Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey – 182

Mehmet Gündem ordered to remain behind bars in 4th hearing; court convicts 7 defendants in Gün Matbaacılık case; Sözcü trial adjourned until April




The trial into the executives and employees of Sözcü newspaper on terrorism-related charges resumed on 15 March at the 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
A recent indictment that accuses Sözcü columnists Emin Çölaşan and Necati Doğru, the newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief Metin Yılmaz, website news coordinator Yücel Arı and website editor Mustafa Çetin of “aiding the terrorist organization ‘FETÖ’ without being part of its hierarchical structure” was merged in January  with the ongoing case into the daily’s former website news director Mediha Olgun, Financial Affairs Manager Yonca Yücekaleli, Izmir correspondent Gökmen Ulu and former publisher Burak Akbay on the charges of “leading an armed terror organization,” “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “aiding FETÖ while not being its members.” An arrest warrant is still in place for Akbay, who is abroad.
This was the first courtroom hearing in the case after the two files were merged.
P24 monitored the hearing, where Metin Yılmaz, Mustafa Çetin, Necati Doğru, Yücel Arı, Gökmen Ulu, Mediha Olgun and Yonca Yücekaleli were in attendance, as well as defense lawyers. Emin Çölaşan addressed the court via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS from Ankara.
At the end of the previous hearing, the court had ruled to hand over the case file to the prosecutor for the final opinion to be prepared. The prosecution requested additional time for their final opinion because of the vast extent of the file.
The defendants then told the court that they would not make any statements at this point. Mediha Olgun asked to be acquitted.
Defense lawyers requested that the court ask for a new expert opinion, which the court rejected. The lawyers also requested the expansion of the investigation and said the submission of the final opinion without the completion of the case file would lead to violations of the right to defense and the right to a fair trial.
Burak Akbay’s lawyer requested the lifting of the arrest warrant against her client.
The prosecution requested that the court reject all requests and the continuation of the arrest warrant for Akbay.
Issuing its interim ruling following a brief recess, the court rejected the defense lawyers’ requests. The court agreed to grant additional time to the prosecution for their final opinion and adjourned the trial until 18 April.
Mehmet Gündem ordered to remain behind bars
Jailed journalist and columnist Mehmet Gündem appeared in an Istanbul court on 14 March for the fourth hearing of his trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group.”
P24 monitored the hearing, where Gündem and his lawyers were in attendance.
Addressing the court for his defense statement, Gündem rejected the accusations and requested to be released.
Noting that Gündem has been in pre-trial detention for 17 months, his lawyers told the court that their client’s lengthy detention amounted to the execution of a sentence rather than a preventive measure and requested Gündem’s release without waiting further for the completion of the forensic examination of digital material seized from Gündem.
The prosecution however requested the continuation of Gündem’s detention.
Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ordered the continuation of Gündem’s detention on remand and set 8 May 2019 as the date for the next hearing.
The indictment claims that Gündem used ByLock, an encrypted messaging application purported to be exclusively used by the members of the Fethullah Gülen network; deposited money in his Bank Asya account under orders from Gülen; and had acquaintances among “high profile” members of the Fethullah Gülen organization. The government accuses the Gülen network of orchestrating the failed coup attempt of 2016.
Nine more academics convicted for signing peace petition
Courts in Istanbul this week continued handing down prison sentences to academics standing trial on the charge of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist group” for signing a 2016 petition by the Academics for Peace initiative.
On 14 March, the 28th High Criminal Court of Istanbul found Çare Olgun Çalışkan guilty of the “propaganda” charge under Article 7/2 of the Law on Fight against Terrorism and gave the academic a prison sentence of 2 years and 3 months. The court neither granted reduction nor deferred the sentence. The same day, the 36th High Criminal Court of Istanbul convicted Ferdan Ergut at the end of the first hearing of the academic’s trial, giving Ergut a prison term of 15 months. The sentence was deferred.
On 13 March, the 37th High Criminal Court gave Feryal Delfin Saygılıgil a prison sentence of 1 year and 6 months and deferred the sentence. The same day, the 26th and 32nd high criminal courts also convicted two more academics of the “propaganda” charge, handing down 15-month prison terms. Both sentences were deferred.
On 12 March, academics Aslı Takanay, Ayfer Bartu Candan, Tansel Korkmaz were each given a 15-month sentence by different courts while Osman Erden was sentenced to 1 year and 6 months in prison. Takanay will be subject to probation for two years. The sentences imposed on the other academics were deferred.
