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 - 158

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 158

Jailed journalist Abdulkadir Turay sentenced to 9 years in prison; Alican Uludağ faces investigation for his reporting about pastor Andrew Brunson 


Abdulkadir Turay, a reporter for the shuttered Dicle news agency (DİHA) who has been in pretrial detention for over two years, was sentenced to nine years in prison on 27 September.

Turay was arrested in Mardin on 9 May 2016 on allegations of “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization” and “membership of a terrorist organization.”

Turay was standing trial alongside eight other defendants that included local politicians.

Giving his final defense statement in Kurdish, Turay told the court during the hearing that the secret witness testimony was not correct. Turay said he had worked as a journalist from 2014 until the day he was arrested in 2016, and that his work at the news agency was under a contract. Turay said the information he had received from his sources were aimed at news coverage only, and that that exchange of information could not be the grounds for accusations.

The 2nd High Criminal Court of Mardin convicted Turay of “membership in a  terrorist organization” and sentenced him to nine years in prison. The court handed down a total prison term of 74 years and 3 months to all the defendants in the case.

Case against Hakan Dirik and Erk Acarer adjourned

The third hearing in a trial where Cumhuriyet reporter Hakan Dirik and BirGün’s Erk Acarer stand accused for their coverage of allegations that Turkey delivered chemicals used for manufacturing the deadly sarin gas to jihadist groups in Syria was held on 27 September. 

The case was launched upon a complaint by the former Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ. The two journalists are accused of “libel.”

Dirik and his lawyer were in attendance during the hearing at the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul while Acarer, who lives abroad, did not attend.

At the end of the previous hearing, the court had decided to hear former main opposition CHP MP Eren Erdem, who is currently jailed as part of a separate case, about the allegations. The allegations were made public by Erdem and Ali Şeker, another CHP MP, at a press conference in October 2015.

Dirik requested that the court hear Erdem in line with its previous ruling, but the court decided that since a digital recording of the said press conference was already in the case file, there was no need to hear Erdem separately. In its interim ruling, the court decided to wait for the response about Acarer’s statement and adjourned the trial until 20 December 2018.

Gökhan Özbek given jail term in “insult” case

Freelance journalist Gökhan Özbek has been sentenced to 11 months and 20 days in prison in a case where he stood trial for “insulting the president” in his social media posts. The freelance journalist and vlogger announced the court decision against him on his Twitter account on 27 September. He said the court found him guilty because of the content in 14 of his Twitter posts.

Sertaç Kayar acquitted of charges at first hearing 

Freelance photojournalist Sertaç Kayar was acquitted in a trial in which he was accused for a photograph he shot during International Women’s Day demonstrations on March 8. Kayar was charged with “marking persons involved in the fight against terrorism as target.”

The 26 September hearing was the first hearing in the case, filed upon a complaint by two police officers who are seen standing near Kurdish politician Feleknas Uca in Kayar’s news photo.

P24 monitored the hearing at the 9th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır, where Kayar and his lawyer were in attendance. The two policemen who filed for the case did not attend.

In his defense statement, Kayar told the court that he had been a journalist for the past 12 years, and that he had no intention of marking the police officers as targets in his photographs. He explained that the relevant news story did not include any details as to the identities of the policemen.

After the completion of Kayar’s defense, the prosecutor submitted his final opinion, requesting that Kayar be acquitted. In its verdict, the court ruled in line with the prosecutor’s final opinion and acquitted Kayar.

“Paradise Papers” case against Çağrı Sarı postponed 

A trial in which Çağrı Sarı, the former responsible managing editor of Evrensel daily, is charged with “libel” and “insult” for the newspaper’s coverage of “Paradise Papers” leaks, has been postponed. The third hering of the trial was scheduled for 25 September at the Bakırköy 2nd Criminal court of First Instance. The hearing was postponed to 28 November 2018 because the judge replacing the former judge who was recently appointed as the chief judge of another criminal court, was on leave, the Etkin news agency (ETHA) reported.

