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 - 157

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 157

Austrian journalist Zirngast jailed pending trial; Prosecutor seeks aggravated life imprisonment for Altans and Ilıcak in appeal hearing; Hayatın Sesi TV executives convicted 


Ankara-based Austrian journalist Max Zirngast and two others were jailed pending trial on 21 September by an Ankara court after spending 10 days in custody.

Zirngast was arrested along with Mithatcan Türetken and Hatice Göz, two members of Toplumsal Özgürlük Partisi, a socialist political initiative, who were taken into custody on 11 September on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group” as part of the same investigation.

All three appeared before a prosecutor on 20 September to give their statements, in which they denied the accusations. Zirngast said he had written articles for Toplumsal Özgürlük newspaper. He said he had had no involvement in any terrorist organization or any illegal activity.

Hatice Göz told the prosecutor that she had been a social media editor for several platforms including the Toplumsal Özgürlük social media account. She denied the accusation. Mithatcan Türetken also denied the charges against him, which also include “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

Zirngast, Türetken and Göz were later referred to the Ankara 4th Criminal Judgeship of Peace. Zirngast told the judge that he had been living in Turkey for three years, and that he was a postgraduate student at the Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ). Zirngast also said he was a translator and writer who worked in German, English and Turkish languages. His lawyer Murat Yılmaz told the court that separate courts in Adana and Ankara ruled previously that there was no organization by the name of “TKP Kıvılcım.” Türetken and Göz also denied the allegations that they were linked with the said group.

Following their statements, all three were jailed pending trial on grounds of “substantial evidence proving strong suspicion of crime” and “flight risk.”

Prosecutor insists on “coup” charge, seeks life sentence in appeal hearing of Altans trial

The appeal hearing of a trial where six people, including renowned journalists Ahmet Altan, his brother Mehmet Altan, and Nazlı Ilıcak, were given aggravated life sentences on “coup” charges, got under way on 21 September at the 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice.

Submitting his final opinion on the case following the completion of the defense statements, the prosecutor insisted on the original charge, requesting that all six defendants be given aggravated life sentences for “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” under Article 309/1 of the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK).

In its interim ruling announced at the end of the hearing, the appellate court rejected requests from defense lawyers for the release of the five imprisoned defendants and adjourned the trial until 2 October to allow time for the defendants and their lawyers to prepare their final defense statements.

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

Hayatın Sesi TV executives sentenced to prison terms

An Istanbul court on 19 September convicted three executives of the shuttered television station Hayatın Sesi of “continuously spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

The 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul sentenced the station’s co-owners Mustafa Kara and İsmail Gökhan Bayram, and the responsible managing editor Gökhan Çetin to three years and nine months in prison each.

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

Fahrettin Kılıç released from pretrial detention 

Fahrettin Kılıç, an Adana-based employee of Özgür Toplum magazine, was released from pretrial detention on 18 September, at the end of the third hearing of his trial on  “membership in a terrorist group” charges.

Kılıç had been detained since 28 March 2017, when he was taken into custody in Adana.

Making his defense statement in Kurdish through an interpreter before the 13th High Criminal Court of Adana, Kılıç rejected the accusations and requested for his acquittal.

Announcing its interim decision at the end of the hearing, the court ordered Kılıç’s release and adjourned the trial.

Judicial control measures imposed on İshak Karakaş partially lifted

İshak Karakaş, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper Halkın Nabzı, and an Artı Gerçek contributor, on 18 September appeared before an Istanbul court for the second hearing of a case in which he stands accused of “terrorism propaganda” on account of his social media posts.

The 28th High Criminal Court of Istanbul had ruled that all nine imprisoned defendants in the case, including Karakaş, be released from pretrial detention at the end of the trial’s first hearing, imposing judicial control measures on each defendant.

Karakaş, his co-defendants Yaşar Yılmaz Altunbilek and Cevdet Taş, and defense lawyers were in attendance at Tuesday’s hearing. Defense lawyers requested that the court lift the judicial control measures imposed on their clients and that the defendants be exempt from attending the court. Karakaş also asked for his international travel ban to be lifted.

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court lifted part of the judicial control measures (the one that requires defendants to regularly report to the nearest police station to give their signature) and agreed to grant the defendants exemption, but kept their travel ban in place. The court then adjourned the trial until 20 November.

