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.

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 152

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 152

Oğuz Güven given 5-month jail sentence; court issues arrest warrant for 5 journos as part of Karşı trial; 10 former TRT employees convicted of “membership in terrorist group”


The Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court, which accepted the indictment into the former owner and 10 employees of the shuttered Karşı newspaper, has issued arrest warrants for five of the indicted journalists.

The state-run Anadolu news agency reported on 2 August that the court ordered that arrest warrants be issued for journalists Alaaddin Akkaşoğlu, Değer Özergün, Mehmet Aydoğmuş, Murat Kazancı and Onur Kala, whom the indictment accuses of being users of ByLock, an encrypted messaging app purported tobe exclusively used by the members of the Fethullah Gülen network, which the government accuses of being the perpetrators behind the 15 July 2916 coup attempt.

The indictment, issued in May, seeks up to 18 years in prison each for Karşı reporter Ufuk Emin Köroğlu and former editor in chief of the shuttered Millet daily on charges of “membership in an armed terrorist organization” and “disclosing the identities of public officials who have taken part in the fight against terrorism.”

The indictment also seeks up to 15 years of imprisonment for Alaaddin Akkaşoğlu, the owner of the newspaper’s website, karşı, and a partner of the shuttered Akis Publications; karşı chief editor Mehmet Aydoğmuş; Our Kala, who is purported to be the owner of the Twitter account “@Fedakarkisi”; Murat Kazancı, the news director for the hardcopy; and Emrah Direk, on the charge of “membership in an armed terrorist organization.” Also indicted is Kutlu Esendemir, the newspaper’s general coordinator, for “knowingly and willingly aiding an armed terrorist organization without being its member.” He too faces 15 years in prison.

The indictment did not seek jail terms for the newspaper’s former owner, Turan Ababey, reporter Emre Erciş, and responsible managing editor Mehmet Bozkurt, who were charged with “knowingly and willingly aiding an armed terrorist organization without being its member.” Instead the prosecution asked that they benefit from effective remorse.

The Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court, in addition to issuing arrest warrants, also ruled that the file be merged with an ongoing case against Eren Erdem, a former opposition MP, who was jailed pending trial on 29 June on accusations stemming from his time as Karşı editor in chief. The trial court overseeing Erdem’s case accepted to merge both case files, but ruled that the trial be overseen by the 23rd High Criminal Court. The case file was then referred to an appellate court, which will determine which of the two trial courts will have jurisdiction over the case.

Akkaşoğlu sentenced to prison 

Akkaşoğlu, sought by the Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court as part of the Karşı trial, has already been sentenced to a prison term in July in a separate trial. The final hearing of that trial was held on 6 July at the Kütahya 2nd High Criminal Court. Akkaşoğlu gave his final defense statement at the hearing, rejecting all the accusations against him, including the allegation that he was a ByLock user. The court convicted Akkaşoğlu of “FETÖ membership” and sentenced him to 8 years and 9 months in prison.

Former TRT employees convicted of “membership in terrorist group”

Ten former employees of the Turkish state broadcaster TRT were given jail terms between 6 years and 3 months and 8 years and 9 months for “membership in an armed terrorist organization” in the final hearing of the case.

A total of 21 former TRT employees who had been dismissed from their posts in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt of 15 July 2016 on allegations of “FETÖ membership” were standing trial in the case, overseen by the Ankara 23rd High Criminal Court.

Jailed defendants Hasan Hüseyin Örs, İbrahim Halil Öztürkeri and Hasan Taşar were each sentenced to 8 years and 9 months in prison while another jailed defendant, Özden Kınık, was given 8 years 1 month and 15 days in prison. The court also ruled for the continuation of all four’s detention.

The court gave Kemal Erdem, Hasan Basri Erden, Mehmet Ali̇ Öget and Mustafa Ünal 7.5 year-prison terms each, while İdris Selçuk was given 6 years and 3 months. Another defendant referred to in court documents by the initials A.F. and who had requested to benefit from effective remorse was given a suspended jail term of 1.5 years and 22 days.

