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 - 155

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 155

Cumhuriyet Foundation’s new board replaces newspaper’s editor-in-chief, managing editor; Prosecutor seeks yet another life imprisonment for Nazlı Ilıcak in “espionage” case; Fatih Polat given TL 10,000 fine 


On 7 September, a new executive board was elected to run the Cumhuriyet Foundation, which owns the Cumhuriyet daily, leading to major restructuring in both the newspaper’s editorial board and among its columnists, as well a shift in the paper’s editorial policy.

The foundation’s executive board election came on the heels of a decision by the Court of Cassation, which ruled that the 2013 meeting of the board was invalid. The foundation’s 2013 board of directors then called the 7 September board meeting.

At the end of the 7 September meeting, Alev Coşkun replaced Orhan Erinç as the president of the Cumhuriyet Foundation and Aykut Küçükkaya became the newspaper’s new editor-in-chief, replacing Murat Sabuncu, a co-founder of P24, who spent 17 months of his tenure in prison on remand as part of the “Cumhuriyet trial.”

Both Coşkun and Küçükkaya had testified against journalists who stood trial in the Cumhuriyet case.

Previous members of the board of directors, Orhan Erinç, Akın Atalay, Hikmet Çetinkaya and Önder Çelik, are not part of the new board.

The new board immediately launched restructuring the newsroom, dismissing Cumhuriyet’s responsble managing editor Faruk Eren and managing editor Bülent Özdoğan -- both of whom are members of the leftist DİSK Basın-İş trade union. Eren is currently the union’s general secretary.

Columns by Murat Sabuncu and Ahmet İnsel were not published in Cumhuriyet’s Saturday issue while columnists Özgür Mumcu, Güray Öz, Kemal Can and Aslı Aydıntaşbaş, as well as cartoonist Musa Kart and editor of the Saturday supplement Zeynep Miraç said they would part ways with the newspaper. In the meantime Erinç and Çetinkaya resigned from the foundation’s board of directors.

The new board of directors is formed by Alev Coşkun (President), Ali Sirmen (Vice President), Kemal Işık Kansu (Secretary), İrfan Hüseyin Yıldız (Treasurer), and members İnan Kıraç, Şevket Tokuş, Şükran Soner, Mustafa Ali Balbay, İbrahim Yıldız, Turan Karakaş and Tayfun Akgüner.

Members of the newspaper’s new editorial board, appointed by the foundation’s board of directors, are: Alev Coşkun (chairperson), Ali Sirmen (vice-chair), Aykut Küçükkaya, Emre Kongar, Şükran Soner, Kemal Işık Kansu, Orhan Bursalı, Mine Kırıkkanat and Miyase İlknur.

Prosecutor seeks life imprisonment for Nazlı Ilıcak in “espionage” case

Imprisoned journalist Nazlı Ilıcak appeared before an Istanbul court on 6 September for the third hearing of a trial in which she is charged with “espionage” for a newspaper column she wrote in 2015.

P24 monitored the hearing at the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, where Ilıcak addressed the court via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS from Bakırköy Prison.

Ilıcak is currently in detention pending the conclusion of the appeal process for the aggravated life sentence she was handed down in February in a separate “coup” case.

The prosecutor submitted his final opinion in Thursday’s hearing in the ongoing “espionage” case, requesting yet another life sentence for the veteran journalist for “disclosing information that must be kept confidential for reasons relating to the security of the state.”

Addressing the court earlier in the hearing, Ilıcak’s lawyers requested that the charge against Ilıcak be dropped because the statute of limitations has expired.

Also addressing the court, Ilıcak said she had not published the document that is the grounds for the accusations and that she had only made remarks on the contents of the document. “The prosecution should investigate whether I made any public comments about the document I wrote about in my column dated 2 January 2015. I did not talk about that document before that date, because I had no knowledge beforehand that the said document existed. The said document was sent to me via Twitter.”

The prosecutor then gave his final opinion of the case, requesting that Ilıcak be convicted as per Article 330 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which carries a life sentence.

Ilıcak requested additional time to prepare her defense statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion. The court adjourned the trial until 9 October 2018.

KCK press trial adjourned until January 

The 15th hearing in the “KCK Press trial,” where 46 journalists stand accused of “membership in a terrorist group” and “leadership of a terrorist group,” was held on 7 September at the 3rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul. Hamza Sümeli, one of the 46 journalists standing trial in the case, and defense lawyers were in attendance at the hearing, monitored by P24. An international travel ban imposed on the defendants has recently been lifted. The panel of judges informed defense lawyers that the defendants could now take their passports back. Defense lawyers told the court they had no additional statements to make at this stage. The court then announced its interim ruling, adjourning the trial until 11 January, 2018.