Turkey ordered to pay compensation in Özgür Gündem case
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has found that Turkey violated the right to freedom of expression in the application concerning the pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem, which was shut down in 2016.
In its unanimous Chamber judgment dated 12 March 2019, the Strasbourg court ordered that Turkey pay the former publisher of the newspaper Ali Gürbüz 3,500 euros in compensation.
The court  found that criminal proceedings against Gürbüz and the newspaper had been systematically opened, regardless of the actual content of the articles published in the newspaper.
The Court explained that “enforcement measures automatically taken against media professionals, without considering their intentions or the public’s right to be informed of other views on a conflict situation, could not be reconciled with the freedom to receive or impart information or ideas.”
Printing company owner, 6 employees convicted
Seven employees of Gün Matbaacılık, the company that printed the shuttered pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, were handed down prison sentences on 11 March, at the end of their trial on terrorism-related charges.
The 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul convicted the printing company’s owner Kasım Zengin and employees Erdoğan Zamur, İrfan Karaca, Mahmut Abay and İhsan Sinmiş of “membership in a terrorist group” and imposed on each defendant a 7 year and 6 month prison sentence. The court also ruled for their release pending appeal. All five had been jailed pending trial since March 2018.
The court also convicted two other printing house employees, Musa Kaya and Mehmet Emin Sümeli, who were both released in the previous hearings of the case, of “aiding a terrorist organization” and sentenced them to 3 years and 9 months in prison.
The rest of the defendants were acquitted.
Twenty of the 21 defendants in the case were initially jailed pending trial in the aftermath of a police raid on the printing house in March 2018 in connection with an investigation into the shuttered daily Özgürlükçü Demokrasi.
Kemal Özer’s trial adjourned until 27 March
The sixth hearing of the trial into Evrensel daily’s Tunceli reporter Kemal Özer on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group” took place on 11 March at the 1st High Criminal Court of Tunceli.
Özer’s lawyer Fatma Kalsen requested the lifting of the judicial control measures imposed on Özer. The court rejected Kalsen’s request and set 27 March as the date for the final hearing in the case.
Özer remained in pre-trial detention for 16 months as part of this case before being released by the court on 21 January.
List of journalists and media workers in prison
As of 15 March 2019, there are at least 145 journalists and media workers in Turkey’s prisons, either in pre-trial 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                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              Cüneyt Seza Özkan, Samanyolu TV
32              Çetin Kurşun, Azadiya Welat
33              Doğan Baran, Odak magazine owner, managing editor
34              Emin Demir, freelancer
35              Emre Soncan, Zaman defense reporter
36              Ercan Gün, Fox TV
37              Erdal Süsem, Eylül magazine editor
38              Erdal Şen, former Meydan managing editor
39              Eren Erdem, Karşı newspaper former editor-in-chief
40              Erol Yüksel, TRT News Department vice president
41              Erol Zavar, Odak magazine owner and newsroom director
42              Fahri Öztoprak, Cihan/Zaman Samsun correspondent
43              Faruk Akkan, Cihan news agency
44              Ferhat Çiftçi, Azadiya Welat Gaziantep bureau chief
45              Ferhat Parlak, Silvan Mücadele newspaper owner
46              Fevzi Yazıcı, Zaman chief designer
47              Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Türksolu columnist
48              Gurbet Çakar, Hevi women’s magazine
49              Gültekin Avcı
50              Habip Güler, Zaman reporter
51              Hakan Aksel, TRT producer-director
52              Hakan Ergün, Azadiya Welat and Özgür Gündem distributor
53              Hakan Taşdelen
54              Halil İbrahim Mert, TRT (Erzurum)
55              Hamit Dilbahar, Azadiya Welat columnist
56              Hamza Günerigök, TRT
57              Hanım Büşra Erdal, Zaman reporter and columnist
58              Harun Çümen, Zaman former managing editor
59              Hasan Bozkurt, Bugün reporter
60              Hasan Duman, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi distributor
