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.

Academic Tuna Altınel acquitted at third hearing

Academic Tuna Altınel acquitted at third hearing

Altınel was accused of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” for his involvement in an event in France last year



Tuna Altınel, an assistant professor at University Claude Bernard Lyon 1, was acquitted at the end of the third hearing of his trial on 24 January 2020. Altınel was accused of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

P24 monitored the hearing, overseen by the 2nd High Criminal Court of Balıkesir. Those who had traveled to the city to lend support to Altınel issued a press statement in front of the courthouse before the hearing began. Academics for Peace petition signatory Lütfiye Bozdağ said, “We are raising our voices against the unlawfulness Tuna Altınel has been subjected to. We request his freedom to travel, which has been inhibited for the past 9 months, to be given back.”

Four people were not allowed to enter the courtroom due to there not being any empty seats left. Although Altınel’s lawyer Meriç Eyüboğlu requested the four to be allowed in, the presiding judge declined the request.

Beginning his defense statement by thanking all who had supported him so far, Altınel said, “Today is 24 January, the day when the economic package was enforced through a military coup, and when Uğur Mumcu [investigative journalist who was assassinated in 1993] fell victim to an unsolved murder.”

Altınel got those in court to listen to a 15-20 second voice recording. When the presiding judge asked him what the recording was, Altınel responded: “These cries are not from a movie. They’re from the basements of Cizre. The people there were called terrorists. How can one resort to such force? I wanted to go there to hear the witnesses. I went to Cizre. I questioned, I learned, I felt. I was accused of degrading my country when I was arrested. The next day I was placed in pre-trial detention. My freedom to travel is still being usurped.”

“I’m accused of ‘terrorism propaganda’ because I shared the Turkish text of the invitation to an event. It has nothing to do with propaganda. I was acquitted in the trial where I was accused for being one of Academics for Peace. I want this contradiction to be brought to an end. The situation we are in is a heavy blow to freedom of thought and expression. The verdict in this trial will be crucial in terms of freedom of thought and expression. The court should rule for my acquittal.”

Addressing the court after Altınel, his lawyer Eyüboğlu said that Altınel was accused for sharing the invitation to a 21 February 2019 documentary screening.

“The operations of the Turkish Armed Forces [TSK] were carried out from the second half of 2015 until March 2016. The date of the event was 21 February 2019. There are no elements of crime. Altınel was only translating at the event. He shared the invitation for the event. It must be assessed within the context of freedom of expression. The Constitutional Court ruled that it was freedom of speech to sign the petition “We will not be a party to this crime” in relation to the rights violations that took place in [Turkey’s southeast] region at the time. Before even getting to the association’s event which my client attended, there are reports by international rights organizations about the rights violations in the region.”

Eyüboğlu also presented excerpts from news reports published online between 2015 and 2019 about human rights violations in Cizre. Stating that expressing the truth cannot be a crime, Eyüboğlu said: “My client should have never been prosecuted, let alone arrested. The elements of crime have not been formed. He should be acquitted.”

Lawyer Gizem Demir presented to court letters sent by various European universities and mathematical societies.

After Demir, lawyer Ahmet İnan Yılmaz addressed the court: “The yellow vests took to the streets in France. There isn’t a single government official in Turkey who hasn’t commented on it. Are Tuna Altınel, we, you not supposed to comment on what happened in Şırnak? There are no terror organizations named in the indictment. This is not something that can be spoken of hypothetically.”

Yılmaz added: “To criticize the actions of security forces is to criticize policy makers, because security forces merely carry out the decisions of the political authority. The longer this prosecution continues, the more dangerous and daring it will become.”

Asked for his last word before the court’s verdict, Altınel said he didn’t have anything else to say.

Issuing their verdict after a 15-minute recess, the court panel acquitted Altınel. The audience was not allowed in the courtroom to hear the court’s verdict, which was revealed to only Altınel and his lawyers.