Fatih Polat given TL 10,000 fine in retrial of 2013 case 

Evrensel daily’s editor-in-chief Fatih Polat on 6 September was given a TL 10,000 fine in the retrial of a previous case, where the charges stemmed from a news story published in the newspaper in 2012, when Polat was the newspaper’s responsible managing editor.

At the end of the initial trial in 2013, the trial court had found Polat guilty of “disclosing the identity of a minor” and sentenced him to a fine of TL 10,000 for the news story, published in May 2012. The court had suspended the judgment. After Polat was convicted in another media trial, the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance decided to review that decision and reassess the specifics of the case in a retrial.

Polat did not attend Thursday’s hearing as he made his defense statement during the previous hearing. He was represented by his lawyer Devrim Avcı Özkurt, who reiterated the previous defense statement and requested her client’s acquittal. 

The court then announced its verdict, once again convicting the journalist and sentencing him to a TL 10,000 fine.

Journalists stand trial for covering Turkey’s military operation on Afrin

A trial in which 12 defendants, including journalists Sibel Hürtaş, Hayri Demir and Barış Ceyhan, face criminal charges on account of their social media posts got under way on 6 September in Ankara.

In addition to P24, representatives from Turkish Journalists Union (TGS), Contemporary Journalists’ Association (ÇGD), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Human Rights Association (İHD) monitored the hearing at the 15th High Criminal Court of Ankara.

The defendants are indicted for “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “inciting the public to hatred and animosity” on account of social media posts featuring links to news coverage of Turkey’s military operation on the Syrian town of Afrin.

Ceyhan, a former employee of the shuttered Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, addressed the court via SEGBİS during the hearing, while the rest of the defendants and their lawyers were in attendance at the courtroom.

Ceyhan told the court that he was subjected to ill-treatment and was also placed in a solitary confinement cell for 17 days when he was first detained. Ceyhan and the other defendants rejected the accusations and said the accusations in the indictment were baseless.

The defense lawyers also told the court that they were not allowed access to the file during the investigation.

Following the completion of defense statements, the prosecutor requested that all three defendants in pretrial detention be released under judicial control measures on account of the time they spent in detention.

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to release all three defendants in pretrial detention, including Ceyhan, who had been in jail for nine months. The next hearing is scheduled for 22 November 2018.

“Paradise Papers” case against Pelin Ünker adjourned 

Cumhuriyet daily’s finance desk editor Pelin Ünker appeared before an Istanbul court on 6 September for the third hearing of a lawsuit filed by former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and his sons.

Yıldırım and his sons are seeking TL 500,000 in non-pecuniary damages in the lawsuit, claiming that two reports published in Cumhuriyet concerning the “Paradise Papers” leaks “violated their personal rights.”

P24 monitored the hearing at the Anadolu 24th Civil Court of First Instance, where Ünker and her lawyer Abbas Yalçın attended. Yıldırım and his sons were represented by lawyer Muhammed Gök.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer submitted to the court documents relating to another criminal case filed with the Anadolu 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance against Ünker on grounds of the same coverage on the charge of “insulting a public official,” which the said court ruled non-jurisdiction.

Defense lawyer Yalçın said they had no knowledge of any ongoing additional criminal proceedings or investigations against them, but that in such an event, all legal proceedings relating to the same coverage should be merged in a single file. 

The judge then adjourned the trial indefinitely, saying that since this was a compensation case, and since it had become evident that other lawsuits and investigations in relation to the same coverage were under way, the court would await the conclusion of those criminal proceedings and would resume the trial afterwards.

No date has been set for the next hearing.

Ali Ünal unable to prepare defense statement due to illness, trial adjourned

Former Zaman columnist Ali Ünal, in pretrial detention for over two years on “coup” and “terrorism” charges, on 5 September appeared before a court in Uşak for the fifth hearing of his trial.

P24 monitored the hearing at the Uşak 2nd High Criminal Court.

A new prosecutor and a new chief judge have been appointed to the case. The new prosecutor reiterated the charges in the previous prosecutor’s final opinion and requested that Ünal be sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment for “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” as per Article 309/1 of the Turkish Penal Code.

Ünal then told the court that he has been unable to prepare his final defense statement due to health-related problems and requested for additional time.

His lawyer Ayşe Sueda Ünal also told the court that Ali Ünal was referred to a hospital for suspected cancer symptoms. They lawyer also requested for additional time to work on the defense statement.

The chief judge agreed to grant additional time for the defense, but said the panel would proceed without hearing the final defense statement and announce its verdict in the event the defense is not ready by the next hearing, which is now set for 14 November 2018.

Former Zaman editor Uğur Sağındık placed in house arrest

Jailed journalist Uğur Sağındık, a former editor for the shuttered Zaman newspaper, on 5 September appeared before an Istanbul court for the second hearing of his trial on terrorism-related charges.

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled to release Sağındık from pretrial detention but placed him on house arrest and adjourned the trial.

