Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey – 179

Indictment seeks aggravated life sentences for Osman Kavala, Can Dündar, Memet Ali Alabora and 13 others for involvement in Gezi Park protests



Twenty-eight academics who had been standing trial on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” for signing 2016’s Academics for Peace petition were given jail terms this week.


The 33rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 21 February convicted all 27 academics whose files it had merged. Thirteen of the academics were imposed prison terms of 1 year 10 months and 15 days, while the remaining 14 were each sentenced to 2 years and 3 months in prison.


Seçkin Sertdemir Özdemir, F.A.A., Gözde Aytemur Nüfusçu, Y.Y., Elif Akçalı, T.D., Yüksel Taşkın, Meltem Ahıska, Ayşe Nilüfer Durakbaşa, Cihan Yapıştıran, İrfan Keşoğlu, Doğan Çetinkaya and N.M. were handed down 1 year 10 months and 15 days. İlkay Yılmaz, Hülya Kirmanoğlu, Eda Aslı Şeran, İsmet Akça, Ahmet Bekmen, Özgür Müftüoğlu, Nihan Aksakallı, Haydar Durak, Aysuda Kölemen, İlkay Özkuralpli, Esra Kaliber, Zeynep Tül Süalp, Öznur Yaşar Diner and Remzi Orkun Güner were handed down 2 years and 3 months on the grounds that they “did not show remorse.”


Sentences under two years were deferred.


Also on 21 February, the 36th High Criminal Court convicted academic Pınar Yolum Birbil of the “propaganda” charge and gave her a 15-month prison sentence. The sentence was deferred.


Nurcan Baysal acquitted of “inciting the public to animosity” charge


Journalist and author Nurcan Baysal was acquitted of “inciting the public to hatred and animosity.” Baysal was on trial for her social media posts.


The 7th Criminal Court of First Instance of Diyarbakır issued its verdict on 21 February. Baysal announced the verdict on her Twitter account.


The hearing was originally set for 18 April but was rescheduled for 21 February at the request of Baysal’s lawyer.


Journalist Derya Okatan briefly detained over social media posts


Derya Okatan, an Ankara-based reporter for the online news platform Artı Gerçek, was taken into custody on 21 February during a police raid on her home.


Okatan was taken to the anti-terror branch of the police department, which released the journalist after taking her statement. Okatan was detained on account of her social media posts, on the allegation that she “disseminated propaganda for the PKK” and was “a member of the MLKP [Marxist Leninist Communist Party].”


Court accepts Çalık’s motion in Paradise Papers case


Journalist Pelin Ünker on 21 February appeared in an Istanbul court for the third hearing of a lawsuit where she is accused of “libel and insult” on account of two news stories she penned for Cumhuriyet daily in November 2017 about the “Paradise Papers” leaks.


The case, filed upon complaints by Minister Berat Albayrak and his brother, Serhat Albayrak, is overseen by the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul.


P24 monitored the hearing, where Ünker, her lawyers and the lawyers representing the plaintiffs were in attendance.


Addressing the court for her defense statement, Ünker explained that 126 politicians’ names appeared in the Paradise Papers leaks, adding that only two politicians filed lawsuits against news coverage of the leaks and that both politicians were from Turkey. Noting that her articles did not include any expressions that could amount to insult or libel, Ünker told the court that the stories also included the statements given by the politicians concerning the leaks and that the newspaper also published the rebuttals to the news stories.


Addressing the court following Ünker, her lawyer Tora Pekin said they would not be making a further defense statement. Instead, the lawyer asserted that the case should be dropped based on the statute of limitations in Turkey’s press law.


In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court accepted a motion for participation in the case filed by businessman Ahmet Çalık and adjourned the trial until 28 March, saying it would rule on the defense lawyers’ request for the dismissal of the case in the next hearing.


“Bakur trial” adjourned until April


The trial into journalist Ertuğrul Mavioğlu and filmmaker Çayan Demirel, the co-directors of the documentary Bakur (North), on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” resumed on 21 February at the 2nd High Criminal Court of Batman.


P24 monitored the third hearing, where both Demirel and Mavioğlu were represented by their lawyers. Demirel’s wife, film producer Ayşe Çetinbaş, was among those monitoring the trial.