One of the defendants, Hanife Sayılır, was acquitted of all charges, while the rest of the defendants’ files were separated. Cavit Atasever, Mustafa Altıntaş, Servet Dağ, Mustafa Yazkan, Cihangir Çetin, Hüsamettin Kıroğlu, Osman Zeybek, Murat Kirti and Mustafa Beyhan will continue standing trial.

Öget and Kirti were released pending the conclusion of the trial at the end of  a previous hearing of the case in October 2017.

Hale Gönültaş receives threat for ISIS coverage 

Ankara-based journalist Hale Gönültaş received an anonymous phone call on her mobile phone earlier this week in which a male voice threatened her following her recent stories covering ISIS child slave trade for the online newspaper Gazete Duvar.

Gönültaş said the caller told her that “jihad” would “come to this country” and told her “to watch her step.”

Gönültaş had reported based on her interviews with Yazidi women who escaped ISIS that the terrorist group had sold a Yazidi girl in Ankara around two months ago, and that some 3,500 Yazidi women were still missing.

Gönültaş’s lawyer said legal action would be taken to identify the person who threatened her.

JinNews director to stand trial on “propaganda” charge

Feminist news collective JinNews’ news director Safiye Alağaş will be standing trial on the charge of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization,” facing up to 5 years in prison.

The case was opened after Turkey’s Internet watchdog, Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK), filed a criminal complaint with the Diyarbakır Public Prosecutor’s Office alleging “propaganda” in dispatches by JinNews.

Several of the collective’s dispatches about Turkey’s military operation on Syria’s Afrin and several op/ed pieces featured on its website were cited among grounds for the accusations in the indictment.

The case will get underway on 11 December 2018 at the 4th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır.

Oğuz Güven given suspended jail sentence for Charlie Hebdo cartoon

Oğuz Güven, the former web editor for Cumhuriyet daily, was given a 5-month suspended prison sentence for publishing a controversial Charlie Hebdo cartoon in the newspaper’s website.

Güven was on trial for “inciting the public to hatred and animosity” at Istanbul’s 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, which rendered its verdict at the end of the final hearing of the case on 12 July.

Giving his final defense statement during the hearing, Güven told the court that the cartoon was published online because two other Cumuriyet columnists were standing trial on that day for featuring the said cartoon in their respective columns in the paper. Güven also said the cartoon remained online for about 15 minutes, after which it was removed, and requested for his acquittal.

Announcing his verdict at the end of the hearing, the judge initially sentenced Güven to 6 months in prison on grounds that the cartoon was blasphemous for Muslims. The judge then reduced the sentence to 5 months taking into account Güven’s attitude throughout the proceeding, and deferred the sentence by 1 year.

Other free expression cases of the past week 

  • Yunus Ozan Korkut, the director of a documentary titled Benim Varoş Hikâyem (My ghetto story), and five actors from the film’s cast will be standing trial on charges of “praising crime and criminals” and “inciting drug use” through the film. The lawsuit will get underway on 30 January 2019 and will be heard by an Adana court in the Ceyhan Courthouse, Korkut announced on his Twitter account.

  • People’s Democratic Party (HDP) Istanbul MP Erkan Baş is under investigation for “insulting the president” in his social media posts. The investigation was launched because Baş used the word “dictator” in one of his posts about the president.

  • A factory worker who goes by the initials M.E. was taken into custody on 3 August in the northwestern town of  Çorlu, Tekirdağ, on allegations that he “insulted the president” on social media.

P24 updates its list of jailed journalists and media workers

P24 updated its list of Journalists in Prison, compiled using information available in open sources.

Dismissed TRT employees Hasan Hüseyin Örs, İbrahim Halil Öztürkeri, Hasan Taşar and Özden Kınık, who were sentenced to prison by the Ankara 23rd High Criminal Court earlier in the week, were added to the list, bringing the number of jailed journalists and media workers in Turkey to at least 181.

The full list can be accessed here.