Alican Uludağ, a former legal correspondent for Cumhuriyet daily, has multiple court cases brought against him for his reports published in the newspaper. Two compensation cases have been rejected while in one case brought on the charge of “violating confidentiality of the investigation,” Uludağ was sentenced to 10 months in prison.
Case on coverage of release of US pastor
Uludağ and former Cumhuriyet reporter Duygu Güvenç were charged with “denigrating the judicial organs of the state” under Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK) for their reports on the release under house arrest of Pastor Andrew Craig Brunson, a US citizen, in July 2018 after public statements from US President Donald Trump calling for his release.
Brunson was arrested and placed in pre-trial detention in December 2016 and was charged with “espionage” and “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” on the basis of his alleged ties with the PKK and what authorities call the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ). In October 2018, Brunson’s house arrest was also ended and his travel ban was lifted, following which he left Turkey for the US.
Uludağ wrote two articles in Cumhuriyet newspaper on Brunson’s release, questioning the role of US pressure in Brunson's release under house arrest and political interference with judicial decisions.
The indictment, which charged Uludağ and Güvenç under Article 301 for the content of their reports on the release of Brunson, was completed on 1 October 2018. The first hearing was held on 20 December 2018 at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. Uludağ told the court that political developments corroborated his conclusions in his reports and denied his reports contained any insult against judicial organs of the state. He also presented a written defense statement.
Six more hearings were held as part of the trial between 1 October 2018 and 22 October 2020. At the seventh and final hearing on 22 October, the prosecutor presented his final opinion on the case, repeating his request for jail terms for the two journalists under Article 301 of the TCK. The court, however, acquitted Uludağ and Güvenç, saying that the impugned acts did not constitute an offence under the Criminal Code.
The prosecutor took the acquittal decision to a regional court of appeal on 28 October 2020 on procedural and substantial grounds. The case is still pending before the regional court.
Trial over report on ISIS Ankara attack trial
The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation against Alican Uludağ and Olcay Büyüktaş Akça, the responsible editor of Cumhuriyet, in connection with a news report titled “Emniyet 8 gün önceden Ankara’daki gar katliamı hazırlığını biliyormuş” (“Police knew about the preparations for the train station massacre in Ankara 8 days ago”) published in the newspaper on 22 November 2019.
The news report claimed that 11 days before the bomb attack in Ankara on 10 October 2015, which killed 103 people, ISIS members tried to buy fertilizer from a dealer in the Nizip district of Gaziantep, the owner of the fertilizer dealer reported the situation to the police, but the police did not take any action against the reported suspects. After the article was published, the owner of the fertilizer dealer filed a complaint because his name was mentioned in the piece, and the file was sent to the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Following the investigation, an indictment was prepared against Uludağ and Büyüktaş Akça on the charge of “disclosing or publishing the identity of those who provide information about crimes and criminals” as per Article 6/3 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMK), demanding a prison sentence of up to three years. The indictment was completed on 17 March 2020. The first hearing of the trial was held at the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 22 October 2020. Asserting that the news in question was of public interest in his defense statement, Uludağ said that he was on trial not because the name of the informant was published, but because he revealed the negligence of public officials, and demanded his acquittal.
Announcing its interim decision at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to ask the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court, where the 10 October Ankara massacre case was held, for a copy of the indictment and adjourn the trial until 12 January 2021, granting defendants and their lawyers a continuance for their defense statements on the merits. At the end of the January hearing, the court decided to review the indictment for the Ankara railway station attack trial, overseen by the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court. The third hearing of this trial is set for 16 March 2021.
Conviction in trial for criticizing former Ankara Chief Puplic Prosecutor on social media
In a Twitter post he shared on 20 September 2020, Uludağ criticized former Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's visit to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the Presidential Palace after his wedding ceremony. In the second tweet of the thread, Uludağ stated that jailed politician Selahattin Demirtaş could not get out of prison despite a release order based on the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgment because the chief prosecutor had an arrest warrant issued for Demirtaş as part of a new investigation he had launched.
Several days later, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation against Uludağ because of his Twitter posts. Uludağ gave his statement to a prosecutor at the courthouse on 24 September 2020. He was imposed a travel ban and a judicial control measure in the form of reporting to the nearest police station once every week.
An indictment was issued against Uludağ on 30 September 2020, formally charging the journalist with “marking a state official involved in the fight against terrorism as a target” under Article 6/1 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMK).
The first hearing of Uludağ’s trial was held on 2 December 2020 at the Ankara 18th High Criminal Court.
Submitting their final opinion, the prosecutor demanded Uludağ’s conviction. The court lifted the signature obligation for Uludağ but ruled for the continuation of his travel ban and adjourned the trial until 3 February 2021.
Uludağ was given a 10-month prison sentence for “marking a state official involved in the fight against terrorism as a target” at the second hearing of his trial, held on 3 February 2021. The court suspended the sentence and lifted the international travel ban imposed on Uludağ.
Conviction in "violation of the confidentiality of the investigation" trial
Another lawsuit against Uludağ was filed due to an article he penned titled “Dört Hakim ve Savcı, HSYK’nin İhraç Ettiği İsimler Arasında Yok” (“Four judges and prosecutors are not among the names expelled by the HSYK”) published in Cumhuriyet newspaper on 20 March 2017. The indictment, which was completed on 31 May 2017, stated that the statements of a secret witness who testified as part of a FETÖ investigation conducted by the Antalya Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office were published in the news article, and demanded Uludağ’s imprisonment for a term of 1 to 3 years on the charge of “violating the confidentiality of the investigation by publishing images of the persons at the stages of investigation and prosecution in a way that would cause them to be perceived as criminals,” as per Articles 285/1 and 285/5 under Turkish Penal Code (TCK).
The trial, which started approximately two years after the preparation of the indictment, ended with the final hearing held at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 7 February 2019. Prior to the final hearing, Uludağ had made his defense statement at the Ankara 34th Criminal Court of First Instance on 6 December 2018, on the orders of the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. In his defense, Uludağ stated that there was no criminal intent in his actions, and that the prosecutor, whose name was mentioned in the news article, was a public figure due to his political tweets about the referendum, therefore he wrote his name openly. Announcing its decision at the end of the hearing on 7 February 2019, the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance sentenced Uludağ to 10 months in prison under TCK 285/1. The announcement of the verdict was deferred.
Uludağ was also sued for compensation in two separate cases upon complaints from Birleşim Mağazalar A.Ş. (BİM) and former Adana Governor Hüseyin Avni Coş. In the lawsuit filed by BİM with a claim for TL 250,000 in damages, the Istanbul Anatolian 9th Civil Court of First Instance issued a decision of “non-jurisdiction” and sent the file to the Istanbul Commercial Court of First Instance in April 2019. The Istanbul Commercial Court of First Instance rejected the claim for compensation as the decision of non-jurisdiction was not previously challenged by BİM.
The Sakarya 4th Civil Court of First Instance ruled that TL 10,000 in compensation for non-pecuniary damages was to be paid to Hüseyin Avni Coş in the compensation case filed over a news report titled “Validen Bomba İtiraf” (“Governor’s Alarming Confession”) published in Cumhuriyet newspaper on 4 June 2015. However, the decision was later overturned by the 4th Civil Chamber of the Court of Cassation. At the end of the retrial, which began on 19 July 2019, the court lifted the earlier decision on compensation and ruled the rejection of the case, complying with the Court of Cassation’s decision.