Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey – 184
İshak Karakaş, Lezgin Akdeniz handed down jail terms; jailed journalists Semiha Şahin, Pınar Gayıp, Harun Çümen ordered to remain behind bars;
Musician Ferhat Tunç’s trial on the charge of “inciting the public to hatred and animosity” on account of his social media posts resumed on 29 March at the Büyükçekmece 4th Criminal Court of First Instance.
Tunç, who was abroad, was represented at the hearing by his lawyer Damla Koç.
Tunç’s lawyer requested a continuance for Tunç’s defense statement. In its interim decision, the court ruled to issue an arrest warrant for Tunç because he has still not given his defense statement by the end of the fourth hearing in the case and adjourned the trial until 18 September.
Tunç is currently standing trial in four separate court cases on various charges, including “terrorism propaganda” and “insulting the president.” Last September, Tunç was convicted in another case of “propaganda” and handed down a prison sentence of 1 year, 11 months and 12 days.
Pelin Ünker’s “Paradise Papers” case dismissed
Journalist Pelin Ünker appeared in an Istanbul court on 28 March for the fourth hearing of a lawsuit where she was accused of “libel and insult” on account of two news stories she penned for Cumhuriyet daily in November 2017 about the “Paradise Papers” leaks.
P24 monitored the hearing at the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul, where Ünker, her lawyers and the lawyers representing the plaintiffs were in attendance. The case had been filed upon complaints by Minister Berat Albayrak, his brother, Serhat Albayrak, and businessman Ahmet Çalık.
Rendering her judgment at the end of the hearing, the judge said the case was dismissed based on the statute of limitations in Turkey’s press law.
Journalist Şirin Kabakçı’s trial adjourned until July
The fifth hearing of the trial into journalist şirin Kabakçı, the former Konya bureau chief for the shuttered daily Zaman, on the charge of “terrorist group membership” took place on 28 March at the 35th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
Kabakçı remained in pre-trial detention for 20 months as part of the case before he was released in December pending the conclusion of the trial.
P24 monitored the fifth hearing, where the court heard witness Halil Doğanay, who testified to the court from Konya via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS.
Issuing an interim decision at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to hand over the file to the prosecution for the drafting of their final opinion and adjourned the trial until 2 July 2019.
Journalist Harun Çümen ordered to remain behind bars
The second hearing of the trial into former Zaman editor Harun Çümen on the charge of “terrorist group membership” took place on 28 March.
Çümen is standing trial alongside three other defendants in the case, overseen by the 32nd High Criminal court of Istanbul.
P24 monitored the hearing, where Çümen, who has been in pre-trial detention for 11 months, addressed the court via SEGBİS from the Balıkesir Prison. In his defense statement, Çümen rejected the accusations and requested to be released pending trial. Çümen also requested the findings of an investigation in Keşan, Edirne, to be included in his file.
Defense lawyers then addressed the court and requested Çümen’s release pending trial. The prosecution, however, requested the continuation of his detention on remand. Accepting the prosecution’s request, the court ordered the continuation of Çümen’s detention and adjourned the trial until 19 June 2019.
Trial of 23 former Özgür Gündem employees adjourned
The trial into 23 former editors and employees of the shuttered pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” resumed on 28 March at the 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
This was the 11th hearing in the case. Defense lawyers Özcan Kılıç and Senem Doğanoğlu were in attendance.
The prosecution said they reiterated their previous opinion of the case. Kılıç requested additional time for the defense statements due to the large number of defendants in the case and multiple indictments against the defendants.
Kılıç also asked the court to separate Eren Keskin’s file in this case and merge it with the case overseen by the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul, where Keskin is on trial on account of her role as the co-editor-in-chief of Özgür Gündem.
In its interim decision, the court adjourned the trial until 8 May, awaiting the outcome of the arrest warrants in place for some of the defendants in the case. The court also ruled to issue a memo to the 23rd High Criminal Court in which to discuss whether or not to merge Keskin’s file.
“Özgür Gündem solidarity case” adjourned until next week
A trial where 13 people, most of whom are journalists, stand accused of “terrorism propaganda” for joining in a solidarity campaign for the shuttered Özgür Gündem daily resumed on 28 March at the 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
P24 monitored the hearing, where the prosecution reiterated their previous opinion of the case. The prosecutor is seeking prison terms for 12 of the 13 defendants — Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, Celal Başlangıç, İhsan Çaralan, Fehim Işık, Öncü Akgül, Faruk Eren, Celalettin Can, Ömer Ağın, Veysel Kemer, Dilşah Karakaya, Yüksel Oğuz and Özgür Gündem’s former co-editor-in-chief Hüseyin Aykol — on the charge of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization.” The prosecutor did not request a prison sentence for the 13th defendant, Mehmet Şirin Taşdemir, on grounds that he has already been convicted in another case.
