Expression Interrupted

Journalists and academics bear the brunt of the massive crackdown on freedom of expression in Turkey. Scores of them are currently subject to criminal investigations or behind bars. This website is dedicated to tracking the legal process against them.

Abdurrahman Gök

Abdurrahman Gök

Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) editor Abdurrahman Gök was detained on 25 April 2023 as part of an investigation launched by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and was arrested and placed in prison two days later, on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda.” Journalist Gök, who photographed the shooting and killing of university student Kemal Kurkut during Newroz celebrations in Diyarbakır in 2017 has also faced cases and investigations on “terrorism” charges other than the case that led to his arrest. 

On 21 March 2017, the day of the incident, the Governor’s Office of Diyarbakır issued an early statement, in which it announced that a person “trying to enter the demonstration area with a backpack”, who did not “want to be searched” and “attacked security forces with a knife while saying ‘I have bomb in my bag, I’ll kill you all’ had started running towards the sire of the event” had been “considered to present a risk of being a suicide bomber” and had been shot and stopped. However, how the events actually unfolded were revealed by the photos taken by dihaber editor Abdurrahman Gök, who was on site at the time.

From the photos taken by journalist Gök, who hid his memory card to prevent police officers on the scene from erasing the records, it could be seen that Kemal Kurkut had a water bottle and a knife in his hand and on contrary to the governor’s office’s announcement he was naked from the waist up and was directly targeted and shot. The Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office then began an investigation and Gök gave a statement to the investigating prosecutor as a witness on 29 March 2017. Gök shared the photos of the incident with the prosecutor. 

20 days after Gök gave a statement as a witness to the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, on 20 April 2017, Gök’s home in Diyarbakır was raided by the police as part of an investigation run by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. Police officers who arrived in the morning searched the residence despite Gök not being home and confiscated four books, a magazine and two mobile phones belonging to Gök which he did not use. During the search, Gök’s cameras at his home were also examined. Two different investigations against Gök commenced following the home raid that was said to have been carried out “upon a complaint.” All of these investigations resulted in a decision not to prosecute.

Conviction for “terrorism propaganda”

Gök was among more than 100 people who were detained in simultaneous police raids carried out on 183 addresses in nine provinces on 9 October 2018, as part of an investigation being run by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. After being detained for three days at the Diyarbakır Provincial Directorate of Security, where he was taken, Gök was transferred to the courthouse on 12 October, after which he was released with a ban on traveling abroad.

On 25 September 2020, the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office filed an indictment against Gök on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda.” The charges against Gök in the indictment were based on a news item he had prepared in 2014; an anonymous tip off; records of his international travels, Azadiya Welat and Özgür Gündem archives which were confiscated during the raid on his home; a statement by a secret witness code name “Sabır”; his phone conversations with news sources; his attendance at the 22 April Kurdish Journalists Day Forum; social media posts and reporting. The indictment called for an imprisonment sentence of up to 20 years. Gök’s trial began upon the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court accepting the indictment.

At the first hearing held on 23 February 2021, the panel of judges lifted the ban on Gök traveling abroad that had been in force since 12 October 2018.

At the second hearing on 3 June 2021, Gök presented his statement against the allegations of the secret witness “Sabır,” who had testified between hearings. Gök said that the claim by the secret witness that he had “prepared reporting on Kemal Kurkut under instructions from the organization” did not reflect the truth and emphasized that the claim was hurtful to the Kurkut family. Gök’s lawyer Resul Temur said that the statements by the secret witness were conjectural and that they contradicted the facts in terms of place, time and logic. The panel of judges decided to convey the case file to the prosecution for the preparation of the opinion as to the basis.

At the third hearing of the trial on 30 September 2021, the prosecution did not present its opinion but requested a criminal complaint against Gök be filed for two social media posts which were included in the investigation report but were not included in the indictment. The court ruled to file an official complaint with the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office over the social media posts.

A new indictment was filed against Gök on 12 January 2022 as a result of the investigation that commenced upon the criminal complaint filed by the court. The indictment charged the journalist with “terrorism propaganda” on account of three posts from Gök’s personal social media accounts from 2017 and 2018. The indictment was conveyed to the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court with a request for the merger of the cases and demanded up to 7 years and 6 months of imprisonment for Gök.

At the fourth hearing on 20 January 2022, the court ruled to merge the cases. The court allowed time for Gök and his lawyer, who stated that they had not been served with the second indictment prepared by the prosecution, to prepare their defense and adjourned the trial.