Article 301 case against Ahmet Şık abated 

A trial in which investigative journalist Ahmet Şık was accused of “degrading the Turkish nation, the state of the Turkish Republic, the organs and institutions of the state” as per Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, has been abated by the trial court because Şık was elected an MP in Turkey’s 24 June 2018 parliamentary elections.

The 17th Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul ruled for the case to be abated during the latest hearing of the trial on 18 September. Şık was indicted in the case for his Twitter posts.

Eight imprisoned defendants in “Gün Matbaacılık trial” released

A trial in which the owner and 20 employees of Gün Matbaacılık, the printing company that printed the shuttered newspaper Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, face terrorism-related charges, got under way on 18 September in a courtroom in Silivri.

Twenty of the 21 defendants in the case, including the owner of the printing house, Kasım Zengin, were jailed pending trial in March, in the aftermath of a police raid on the printing house.

Defense lawyers addressed the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul in the first hering, requesting that their clients be acquitted. The prosecutor reqıested the continuation of their detentions.

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ordered that eight printing house workers -- Necat Hizarcı, Sadettin Demirtaş, Muhammet Özkan, Mehmet Kadir Özkara, Cumali Öz, Süleyman Güneş, Kemal Dağdöğen and Özgür Bozkurt -- are released. The court ruled that the remaining defendants -- Kasım Zengin, Cemal Tunç, Erdoğan Zamur, İhsan Sinmiş, İrfan Karaca, Kazım Göçer, Mahmut Abay, Mehmet Emin Sümeli, Musa Kaya, Mürsel Demir, Polat Arslan and Uğur Selman Kelekçiler -- are remanded in detention.

The court ruled to seek approval for the case to be merged with the ongoing “Özgürlükçü Demokrasi trial,” overseen by the Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court. 

The court also ruled to await the execution of the arrest warrant for Derviş Avras, and adjourned the trial until 12 November.

Peace academic Hanifi Barış released at the end of first hearing

Lawyer and academic Hanifi Barış on 18 September appeared before an Istanbul court for the first hearing of a trial where he is charged with “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” on account of his social media posts. At the end of the hearing, the 29th High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled to release Barış from pretrial detention and adjourned the trial until December. The court imposed an international travel ban on Barış.

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

Four academics given 1 year 3 month prison terms

The same day, four academics from Boğaziçi University who were among the signatories of 2016’s Academics for Peace declaration, were convicted of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” for having signed the petition.

The 28th High Criminal court of Istanbul sentenced academics Bülent Küçük, Çiğdem Kafesçioğlu, N.N. and Gaye Yılmaz to 1 year and 3 months in prison each, and deferred the announcement of the verdicts.

Ailing journalist Metin Duran released from prison 

Journalist Metin Duran, who had been jailed since March despite being paralyzed, was released on 17 September after the Forensic Medicine Council issued a medical report confirming that the journalist is medically unfit for detention.

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 in 2015. Despite his ailment, Duran was jailed in March because a court convicted him of “committing crimes on behalf of a terrorist organization without being its member” and sentenced him to a prison term of 3 years, 3 months and 15 days.

Duran’s sentence has now been deferred by a year.

Levent Üzümcü testifies in “insulting the president” investigation 

Stage actor Levent Üzümcü gave his statement before a prosecutor on 19 September as part of an investigation concerning his social media posts. Üzümcü was brought to the Anadolu Courthouse in Istanbul to testify for the investigation, launched following a complaint. The accusation is that Üzümcü insulted the president on social media.

Investigation into singer Mabel Matiz dismissed

A recent investigation launched into singer Mabel Matiz was dismissed by the prosecution. Matiz had testified before a prosecutor on 11 September at the Istanbul Courthouse as part of the investigation launched following a complaint filed by a citizen concerning a video for one of his songs. The accusation was that Matiz “supported FETÖ through the use of footage featuring 1 US dollar bills in his video.” FETÖ is the acronym used by the government for the Fethullah Gülen network, which Turkish authorities claim to be the perpetrators behind the failed coup attempt in 2016.

List of journalists and media workers in prison 

Following the release of eight defendants in the Gün printing house trial, and the imprisonment of Austrian journalist Max Zirngast, there are at least 175 journalists and media workers in prison in Turkey, either in pretrial detention or serving a sentence. 

The full list can be accessed here.