Sağındık was arrested on 27 April 2018 as part of an investigation launched by the Antalya Public Prosecutor’s Office on grounds of a complaint. Sağındık is indicted for “membership in a terrorist organization” and “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” on account of his social media posts and for having worked in the Fethullah Gülen movement affiliated media outlets Cihan news agency and Feza Publications Inc.

Kemal Yavuzel given 10-month prison term 

Kemal Yavuzel, the news coordinator for the online news outlet Dokuz8HABER, was convicted of “violating the privacy of a person’s private life” in a trial where the accusations stemmed from his time as the news director of the news portal Gerçek Gündem. The case was filed upon a complaint by former minister Erdoğan Bayraktar because Gerçek Gündem posted leaked tape recordings that became public during the “December 17/25” graft probe. The Anadolu 68th Criminal Court of First Instance found Yavuzel guilty and gave the journalist a 10-month prison sentence. The court then deferred the sentence by five years.

Yeni Demokrasi employees’ homes raided by police

Yeni Demokrasi newspaper employees’ homes in Istanbul were searched by the police in midnight raids on 5 September. Police knocked down the doors to the journalists’ apartments during the raids, conducted at around 01:45 a.m. Police confiscated a number of items from the houses. No one was taken into custody. A confidentiality order has been imposed on the investigation file.

Red notice issued for Ragıp Zarakolu

A Turkish court has ordered a red notice to be issued for Ragıp Zarakolu, a columnist for the dailies Yeni Yaşam and Evrensel, and a publisher. The red notice was issued on grounds of an arrest warrant for Zarakolu as part of a case in which he is charged with “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization” on account of a lecture he gave in 2011 at the Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) Politics Academy. Zarakolu was placed in pretrial detention in October 2011 and released in April 2012 as part of this trial.

Gülistan Korban’s family home raided, father briefly detained

On 5 September, the Diyarbakır home of journalist Gülistan Korban was raided and searched by the police. The raid was conducted on grounds of a complaint, said Korban, who announced the raid on her Twitter account. Korban’s father Ahmet Korban was briefly detained during the raid, and her brother’s apartment, also in the same building, was searched as well. Korban’s father was released the same day, after the complaint turned out to be false.

“Özgür Gündem solidarity” trial against Can Dündar adjourned

The eighth hearing of a trial against Can Dündar, the former editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet daily, on grounds that he took part in a solidarity campaign with the shuttered pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem, was held on 4 September.

Dündar is charged with “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” in the trial, overseen by the 22nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul. The trial was adjourned until 31 January 2019. 

Imprisoned journalist Reyhan Çapan not given newspapers, books, sister says

Imprisoned journalist Reyhan Çapan is not being given the Evrensel daily and the books her family have been bringing to her by the prison management, Çapan’s sister told Evrensel.

Çapan is currently in the Erzurum Prison, serving a 15-month sentence. She was convicted of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” during her time as the responsible managing editor of the shuttered Özgür Gündem daily. Çapan was arrested on 10 May in Artvin and placed in the Artvin Prison. She was transferred to the Erzurum Prison on 24 May.

Çapan’s sister, Gülhan Çapan, told Evrensel that her family, normally based in Istanbul, had to rent a hotel room in Erzurum after Reyhan was placed in the Erzurum Prison in order to be able to visit her.

Çapan’s lawyer Özcan Kılıç said Çapan’s numerous petitions asking to be transferred to a prison in Istanbul have been rejected on grounds that the prisons in Istanbul were full to capacity.

5 students to stand trial for social media “likes” 

Five students from Turkey’s Amasya University have been indicted for “conducting propaganda for a terrorist group” on account of the posts they liked and the pages they have been following on Twitter and Facebook. Following imprisoned politician Selahattin Demirtaş on social media was among the accusations in the indictment. The trial is set to get under way in November. Each of the students faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

Union executive acquitted of “insulting the president” charge 

The 18th Criminal Court of First Instance of Adana acquitted Mehmet Akarsubaşı, an executive for the Adana branch of the Education and Science Workers’ Union (Eğitim-Sen), of “insulting the president.” Akarsubaşı was standing trial because he used the phrase “one-man dictatorship” while making a public statement.

List of jailed journalists and media workers updated

P24 has updated its list of Jailed Journalists and Media Workers, compiled using information available in open sources.

Following Barış Ceyhan’s release from pretrial detention during the week, and the inclusion in the list of former TRT reporter Serkan Canbaz, Beytullah Demir, deputy general director for the now-closed down Cihan news agency, and Fahri Öztoprak, a reporter for the shuttered newspaper Zaman (all three of whom were recently discovered to have been in jail), as of 7 September 2018, there are at least 185 journalists and media workers either in pretrial detention or serving a sentence in Turkey’s prisons.

The full list can be accessed here.