Accepting the defense lawyers’ request for additional time for the final defense statements, the court adjourned the trial until 3 April.
Trial into Özgür Gündem editors and Hatip Dicle adjourned
A trial where 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 28 March at the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of 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” under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).
None of the defendants were in attendance at the hearing, where they were represented by lawyer Özcan Kılıç. This was the 12th hearing in the case.
Kılıç requested a continuation for additional defense statements. The court agreed to grant additional time and adjourned the trial until 16 May.
Court rules it has no jurisdiction over Onur Hamzaoğlu “propaganda” case
Academic and public health specialist Onur Hamzaoğlu appeared before an Istanbul court on 28 March for his trial on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” for being among the signatories of 2016’s Academics for Peace petition.
Hamzaoğlu told the court that he was employed with the Kocaeli University during the time he signed the petition and therefore this court had no jurisdiction over the case. The prosecution agreed and requested the court send the file to the authorized court in the Kocaeli province.
The 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled that it had no jurisdiction over the case and sent the case file to a Kocaeli court.
Semiha Şahin, Pınar Gayıp remain behind bars in 4th hearing
Jailed Etkin news agency (ETHA) journalists Semiha Şahin and Pınar Gayıp appeared before the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 27 March for the fourth hearing of their trial on terrorism-related charges.
Both Şahin and Gayıp have been in pre-trial detention as part of this case for 11 months. Their two co-defendants in the case, Gülsen İmre and Ferhat Harun Pehlivan, were released pending trial at the end of the second hearing in the trial.
P24 monitored the fourth hearing, where the lawyers representing İmre and Pehlivan requested to wait for the completion of the forensic report about the digital material before proceeding with their defense statements in response to the prosecution’s final opinion.
Gayıp’s lawyer Kader Tonç requested further inquiry as to when the investigation into the journalists was launched. The lawyer requested that the court inquire of law enforcement officials and the prosecutor about how and why social media posts from highly varied time frames by the two journalists were brought together in the same investigation file as evidence.
Tonç also added that they suspected that the social media posts held as evidence against the journalists were not obtained through an open source search, in which case evidence would be obtained illegally.
Tonç added that no new incriminating evidence was added to Gayıp’s case file throughout the time she has been in pre-trial detention and requested her release pending trial.
Şahin’s lawyer Özcan Karakoç also addressed the court, asserting that the prosecution's final opinion was technically unacceptable and that the case file was not yet ready for the judgment phase. Karakoç added that witness testimonies were also ignored. Karakoç requested Şahin’s release pending trial.
Gayıp and Şahin also addressed the court and requested to be released.
The prosecution said they reiterated their final opinion of the case, submitted to the court in the previous hearing, and requested the continuation of both journalists’ detention.
In its interim decision, the court ruled in line with the prosecution’s requests and ordered the continuation of Şahin and Gayıp’s detention on remand, as well as rejecting the lawyers’ requests for the expansion of the investigation. The trial was adjourned until 13 June.
Kemal Özer handed down 6-year prison sentence
Kemal Özer, a former Tunceli correspondent for the daily Evrensel, appeared in the final hearing of his trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group” on 27 March.
The 1st High Criminal Court of Tunceli convicted Özer of the charge and sentenced him to 6 years and 3 months in prison. Özer’s lawyers said they will appeal the verdict before an appellate court.
New charge under TCK 301 sought in Sibel Hürtaş and Hayri Demir’s trial
The fourth hearing in a trial where 11 defendants, including journalists Hayri Demir and Sibel Hürtaş, stand accused for their social media posts, was held on 27 March in Ankara.
The defendants in the case are accused of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” and “inciting the public to hatred and animosity” over their social media posts critical of Turkey’s military operation on the Syrian city of Afrin.
Hürtaş, Demir, their co-defendant Bengü Aslı Bayramoğlu and defense lawyers were in attendance for the hearing at the 15th High Criminal Court of Ankara.
The prosecution submitted their final opinion of the case during the hearing, seeking convictions for Bengü Aslı Bayramoğlu, Hüseyin Gökdemir, Osman Konukçu, Lezgin Tekay, Muhammed Barış Ceyhan and Saim Serin of the “propaganda” charge.
The prosecution also sought conviction for Demir on the same charge, however, the accusation was based on a social mediapost by Demir that was not included in the indictment.
The prosecution did not submit their final opinion concerning the remaining four defendants in the case, however, they asked the court to seek the Justice Ministry’s approval for new charges to be pressed on all defendants in the case under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) — “publicly denigrating the Turkish nation, the state of the Turkish Republic, or the institutions and organs of the state.”
Addressing the court during the hearing, Demir requested additional time for his defense statement. He also said the social media post for which he is accused was actually a news item that was based on official documents.