61              Hasan Hüseyin Örs, former TRT production-broadcast operator
62              Hasan Taşar, former TRT Ankara reporter
63              Hatice Duman, Atılım newspaper owner and managing editor
64              Haydar Ergül, Demokratik Modernite editor
65              Hicran Ürün, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi editor
66              Hidayet Karaca, Samanyolu Media Group president
67              Hüseyin Aydın, Cihan reporter
68              İbrahim Halil Öztürkeri, former TRT production-broadcast operator
69              İdris Okur, Cihan New Agency Çorum reporter
70              İdris Sayılgan, DİHA
71              İdris Yılmaz
72              İhsan Yaşar, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi owner
73              İshak Yasul, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi responsible managing editor
74              İsmail Çoban, former Azadiya Welat managing editor
75              İsmail Ersan, Anatolia news agency
76              İsmail Evren, Nokta magazine news director
77              Kamuran Sunbat, former DİHA Çukurova reporter
78              Kazım Canlan, Cihan news agency Ankara news director
79              Kemal Sancılı, Özgür Gündem copyrights holder
80              Kenan Karavil, Radyo Dünya editor-in-chief
81              Kibriye Evren, JinNews reporter
82              Mehmet Ali Ay
83              Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi editor
84              Mehmet Baransu, Taraf columnist/reporter
85              Mehmet Güleş, DİHA
86              Mehmet Gündem
87              Mehmet Kuru, Zaman Eskişehir reporter
88              Mehmet Sıddık damar, DİHA
89              Meltem Oktay, DİHA reporter
90              Metin Arslan, Bugün reporter
91              Mikail Barut, Özgür Halk former editor
92              Miktat Algül, Mezitli FM broadcast coordinator
93              Muhammed Sait Kuloğlu, owner of
94              Muhsin Pilgir, Zaman and Cihan news agency
95              Murat Çapan, Nokta
96              Murat Dağdeviren, Demokrat Gebze owner
97              Mustafa Erkan Acar, Bugün news editor
98              Mustafa Gök, Ankara bureau chief for Ekmek ve Adalet magazine
99              Mustafa Gökkılıç, reporter, Radikal and Habertürk TV
100            Mustafa Göktaş, Özgür Gündem Şanlıurfa reporter
101            Mustafa Ünal, Zaman
102            Mutlu Çölgeçen, Millet, newsroom coordinator
103            Mutlu Özay, Cihan reporter
104            Mümtazer Türköne, Zaman columnist
105            Nadir Yücel, Çorum Yıldız local newspaper editor-in-chief
106            Nedim Türfent, DİHA
107            Nizamettin İzgi, Batman newspaper owner
108            Nuh Gönültaş, Bugün columnist
109            Nuri Durna, TRT
110            Nuri Yeşil, Azadiya Welat Dersim bureau chief
111            Nurullah Kaya, Gaziantep Zaman representative
112            Oğuz Usluer, Habertürk former broadcasts coordinator
113            Osman Yakut, Zaman Antalya
114            Ömer Oruç, Cihan newspaper
115            Özcan Keser, TRT reporter
116            Özden Kınık, TRT
117            Pınar Gayıp, ETHA reporter
118            Reyhan Hacıoğlu, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi editor
119            Sadık Demir, Radyo Karacadağ
120            Sait Gürkan Tuzlu, Cihan reporter
121            Salih Turan
122            Sami Tunca, Mücadele Birliği magazine managing editor
123            Semiha Mete, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi reporter/distributor
124            Semiha Şahin, ETHA editor
125            Serhat Şeftali, Zaman regional bureau chief for the Med region
126            Serkan Aydemir, Bitlis Aktüel reporter
127            Sertan Önal, Halkın Günlüğü reporter
128            Seyid Kılıç, TRT News
129            Seyithan Akyüz, Azadiya Welat Adana bureau chief
130            Şahabettin Demir, DİHA reporter
131            Şeref Yılmaz, Irmak TV
132            Turgut Usul, TRT reporter
133            Ufuk Şanlı, former Vatan columnist
134            Uğur Akgül
135            Uğur Yılmaz, former Bitlis Municipality press desk employee
136            Ünal Tanık, Rota Haber editor-in-chief
137            Vahit Yazgan, İzmir Zaman bureau chief
138            Veli Büyükşahin, TV10 executive
139            Veli Haydar Güleç, TV10 executive
140            Yakup Çetin, Zaman reporter
141            Yakup Şimşek, Zaman, marketing director
142            Yalçın Güler, TRT (Erzurum)
143            Yetkin Yıldız, Aktif Haber website editor
144            Yılmaz Kahraman, Özgür Halk editor
145            Ziya Ataman, DİHA reporter