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.

Case against journalist Seyhan Avşar dropped at first hearing

Case against journalist Seyhan Avşar dropped at first hearing

Avşar, a reporter for Cumhuriyet daily, was charged with “insulting a public official” for writing about two public prosecutors who allegedly accepted bribes 



Seyhan Avşar, a reporter for Cumhuriyet daily, appeared before Istanbul’s 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 16 January 2020 for the first and final hearing in her trial on the charge of “insulting a public official.”

Avşar was on trial for having penned two news reports in March 2019 about two prosecutors who were allegedly discovered to have been accepting bribes to drop charges against suspects in a number of investigations on “FETÖ” allegations. The case was launched after Lütfi Karabacak and İsmet Bozkurt, the public prosecutors referred to in the news report, filed a criminal complaint against Avşar.

P24 monitored the hearing, which began half an hour late. Avşar did not attend. Avşar’s lawyer Buket Yazıcı and plaintiffs Lütfi Karabacak and İsmet Bozkurt’s lawyer Aydın Meydan were present in the courtroom. 

Addressing the court in the beginning of the hearing, Avşar’s lawyer Yazıcı told that there were three separate indictments, one on the “violation of privacy” charge and two for “insulting a public official.”

Judge Nursel Bedir asked how a single case could be launched if there were three indictments. “It goes against the natural order of life. There can be three accusations in one indictment but there can’t be three separate indictments over one accusation,”said the judge and she went on UYAP (The National Judiciary Informatics System,) to check the other indictments but she said she couldn’t find the one on “violation of privacy.” Yazıcı informed that on their UYAP, they could see also that indictment and he presented all the indictments to court. 

The judge informed those present in court that three indictments were drafted against the same act but only one trial, the current one, was launched. 

Then the plaintiffs’ lawyer Meydan asked permission for the accusers to participate in the case as complainants, which the court granted.

Reminding that the trial was launched after the four-month statute of limitations for pressing charges as per Press Law had passed, Yazıcı requested her client’s acquittal. In violation of the Code of Criminal Procedure, over a single alleged crime three separate indictments against her client had been prepared by the same prosecutor based on one statement given on 8 May 2019 by Avşar. The client has to be informed if the allegation leveled against her is going to change, Yazıcı reminded. However, the client was not informed of the other charge. For this reason the case should be dismissed, Yazıcı said.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer Meydan said: “This trial is not about Press Law. The accusation is based on the Criminal Procedure Code [CMK]. The statute of limitations for pressing charges according to CMK is yet to pass. The defendant must be present in the hearing and first of all we should be hearing her. Once the prosecutor hears a statement, he/she is free to form an allegation and put it in the indictment.”

Issuing her verdict at the end of the hearing, the judge ruled to dismiss the case on the grounds that it was launched after the statute of limitations for pressing charges had passed. 

Objecting to the judge’s verdict, Meydan said, “This case is not about Press Law, the complaint was filed in relation to a news report that was published online. We didn’t even get to hear the witness.”

In response, the judge said she couldn’t take her decision back but the option to appeal the verdict was available.