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 - 154

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 154

Şirin Kabakçı ordered to remain behind bars after 2nd hearing; Mehmet Gündem appears before court for 1st hearing after 9 months in detention


Şirin Kabakçı, former Konya bureau chief for the now closed-down Zaman daily, on 16 August appeared before an Istanbul court for the second hearing of his trial on the charge of “FETÖ membership.” FETÖ stands for “Fetullahist Terrorist Organization,” the name given to the Fethullah Gülen network by the government.

P24 monitored the hearing at the 35th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. Kabakçı, in pretrial detention in the Konya Prison since May 2017, addressed the court via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS during the hearing.

The prosecutor requested for the continuation of Kabakçı’s detention on grounds that the case file was still incomplete.

Cumali Aydemir, the lawyer representing Kabakçı, told the court that he disagreed with the prosecutor and said there were no witness testimonies against Kabakçı showing that he has taken part in any kind of organized act.

Noting that Kabakçı continued to work for Zaman even after the newspaper was appointed a board of trustees by the government, Aydemir also said his client’s circumstances were no different than those of the defendants who were acquitted in the main “Zaman trial.”

Adding that Kabakçı’s pretrial detention for the past 16 months also posed difficulties on his family, Aydemir requested for Kabakçı’s release. “My client will be eventually acquitted in this trial,” Aydemir added.

Addressing the court following his lawyer, Kabakçı explained that he did not cancel his Digitürk subscription on Gülen’s instruction, contrary to the allegations in the indictment. Also speaking about claims in a complaint against him filed by by a Konya Municipality employee, Kabakçı said he did not know that person and rejected the accusations.

“I was never involved in anything other than journalism throughout my time working in Konya,” Kabakçı said, and requested for his release.

Issuing an interim decision after a brief recess, the court ruled for the continuation of Kabakçı’s pretrial detention and adjourned the trial until 9 October 2018.

Mehmet Gündem stands trial on terrorism-related charge

Mehmet Gündem, a former columnist for Milliyet daily, appeared before an Istanbul court on 14 August for the first time since his arrest more than nine months ago.

Gündem is charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” and is accused of using ByLock, an encrypted messaging application purported to be exclusively used by the members of the Gülen network.

At the end of the hearing, the 35th High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled for the continuation of Gündem’s detention and set 30 October as the date for the next hearing in the case.

A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.

Mehmet Güleş: Prison management confiscates books, letters in Kurdish 

Imprisoned journalist Mehmet Güleş wrote about rights violations he and other inmates have been facing in a recent letter he sent from the Elazığ Maximum Security Prison.

A former reporter for the now closed-down Dicle news agency (Dihaber), Güleş has been imprisoned since December 2016.

Güleş wrote in the letter that the prison management has been refusing to give books and letters in Kurdish language to the inmates, the Mezopotamya news agency reported. Güleş wrote that the inmates were only allowed to get Kurdish dictionaries and Kurdish grammar books, but letters written in Kurdish were not allowed to be sent or received.

Güleş also said that they were not being given cleaning products. Mirrors or tweezers for personal hygiene are also banned, Güleş wrote, adding that packages sent to inmates were only delivered after three weeks. He added that underwear and socks that are sent to prison by inmates’ relatives were not handed to inmates, forcing them to purchase such items at the commissary.

Güleş also wrote that 30 inmates in the prison were being kept in solitary confinement against their wishes, and one of those inmates was suffering from COPD.

Social media campaign seeks freedom for Metin Duran

A social media campaign was launched on 12 August seeking freedom for jailed journalist Metin Duran, who has been in the Sincan Prison for the past 4.5 months despite his ailment.

A former employee of Radyo Rengin, a Mardin-based radio station which was closed down through an emergency decree, Duran lost his memory as well as his ability to walk and speak following a stroke, which came on the heels of a heart attack he had suffered. Despite his ailment, Duran was taken into custody in his family home in Nusaybin 4.5 months ago and sent to prison because a court convicted him of “committing crimes on behalf of a terrorist organization without being its member,” the Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reported last week.

In order to be released, Duran still awaits a medical report by the Council of Forensic Medicine proving that he is “medically unfit for prison.”

A report about the campaign and Duran’s condition can be accessed here.

Evrensel reporter Kemal Özer remains behind bars 

Kemal Özer, a reporter for Evrensel daily, on 10 August appeared before the 1st High Criminal Court on Tunceli for the second hearing of his trial.

Jailed pending trial since September 2017, Özer is charged with “membership in a terrorist organization.”

Addressing the court during the hearing, lawyers representing Özer requested for the journalist’s release pending the conclusion of the trial.

In its interim decision, the court ruled for the continuation of Özer’s detention on grounds of “strong suspicion of involvement in crime” and that “the time he has spent in detention would not be adequate at this stage for judicial control measures.” The court set 24 October as the date for the next hearing.

Other free expression cases of the past week 

  • Taner Kılıç, the honorary chair of Amnesty Turkey, was released from pretrial detention on 15 August. Kılıç had been in detention for over a year on the charge of “membership in FETÖ.” He stands trial along with 10 other human rights defenders who were arrested during a meeting in Istanbul’s Büyükada last July. The 35th High Criminal Court of Istanbul ordered Kılıç’s release following its latest monthly review of his detention. The same court had ruled to release Kılıç at the end of the trial’s hearing in January, but Kılıç was re-arrested as he was leaving the prison because the prosecutor objected to his release. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for 7 November.

  • A police investigation has been launched into a total of 346 social media accounts over the past week on account of posts concerning “US dollar exchange rates.” Turkey’s General Directorate of Security announced on its official website that the Cyber Crimes Department was conducting the probe, as part of which 346 social media accounts were found to be “inducing the US Dollar’s rise” and “manipulating opinion” as of 7 August 2018.

  • Turkey has jailed a German citizen of Kurdish origin on the charge of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” on social media, the Norddeutscher Rundfunk (Northern German Broadcasting, or NDR) has reported. İlhami A. was taken into custody on 14 August as he was visiting his family home in a village near Elazığ, NDR said. The court he was referred to jailed the man and sent him to the Elazığ prison. His lawyer, Ercan Yıldırım, said the accusations against İlhami A. were based on his Facebook posts critical of the Turkish government.

List of journalists and media workers in prison

As of 17 August 2018, at least 183 journalists and media workers in Turkey are in prison, either in pretrial detention or serving a sentence. 

The full list can be accessed here.