Sendika.org editor Demirhan was on trial for social media posts featuring news reports published on the website between January 2018 and March 2018
CANSU PİŞKİN, ISTANBUL
The third hearing of the trial against Ali Ergin Demirhan, the editor of the website Sendika.org, who was initially indicted on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMK) over social media posts featuring several news articles the website published in 2018, was held on 17 March 2021.
The Istanbul 24th High Criminal Court sentenced Demirhan to 11 months and 20 days in prison for “insulting the president” at the end of the hearing. The court commuted the sentence to a judicial fine of TL 7,000.
P24 monitored the hearing, where Demirhan and his lawyers were in attendance.
In their final opinion presented at the first hearing of the case on 19 November 2020, the prosecutor had demanded that Demirhan be sentenced for “insulting the president” under Article 299/1 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), saying that the posts subject to the accusation “cannot be considered within the scope of freedom of thought and expression” and argued that the posts concerning statements on Turkey’s military operation on Syria’s Afrin “damaged the president’s reputation.”
Addressing the court in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion, Demirhan reminded that he was initially charged with “terrorism propaganda” but that the charge has been dropped and replaced with “insulting the president.” News stories for which I am charged are within the scope of freedom of expression. There is no insult. This case was launched according to the political conjuncture,” Demirhan said, requesting to be acquitted.
Citing relevant articles of the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), Demirhan’s lawyers stressed that the reports cited in the indictment did not involve the elements of the “insult” offence and that they were within the scope of freedom of expression. Stating that the social media posts contained a message of peace, the lawyers requested Demirhan’s acquittal.
Announcing its judgment following a brief recess, the court sentenced Demirhan to 11 months and 20 days in prison for “insulting the president.” The court commuted the sentence to a judicial fine of TL 7,000. Demirhan's lawyers will appeal the sentence.
Citing several news reports and social media posts shared by Sendika.org between January 2018 and March 2018, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation against Ali Ergin Demirhan on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” (TMK 7/1). The Prosecutor's Office later issued a decision of non-prosecution on the “membership in a terrorist organization” charge but charged Demirhan with “terrorism propaganda” (TMK 7/2) in an indictment issued on 15 October 2018.
The first hearing of Demirhan’s trial was held on 6 October 2020 at the 24th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. Shortly before the first hearing, the prosecution amended the charge against Demirhan, this time accusing him of “insulting the president” under Article 299/1 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).