DEfense lawyers also requested continuance for defense statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion. The lawyers also reacted to the prosecution’s request to press new charges under Article 301, saying any legal process to be carried out in connection with this charge would be unlawful.
In its interim decision, the court agreed to seek the Justice Ministry’s approval to press new charges under TCK 301 against the defendants and adjourned the trial until 3 July 2019. In the event the ministry gives the go-ahead, the court will return the case file to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Reporter Lezgin Akdeniz sentenced in first hearing
Lezgin Akdeniz, a reporter for Mezopotamya news agency (MA) who was among 142 individuals taken into custody and later released in October as part of a sweeping operation launched in Diyarbakır, appeared in court on 27 March for the first hearing of his trial on terrorism-related charges.
The 9th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır rendered its decision at the end of the first hearing of the case, convicting Akdeniz of the “propaganda” charge against him while acquitting the journalist of the “terrorist group membership” charge. The court gave Akdeniz a prison sentence of 1 year and 3 months. The court deferred the sentence by five years.
İshak Karakaş given 1.5-year prison term over social media posts
Journalist İshak Karakaş, the former editor-in-chief and owner of the shuttered weekly newspaper Halkın Nabzı, appeared in the final hearing of his trial on the “propaganda” charge on 26 March in Istanbul.
Karakaş was accused on account of his social media posts critical of Turkey’s military operation on the Syrian city of Afrin.
P24 monitored the hearing, where Karakaş and his co-defendants as well as their lawyers were in attendance.
Rendering its verdict after hearing all defense statements, the 28th High Criminal Court of Istanbul convicted Karakaş and his co-defendants Yücel Üney, Yaşar Yılmaz Altunbilek, Tarzan Aktan, Ömer Karakurt, Murat Demir, Şervan Dinçer and Abdullah Yeşilbağdan of “successively disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” and sentenced each to 1 year, 6 months and 22 days in prison.
Two other defendants in the case, Cevdet Taş and Ahmet Alanç, were also convicted of the “propaganda” charge and given 1 year and 3 months in prison. The court deferred all sentences.
Çağdaş Erdoğan’s “propaganda” trial adjourned until May
The fourth hearing of the trial into photographer Çağdaş Erdoğan on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” took place on 26 March at the 33rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
P24 monitored the hearing, where both Erdoğan and his lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu were in attendance.
Çalıkuşu told the court that Erdoğan was unable to retrieve his passport despite the international travel ban imposed on her client to have been lifted in June 2018. The presiding judge said there were no judicial control measures in connection with Erdoğan’s passport in place and that the problem must be in connection with an administrative decision.
The presiding judge then informed those in attendance that the court had just received the documents it had been waiting for the case and set 7 May 2019 as the date for the next hearing.
Ziya Ataman remains behind bars in 6th hearing
A trial where former Dicle news agency (DİHA) reporter Ziya Ataman is among jailed defendants resumed on 26 March at the 1st High Criminal Court of Şırnak.
This was the sixth hearing in the case.
Ataman, who has been jailed pending trial since April 2016, and 18 others are accused of eight different charges, including “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.”
The prosecutor requested the continuation of the detention of all jailed defendants in the case.
Addressing the court from the Van Maximum Security Prison via SEGBİS, Ataman requested to make his defense statement in Kurdish. The court told him that he should have an interpreter ready for the next hearing in case he does not speak in Turkish in this hearing.
In its interim decision, the court ruled to keep all jailed defendants in the case behind bars and to hand over the case file to the prosecution for the drafting of their final opinion until the next hearing, set for 28 May.
Journalist Cansu Pişkin’s trial adjourned until May
The second hearing of a trial in which journalist Cansu Pişkin, a courthouse reporter for the daily Evrensel, is accused of “marking the identity of a state official assigned in the fight against terrorism as a target” took place on 25 March at the 36th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
Pişkin is accused because of a news report published last year in Evrensel about the prosecutor appointed to investigate the Boğaziçi University students who were jailed over staging an anti-war demonstration on the school campus.
P24 monitored the hearing, where Pişkin’s lawyer Mustafa Söğütlü requested the court immediately acquit Pişkin based on the fact that there was no new evidence raising criminal suspicion.
The prosecution then submitted their final opinion of the case, requesting that Pişkin be convicted. Lawyers requested additional time for Pişkin’s defense statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion.
The court agreed to grant additional time and adjourned the trial until 7 May. The panel said they would decide on the request for Pişkin’s immediate acquittal at the next hearing.
List of journalists and media workers in prison
As of 29 March 2019, at least 145 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.
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 Subuhaber.com
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 Sami Tunca, Mücadele Birliği magazine managing editor
122 Sedat Laçiner, Haberdar news portal
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