
53              Fevzi Yazıcı, Zaman chief designer
54              Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Türksolu columnist
55              Gurbet Çakar, Hevi women’s magazine
56              Gültekin Avcı
57              Habip Güler, Zaman reporter
58              Hakan Aksel, TRT producer-director
59              Hakan Ergün, Azadiya Welat and Özgür Gündem distributor
60              Hakan Taşdelen
61              Halil İbrahim Mert, TRT (Erzurum)
62              Hamit Dilbahar, Azadiya Welat columnist
63              Hamza Günerigök, TRT
64              Hanım Büşra Erdal, Zaman reporter and columnist
65              Hasan Bzokurt, Bugün reporter
66              Hasan Duman, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi distributor
67              Hasan Hüseyin Örs, former TRT production-broadcast operator
68              Hasan Taşar, former TRT Ankara reporter
69              Hatice Duman, Atılım newspaper owner and managing editor
70              Haydar Ergül, Demokratik Modernite editor
71              Hicran Ürün, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi editor
72              Hidayet Karaca, Samanyolu Media Group president
73              Hüseyin Aydın, Cihan reporter
74              İbrahim Halil Öztürkeri, former TRT production-broadcast operator
75              İdris Okur, Cihan New Agency Çorum reporter
76              İdris Sayılgan, DİHA
77              İdris Yılmaz
78              İhsan Sinmiş, Gün Matbaacılık employee
79              İhsan Yaşar, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi owner
80              İrfan Karaca, Gün Matbaacılık employee
81              İshak Yasul, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi responsible managing editor
82              İsmail Çoban, former Azadiya Welat managing editor
83              İsmail Ersan, Anatolia news agency
84              İsminaz Temel, ETHA editor
85              Kamuran Sunbat, former DİHA Çukurova reporter
86              Kasım Zengin, owner of Gün Matbaacılık
87              Kazım Canlan, Cihan news agency Ankara news director
88              Kazım Göçer, Gün Matbaacılık employee
89              Kemal Demir, TV 10
90              Kemal Özer, Evrensel
91              Kemal Sancılı, Özgür Gündem copyrights holder
92              Kenan Karavil, Radyo Dünya editor-in-chief
93              Kibriye Evren, JinNews reporter
94              Kubilay Çelik, Antropolog magazine responsible managing editor
95              Mahmut Abay, Gün Matbaacılık employee
96              Max Zirngast, Re:volt magazine
97              Mehmet Ali Ay
98              Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi editor
99              Mehmet Baransu, Taraf columnist/reporter
100            Mehmet Dursun
101            Mehmet Emin Sümeli, Gün Matbaacılık employee
102            Mehmet Güleş, DİHA
103            Mehmet Gündem
104            Mehmet Kuru, Zaman Eskişehir reporter
105            Mehmet Sıddık damar, DİHA
106            Meltem Oktay, DİHA reporter
107            Metin Arslan, Bugün reporter
108            Mikail Barut, Özgür Halk former editor
109            Miktat Algül, Mezitli FM broadcast coordinator
110            Mizgin Çay, Radyo Karacadağ
111            Muhammed Sait Kuloğlu, owner of
112            Muhsin Pilgir, Zaman and Cihan news agency
113            Murat Çapan, Nokta
114            Murat Dağdeviren, Demokrat Gebze owner
115            Musa Kaya, Gün Matbaacılık employee
116            Mustafa Erkan Acar, Bugün news editor
117            Mustafa Gök, Ankara bureau chief for Ekmek ve Adalet magazine
118            Mustafa Gökkılıç, reporter, Radikal and Habertürk TV
119            Mustafa Göktaş, Özgür Gündem Şanlıurfa reporter
120            Mustafa Ünal, Zaman
121            Mutlu Çölgeçen, Millet, newsroom coordinator
122            Mutlu Özay, Cihan reporter
123            Mümtazer Türköne, Zaman columnist
124            Mürsel Demir, Gün Matbaacılık employee
125            Nadir Yücel, Çorum Yıldız local newspaper editor-in-chief
126            Nedim Türfent, DİHA
127            Nizamettin İzgi, Batman newspaper owner
128            Nuh Gönültaş, Bugün columnist
129            Nuri Durna, TRT
130            Nuri Yeşil, Azadiya Welat Dersim bureau chief
131            Nurullah Kaya, Gaziantep Zaman representative
132            Oğuz Usluer, Habertürk former broadcasts coordinator
133            Osman Yakut, Zaman Antalya
134            Ömer Oruç, Cihan newspaper
135            Özcan Keser, TRT reporter
136            Özden Kınık, TRT
137            Pınar Gayıp, ETHA reporter
138            Polat Arslan, Gün Matbaacılık employee
139            Reyhan Çapan, Özgür Gündem managing editor
140            Reyhan Hacıoğlu, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi editor
141            Sadık Demir, Radyo Karacadağ
142            Sait Gürkan Tuzlu, Cihan reporter
143            Sami Tunca, Mücadele Birliği magazine managing editor
144            Seda Taşkın, Mezopotamya News Agency reporter
145            Semiha Mete, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi reporter/distributor
146            Semiha Şahin, ETHA editor
147            Serhat Şeftali, Zaman regional bureau chief for the Med region
148            Serkan Aydemir, Bitlis Aktüel reporter
149            Serkan Canbaz, TRT Ankara reporter, news editor
150            Serpil Ünal, Mücadele Birliği reporter
151            Sertan Önal, Halkın Günlüğü reporter
152            Seyid Kılıç, TRT News
153            Seyithan Akyüz, Azadiya Welat Adana bureau chief
154            Sezai Yavaş, TRT Diyarbakır deputy regional director
155            Songül Yücel, Önsöz editor in chief
156            Süleyman Acar, Mücadele Birliği editor in chief
157            Şahabettin Demir, DİHA reporter
158            Şeref Yılmaz, Irmak TV
159            Şirin Kabakçı, Zaman Konya bureau chief
160            Togay Okay, Özgür Gelecek
161            Turgut Usul, TRT reporter
162            Ufuk Şanlı, former Vatan columnist
163            Uğur Akgül
164            Uğur Selman Kelekçiler, Gün Matbaacılık employee
165            Ünal Tanık, Rota Haber editor-in-chief
166            Vahit Yazgan, İzmir Zaman bureau chief
167            Veli Büyükşahin, TV10 executive
168            Veli Haydar Güleç, TV10 executive
169            Yakup Çetin, Zaman reporter
170            Yakup Şimşek, Zaman, marketing director
171            Yalçın Güler, TRT (Erzurum)
172            Yetkin Yıldız, Aktif Haber website editor
173            Yılmaz Kahraman, Özgür Halk editor
174            Zehra Doğan, Jinha
175            Ziya Ataman, DİHA reporter