Submitting their final opinion of the case during the hearing, the prosecution requested that both Demirel and Mavioğlu be convicted of the “propaganda” charge. The prosecution also requested that the court increase the sentences on the grounds that the offense was carried out through the press.


Granting additional time for the final defense statements, the court adjourned the trial until 3 April 2019.


Mağden and Ketenciler’s trial on “insult” charge adjourned


A trial where author and columnist Perihan Mağden and journalist İnan Ketenciler stand accused of “insulting the president” resumed on 21 February at the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul.


Mağden is accused because of her remarks in an article in April 2016, in which she likened a contestant in the TV show “Survivor” to President Erdoğan. Ketenciler is standing trial because the article was posted on the news website T24.


P24 monitored the hearing, where both Mağden and Keteciler were represented by their lawyers.


Ketenciler’s lawyer requested a continuance for their final defense statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion of the case. Accepting the request, the court adjourned the trial until 21 March.


Özgürlükçü Demokrasi journalists ordered to remain behind bars


The third hearing of the trial on terrorism-related charges into 14 employees of the shuttered daily Özgürlükçü Demokrasi took place on 21 February at the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.


The pro-Kurdish newspaper’s publisher, İhsan Yaşar, responsible managing editor İshak Yasul, editors Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Reyhan Hacıoğlu and Hicran Ürün, and bookkeeper and secretary Pınar Tarlak were jailed pending trial in April. Tarlak was released at the end of the first hearing of the trial in September. The defendants are accused of “membership in a terrorist organization,” “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “publishing terrorist group publications.”


P24 monitored the hearing, where the defendants addressed the court for their defense statements, rejecting the accusations and requesting for their release.


The prosecution then requested that all jailed defendants be remanded in detention on the grounds of “strong criminal suspicion” and that the files of six of the defendants against whom there are arrest warrants be separated.


Announcing its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ordered the continuation of the detention of all jailed defendants in the case and adjourned the trial until 10 April 2019. The court also ruled to await the outcome of the arrest warrants in place for six defendants and decided to hand over the case file to the prosecution for the drafting of their final opinion of the case.


Arrest warrant issued for politician Hatip Dicle in Özgür Gündem trial


A trial in which journalists Hüseyin Aykol, Zana Kaya and İnan Kızılkaya — former co-editors-in-chief and managing editor of the shuttered daily Özgür Gündem — and Kurdish politician Hatip Dicle stand accused for the news stories and articles published in the newspaper resumed on 21 February in Istanbul.


The four defendants are accused of “publicly degrading the government, the judiciary or the police force” and “publicly degrading the Turkish nation, the Turkish Republic and the Parliament.”


None of the defendants were in attendance at the hearing, which was the 11th in the case.


Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance ruled to issue an arrest warrant for Dicle and adjourned the trial until 28 March.


Court dismisses “MİT trucks case” against Aydınlık journalists


The trial court overseeing the case in which Aydınlık newspaper’s editor in chief Mustafa İlker Yücel and news editor Orhan Ceyhun Bozkurt were charged with “disclosing confidential information relating to the security of the state” on account of the newspaper’s coverage of the alleged transfer of weapons to Syria on trucks operated by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) has issued its verdict.


The 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul dismissed the case based on the statute of limitations in Turkey’s press law. However, the court ruled that charges should be pressed against the defendants on the charge of “obtaining classified information relating to the security of the state.”


The court also ruled to keep in place the international travel ban imposed on the defendants throughout the appeal process.


Indictment seeks aggravated life imprisonment for Osman Kavala, 15 others


A newly drafted indictment seeks aggravated life imprisonment for 16 individuals including the jailed businessman Osman Kavala, journalist Can Dündar and stage and screen actor Memet Ali Alabora on account of their involvement in 2013’s Gezi Park protests.


The indictment, filed with the 30th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 20 February, accuses all 16 names of “attempting to overthrow the Turkish government.”


In addition to Kavala, Dündar and Alabora, Ali Hakan Altınay, Ayşe Mücella Yapıcı, Ayşe Pınar Alabora, Çiğdem Mater Utku, Gökçe Yılmaz, Handan Meltem Arıkan, Hanzade Hikmet Germiyanoğlu, İnanç Ekmekçi, Mine Özerden, Şerafettin Can Atalay, Tayfun Kahraman, Yiğit Aksakoğlu and Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi are also indicted. The 657-page document alleges that the 16 suspects attempted to manipulate and set the protests into motion beginning in 2011; that they “financed” the demonstrations; and were the “top level orchestrators” of the events.


