Journalists Hazal Ocak, Serkan Ozan, Olcay Büyüktaş Akça and Ozan Yurtoğlu have been issued a judicial fine for “insulting” in a case filed upon a complaint by Bilal Erdoğan, son of President Erdoğan
CANSU PİŞKİN, İSTANBUL
The fourth hearing in the trial of former employees of Cumhuriyet Hazal Ocak, Serkan Ozan, Büyüktaş Akça and Ozan Yurtoğlu on charges of “insult” and “defamation” over a complaint filed by Bilal Erdoğan, son of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was held at the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 8 November 2022.
Ocak, Ozan and lawyers of parties attended the hearing, which P24 monitored.
The prosecutor repeated final opinion on the case they presented at the hearing on 8 February 2022 and requested conviction for the defendants for “repeated public insults.”
Lawyers for plaintiff Bilal Erdoğan said they agreed with the opinion as to the accusations and requested sentencing for the defendants.
Defending against the opinion of the prosecution, Ocak and Ozan stated that they had not intended to insult and requested their acquittal. Serkan Ozan also said that there were no elements of insulting in any part of the news item and requested his acquittal.
Ocak and Ozan’s lawyer Öner Bulut said “The indictment is not based on tangible facts. An abstract charge has been brought up against my clients through fictious conclusions. The news item subject to the charge was produced under the scope of freedom of the press and expression and was not intended to be insulting.”
Asked for his final statement, Ocak said “This type of case is generally filed to intimidate journalists. Journalism is not a crime.” In his final statement, Ozan repeated his request to be acquitted.
The court sentenced Serkan Ozan, Olcay Büyüktaş Akça, Ozan Yurtoğlu and Hazal Ocak to pay a fine of TL 2180 each for “insult”. The presiding judge stated that the decision was final as the issued fine was less than TL 3000.
Background of the case
An investigation was launched against Hazal Ocak upon a complaint by Bilal Erdoğan concerning the news items titled “Bilal Erdoğan’ın şanslı arkadaşı” (“Bilal Erdoğan’s lucky friend”) that appeared in the 31 January 2021 print edition of the Cumhuriyetnewspaper and “Arkadaş ihale zengini” (“The friend grows wealthy off tenders”) that appeared on the newspaper’s website on 4 February 2021.
In the statement she gave as part of the investigation, Ocak said that she had not selected or published the title of the article or the accompanying photographs. Upon this statement, the prosecutor’s office set up an indictment against four journalists, including the newspaper’s managing editor Olcay Büyüktaş Akça, administrator Serkan Ozan to whom the managing editor reported and the website managing editor Ozan Yurtoğlu, on the grounds they had criminal culpability.
The indictment claimed that Bilal Erdoğan had been insulted through the use of expressions such as “arkadaşın önü böyle açılmış,” (“this is how the road was paved for the friend”) “rakipleri şanssız,” (“unlucky competitors”) “Bilal Erdoğan’ın şanslı arkadaşı,” (“Bilal Erdoğan’s lucky friend”) “arkadaş ihale zengini,” (“the friend grows wealthy off tenders”) and the attribution of a connection with people who are not Erdoğan’s friends.