At the fifth hearing on 31 March 2022, the prosecutor presented the opinion as to the basis and said that although Gök had been charged with “membership in an armed terrorist organization,” there was no “certain, unequivocal and credible” evidence for the impugned crime and requested the acquittal of the journalist. However, the prosecution argued that Gök had “repeatedly” committed the impugned crime of “terrorism propaganda,” based on the social media posts included in the indictment prepared following the investigation upon the criminal complaint filed by the court and merged with the current case and requested sentencing.

At the final hearing held on 30 June 2022, the court acquitted Gök of “membership in a terrorist organization.” The court sentenced the journalist to 18 months and 22 days of imprisonment for the crime of “terrorism propaganda” over the social media posts that were included in the indictment that was prepared during his trial.

Following the appeal filed by Gök’s lawyers, on 27 December 2022, the 9th Criminal Chamber of the Diyarbakır Regional Court of Justice unanimously ruled to reject the appeal. The case is currently pending before the Supreme Court of Appeals.

2023 arrest and indictment on “terror” charges

Gök was among the 126 people who were arrested in home raids in 21 provinces on 25 April 2023 as part of an investigation being run by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. Gök, who appeared before the court after being detained for two days at the Diyarbakır Directorate of Security, was put under arrest by the Diyarbakır 5th Criminal Court of Peace on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda.”

The charges in the indictment against Gök, which was filed after he had been in pre-trial detention for 47 days, were based on evidence including claims by witness Ümit Akbıyık; the documentary titled “KOBANÊ: NE FÎLM E NE BELGEFÎLM E!” which Gök had broadcast on his YouTube account and contained footage from Kobanê, where he had been as a reporter between 2014-2017; three news items published by the Mezopotamya Agency between 2021-2022; HTS records showing he had held phone conversations with 16 colleagues who were arrested on 16 June 2022 and claims by a secret witness code name “CV23TY45UP7.” Based on open and secret witness testimonies, the prosecutor who prepared the indictment requested 22 years and 6 months of imprisonment for the journalist on the grounds that he was “A part of the Press and Publications Filed and of the Ideological Field Structure Spokesperson of the Social Field Structure hierarchy of the PKK/KCK terrorist organization; served the terrorist organization by preparing broadcast and content in line with the interests and aims of the terrorist organization which wanted to expand its propaganda activities in order to influence its base and expand its field of influence; in this context had established an organic relationship with the terrorist organization and; in addition, had carried out propaganda on behalf of the PKK/KCK armed terrorist organization to legitimize its activities which include coercion, violence and threats, to praise them and to encourage others to seek these methods through videos and writing open to the public.”

Gök’s trial began upon the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court accepting the indictment.

The first hearing of the trial was held on 14 September 2023, which was the 140th day of Gök’s remand.

Delivering his defense at the hearing, Gök said that the open witness Ümit Akbıyık had testified at least four times during the investigation and not mentioned him at all. Gök stated that he was being targeted for revenge for photographing the murder of Kemal Kurkut and added that Ümit Akbıyık had “identified” him upon being led by the prosecutor and made unfounded claims against him. Gök’s lawyer Resul Temur explained that this was a repeated trial and demanded the dismissal of the case. Lawyer Temur said that they had applied twice to the court before the hearing for the witness Ümit Akbıyık to be heard in court and requested that the witness not being heard not be considered as a reason for the continued detention of his client pending trial. Announcing their opinion, the prosecution requested the continued remand of Gök on grounds that witnesses had not been heard, all evidence had not been collected, there were missing elements in the file and Gök presented a flight risk. The court ruled for the continuation of Gök’s imprisonment pending trial and for notifications to be sent to relevant bodies for the witness Ümit Akbıyık and secret witness “CV23TY45UP7” to testify between hearings.

The second hearing of Gök’s trial was held on 5 December 2023 at the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court. P24 monitored the hearing.

Gök addressed the court in response to the statement of witness Ümit Akbıyık, who claimed that he met Gök at Pel Production in 2020. Gök stated that he had never worked at Pel Production and had never seen the witness Akbıyık.

The prosecution requested Gök's release pending trial based on the lengthy detention period and on the grounds that evidence has been collected.

Gök’s lawyers requested his release, stating that the witness statements were inconsistent, did not contain testimony about any of Gök’s acts and that the acts subject to the accusations were within the framework of journalism.

At the end of the hearing, the court ruled to release Gök under a ban on traveling abroad and adjourned the case until 12 March 2024. Gök was released from prison later on 5 December.