Yiğit Aksakoğlu and Osman Kavala are currently in pre-trial detention as part of the investigation.


The indictment says arrest warrants have been issued for Dündar, Memet Ali Alabora, Ayşe Pınar Alabora, Gökçe Yılmaz, Handan Meltem Arıkan and Hanzade Hikmet Germiyanoğlu.


Trial into Ali Sönmez Kayar adjourned until May


The third hearing of a trial where Etkin news agency (ETHA) reporter Ali Sönmez Kayar and nine other defendants are accused of “membership in a terrorist group” resumed on 19 February at the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.


Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ordered to keep the international travel ban on the defendants who are not in pre-trial detention in place and adjourned the trial until 28 May.


Trial into journalist Murat Güreş adjourned


The trial in which Gaziantep-based journalists Murat Güreş, Furkan Gökşen and Metin Aybey stand accused of “violating the confidentiality of an investigation” resumed on 19 February.


The Gaziantep 9th Criminal Court of First Instance adjourned the trial until 20 June.


“Paradise Papers” case against Evrensel journalist Çağrı Sarı adjourned


The fifth hearing in a case where journalist Çağrı Sarı, the former responsible managing editor of the daily Evrensel, is accused of “libel and insult” for the newspaper’s coverage of “Paradise Papers” leaks, was held on 19 February in Istanbul.


The case was filed upon a complaint by Minister Berat Albayrak and his brother, Serhat Albayrak.


Sarı and her lawyer Devrim Avcı Özkurt were in attendance during the hearing at the Bakırköy 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance as well as the Albayraks’ lawyer Ferah Yıldız.


Addressing the court for Sarı’s defense statement, lawyer Devrim Avcı said the news articles were an exercising of the right to freedom of the press and freedom of expression. She requested for Sarı’s acquittal.


The plaintiffs’ lawyer claimed that the news stories were aimed at manipulating public opinion and a smear campaign against Serhat Albayrak.


Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court adjourned the trial until 19 March for a review of the written defense statement submitted to the court on behalf of Sarı.


Evrensel’s former managing editor acquitted in first hearing


Also on 19 February, another former responsible managing editor for Evrensel, İsmail Cem Şimşek, appeared in the same court for the first hearing of his trial on the charge of “libel” for two news stories and one opinion piece published in August 2018 in the newspaper in relation with rights violations in the Tarsus Prison.


Issuing its verdict following Şimşek and his lawyer’s defense statements, the Bakırköy 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance ruled for Şimşek’s acquittal.


Berna Laçin acquitted of “insulting religious beliefs” charge


A court case where actress Berna Laçin was accused of “publicly insulting religious beliefs held by a part of the society” in a Twitter post resumed on 19 February in an Istanbul court.


The Istanbul Anadolu 59th Criminal Court of First Instance acquitted the actress of the charge.


Appellate court upholds convictions in Cumhuriyet trial


An appellate court on 18 February upheld the trial court’s verdict in the “Cumhuriyet trial,” paving the way for eight of the defendants in the case to return to prison to serve the remainder of the sentences they were given.


The 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice said in its ruling that it rejected the appeals against the Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court’s verdict since it had not found “any substantial or procedural violations” in the verdict nor any “shortcomings in the evidence or proceedings.”


The eight defendants are former Cumhuriyet columnists Kadri Gürsel and Hakan Kara, lawyer Bülent Utku, former Cumhuriyet ombudsman Güray Öz, cartoonist Musa Kart, former Cumhuriyet Foundation Executive Board members Mustafa Kemal Güngör and Önder Çelik and the newspaper’s accounting department employee Emre İper, who were given prison terms between 2.5 and 4.5 years on the charge of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.”


A detailed report about the appellate court’s ruling can be accessed here.


Journalist Özgür Paksoy given jail term over social media posts


Journalist Özgür Paksoy was given a prison sentence of 3 years, 1 month and 15 days in a trial where he was accused of “propaganda” for his social media posts.


The hearing took place on 15 February at the Şırnak 2nd High Criminal Court. Paksoy addressed the court via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS for his defense statement during the hearing, where he rejected the accusation and requested for his acquittal.