Sarı faces up to six years in prison in the case, launched upon a complaint by Minister Berat Albayrak and his brother, Serhat Albayrak. Serhat Albayrak’s name was mentioned in “Paradise Papers,” a set of 13.4 million leaked confidential electronic documents relating to offshore investments by more than 120 politicians, among other high profile names, from 50 countries.

Deniz Varlı faces investigation for “insulting the president”

Deniz Varlı, a local journalist in Rize, was summoned to the local police department on 26 September to give his statement as part of an investigation against him. The Demirören News Agency (DHA) reported that Varlı was facing an investigation on the charge of “insulting the president” because he had shared a cartoon depicting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on social media.

Alican Uludağ faces investigation for pastor Brunson coverage

Alican Uludağ, a reporter for Cumhuriyet daily, is facing a criminal investigation because of his news coverage for Cumhuriyet concerning the developments surrounding the US pastor Andrew Brunson, currently under house arrest in Izmir. Uludağ is charged with “Denigrating the State of the Turkish Republic, the institutions, or the organs of the state.”

Ergün Demir taken into custody for reporting about poverty-stricken man 

Ergün Demir, a local journalist in Kocaeli and the editor in chief for the news website, was taken into custody after reporting about İsmail Devrim, a local man who committed suicide because he could not afford his son’s school uniform. Ergün Demir was released by a court after giving his statement on 24 September.

Deniz Yücel compensation claim rejected

The 17th High Criminal Court of Istanbul has rejected a compensation case filed by German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel for his unlawful detention.

Yücel, German Die Welt newspaper’s correspondent in Turkey, was taken into custody in February 2017 in connection with a probe into leaked e-mails of Minister Berat Albayrak. He was jailed pending trial after 13 days in custody on charges of “terrorism propaganda” and “inciting hatred and enmity” in his newspaper articles.

Yücel was kept in detention on remand for a year without an indictment. He was released in February 2018 after an Istanbul court accepted the indictment into Yücel. The next hearing in the case, overseen by the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul, is scheduled for 20 December 2018.

Court refuses to lift arrest warrant, red notice for Ragıp Zarakolu

The 3rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled on 28 September to keep in place a formal request for an Interpol red notice for the arrest of publisher and human rights activist Ragıp Zarakolu, who has been living in Sweden since 2013.

Zarakolu, who was charged with “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization” for a speech he gave at a Political Academy seminar organized by the now-defunct Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in 2011, was jailed pending trial between October 2011 and April 2012. A “specially authorized” court which first took up the case was abolished in 2014, after which the case file was transferred to the Istanbul 3rd High Criminal Court.

In July, the court filed a request for an Interpol red notice to be issued against Zarakolu, seeking his provisional arrest for extradition to Turkey because he had not given his defense statement yet.

In its interim ruling, the court ruled to keep the arrest warrant, red notice application and a formal request for Zarakolu’s extradition from Sweden in place and adjourned the trial until 30 November 2018.

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

Singer Ferhat Tunç given 23-month jail term in “propaganda” case

An Istanbul court on 25 September sentenced musician and human rights activist Ferhat Tunç to 1 year 11 months and 12 days in prison for “terrorism propaganda” on account of his social media posts.

The 36th High Criminal Court of Istanbul also ruled that the verdict be sent to four courts of first instance that had previously convicted Tunç in separate cases but that deferred the sentences.

A report about the hearing can be accessed here.

Four more academics given 15-month suspended jail terms 

Four more academics among those who signed 2016’s Academics for Peace declaration were convicted of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” this week.

On 25 September, the 28th High Criminal Court of Istanbul handed down 15-month prison sentences to Boğaziçi University academics B.K. and O.A., and deferred both sentences.

The next day, Galatasaray University academics Zübeyde Gaye Çankaya Eksen and N.Ö. were also convicted of the same charge by the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which also handed down both academics 15-month sentences and also deferred the sentences.

Journalists and media workers in prison 

As of 28 September 2018, at lest 174 journalists and media workers are in prison in Turkey, either in pretrial detention or under a sentence.

The full list can be accessed here.