Submitting their final opinion of the case, the prosecution then requested that Paksoy be convicted of the “propaganda” charge.


Paksoy’s lawyer requested for additional time for the final defense statement in response to the prosecution’s final opinion, however the court refused to grant continuance and went on to issue its verdict, sentencing Paksoy to 3 years, 1 month and 15 days in prison. The court did not defer the sentence.


List of journalists and media workers in prison


As of 22 February 2019, at least 155 journalists and media workers are in prison in Turkey, either in pre-trial detention or serving a sentence.


For a detailed list, click 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    Ahmet Altan

8    Ahmet Feyzullah Özyurt

9    Ahmet Memiş, Haberdar news website

10    Ahmet Metin Sekizkardeş, Zaman

11    Ahmet Yavaş, TRT (Erzurum)

12    Ali Ahmet Böken, TRT News coordinator

13    Ali Akkuş, Zaman

14    Ali Aşikar, Azadiya Welat

15    Ali Babür Boysal, Zaman page designer

16    Ali Ünal, Zaman columnist

17    Ali Yüce, TRT Radio broadcasts chief

18    Arafat Dayan, Demokratik Ulus

19    Aslı Ceren Aslan, Özgür Gelecek

20    Ayşe Düzkan

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    Beytullah Özdemir, Zaman Düzce bureau chief

27    Burçin Dokgöz, former Zaman and Çorum reporter

28    Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Journalists and Writers’ Foundation

29    Ceren Taşkın, Hatay Ses

30    Cuma Ulus, Millet newspaper’s publications coordinator

31    Cumali Çaygeç, TRT Şeş news director

32    Cüneyt Seza Özkan, Samanyolu TV

33    Çetin Kurşun, Azadiya Welat

34    Doğan Baran, Odak magazine owner, managing editor

35    Emin Demir, freelancer

36    Emre Soncan, Zaman defense reporter

37    Ercan Gün, Fox TV

38    Erdal Süsem, Eylül magazine editor

39    Erdal Şen, former Meydan managing editor

40    Erdoğan Zamur, Gün Matbaacılık employee

41    Eren Erdem, Karşı newspaper former editor-in-chief

42    Erol Yüksel, TRT News Department vice president

43    Erol Zavar, Odak magazine owner and newsroom director

44    Fahri Öztoprak, Cihan/Zaman Samsun correspondent

45    Faruk Akkan, Cihan news agency

46    Ferhat Çiftçi, Azadiya Welat Gaziantep bureau chief

47    Ferhat Parlak, Silvan Mücadele newspaper owner

48    Fevzi Yazıcı, Zaman chief designer

49    Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Türksolu columnist

50    Gurbet Çakar, Hevi women’s magazine

51    Gültekin Avcı

52    Habip Güler, Zaman reporter

53    Hakan Aksel, TRT producer-director

54    Hakan Ergün, Azadiya Welat and Özgür Gündem distributor

55    Hakan Taşdelen

56    Halil İbrahim Mert, TRT (Erzurum)

57    Hamit Dilbahar, Azadiya Welat columnist

58    Hamza Günerigök, TRT

59    Hanım Büşra Erdal, Zaman reporter and columnist

60    Harun Çümen, Zaman former managing editor

61    Hasan Bozkurt, Bugün reporter

62    Hasan Duman, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi distributor

63    Hasan Hüseyin Örs, former TRT production-broadcast operator

64    Hasan Taşar, former TRT Ankara reporter

65    Hatice Duman, Atılım newspaper owner and managing editor

66    Haydar Ergül, Demokratik Modernite editor

67    Hicran Ürün, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi editor

68    Hidayet Karaca, Samanyolu Media Group president

69    Hüseyin Aydın, Cihan reporter

70    İbrahim Halil Öztürkeri, former TRT production-broadcast operator

71    İdris Okur, Cihan New Agency Çorum reporter

72    İdris Sayılgan, DİHA

73    İdris Yılmaz

74    İhsan Sinmiş, Gün Matbaacılık employee

75    İhsan Yaşar, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi owner

76    İrfan Karaca, Gün Matbaacılık employee

77    İshak Yasul, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi responsible managing editor

78    İsmail Çoban, former Azadiya Welat managing editor

79    İsmail Ersan, Anatolia news agency

80    İsmail Evren, Nokta magazine news director

81    Kamuran Sunbat, former DİHA Çukurova reporter

82    Kasım Zengin, owner of Gün Matbaacılık

83    Kazım Canlan, Cihan news agency Ankara news director

84    Kemal Sancılı, Özgür Gündem copyrights holder

85    Kenan Karavil, Radyo Dünya editor-in-chief

86    Kibriye Evren, JinNews reporter

87    Mahmut Abay, Gün Matbaacılık employee

88    Mehmet Ali Ay

89    Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi editor

90    Mehmet Baransu, Taraf columnist/reporter

91    Mehmet Güleş, DİHA

92    Mehmet Gündem

93    Mehmet Kuru, Zaman Eskişehir reporter

94    Mehmet Sıddık damar, DİHA

95    Meltem Oktay, DİHA reporter

96    Metin Arslan, Bugün reporter

97    Mikail Barut, Özgür Halk former editor

98    Miktat Algül, Mezitli FM broadcast coordinator

99    Muhammed Sait Kuloğlu, owner of

100    Muhsin Pilgir, Zaman and Cihan news agency

101    Murat Çapan, Nokta

102    Murat Dağdeviren, Demokrat Gebze owner

103    Mustafa Erkan Acar, Bugün news editor

104    Mustafa Gök, Ankara bureau chief for Ekmek ve Adalet magazine

105    Mustafa Gökkılıç, reporter, Radikal and Habertürk TV

106    Mustafa Göktaş, Özgür Gündem Şanlıurfa reporter

107    Mustafa Ünal, Zaman

108    Mutlu Çölgeçen, Millet, newsroom coordinator

109    Mutlu Özay, Cihan reporter

110    Mümtazer Türköne, Zaman columnist

111    Nadir Yücel, Çorum Yıldız local newspaper editor-in-chief

112    Nedim Türfent, DİHA

113    Nizamettin İzgi, Batman newspaper owner

114    Nuh Gönültaş, Bugün columnist

115    Nuri Durna, TRT

116    Nuri Yeşil, Azadiya Welat Dersim bureau chief

117    Nurullah Kaya, Gaziantep Zaman representative

118    Oğuz Usluer, Habertürk former broadcasts coordinator

119    Osman Yakut, Zaman Antalya

120    Ömer Oruç, Cihan newspaper

121    Özcan Keser, TRT reporter

122    Özden Kınık, TRT

123    Pınar Gayıp, ETHA reporter

124    Reyhan Hacıoğlu, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi editor

125    Rojhat Doğru, reporter for Gale Kurdistan TV

126    Sadık Demir, Radyo Karacadağ

127    Sait Gürkan Tuzlu, Cihan reporter

128    Salih Turan

129    Sami Tunca, Mücadele Birliği magazine managing editor

130    Semiha Mete, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi reporter/distributor

131    Semiha Şahin, ETHA editor

132    Serhat Şeftali, Zaman regional bureau chief for the Med region

133    Serkan Aydemir, Bitlis Aktüel reporter

134    Serkan Canbaz, TRT Ankara reporter, news editor

135    Sertan Önal, Halkın Günlüğü reporter

136    Seyid Kılıç, TRT News

137    Seyithan Akyüz, Azadiya Welat Adana bureau chief

138    Sezai Yavaş, TRT Diyarbakır deputy regional director

139    Şahabettin Demir, DİHA reporter

140    Şeref Yılmaz, Irmak TV

141    Turgut Usul, TRT reporter

142    Ufuk Şanlı, former Vatan columnist

143    Uğur Akgül

144    Uğur Yılmaz, former Bitlis Municipality press desk employee

145    Ünal Tanık, Rota Haber editor-in-chief

146    Vahit Yazgan, İzmir Zaman bureau chief

147    Veli Büyükşahin, TV10 executive

148    Veli Haydar Güleç, TV10 executive

149    Yakup Çetin, Zaman reporter

150    Yakup Şimşek, Zaman, marketing director

151    Yalçın Güler, TRT (Erzurum)

152    Yetkin Yıldız, Aktif Haber website editor

153    Yılmaz Kahraman, Özgür Halk editor

154    Zehra Doğan, Jinha

155    Ziya Ataman, DİHA reporter