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 - 159

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 159

Supreme Court of Appeals upholds sentence for Mehmet Güleş; Appellate court rejects appeals in Altans case; Saudi journalist goes missing in Turkey


The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld a prison sentence rendered in May for jailed journalist Mehmet Güleş, a former reporter for Dicle news agency (DİHA), which had been closed down through an emergency decree.

The 2nd High Criminal Court of Elazığ had convicted Güleş of terrorism related charges, handing down the journalist a total of 9 years, 4 months and 15 days in prison. Güleş was given 6 years and 3 months for “membership in a terrorist group” and 3 years, 1 month and 15 days for “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

Güleş’s lawyer appealed that verdict at the 4th Criminal Chamber of the Gaziantep Regional Court of Justice, an appellate court, which rejected the appeal.

İdris Sayılğan trial adjourned until December

The fourth hearing in a trial where jailed DİHA reporter İdris Sayılğan is accused of “membership in a terrorist organization” was held on 5 October in the eastern city of Muş.

Sayılğan, who has been in pretrial detention for two years, addressed the court from the Trabzon Prison via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS during the hearing. In his defense statement, Sayılğan said he was a dissident journalist and that the trial was aimed at silencing the opposition.

Sayılğan’s reporting and his phone conversations with his sources are among the grounds for the accusations in the indictment.

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the 2nd Highi Criminal Court of Muş ordered the continuation of Sayılğan’s detention and adjoutned the trial until 24 December 2018.

Adnan Bilen taken into custody in Van

Local journalist Adnan Bilen was taken into custody on 5 October in the eastern city of Van. Bilen, whose former residence was raided by police earlier on Friday, was accompanied by his lawyer as he went to the police department to give his statement following the raid.

The grounds for Bilen’s detention has not been disclosed.

Bilen was dismissed from his post as the press director of the Van Metropolitan Municipality after the mayor of Van was replaced by a trustee appointed by the government, and an investigation had been launched into Bilen on allegations of “membership in the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization.” When the allegation turned out to be baseless, the prosecutor’s office pressed charges against Bilen for “conducting propaganda for KCK/PKK.”

Court rejects appeals against life sentences in Altans case

Jailed novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan, his brother, professor of economics and longtime columnist Mehmet Altan, veteran journalist Nazlı Ilıcak, Fevzi Yazıcı, the chief page designer of the shuttered Zaman daily, and their two co-defendants gave their final defense statements before a Regional Court of Justice on 2 October in what marked the second hearing in the appeal process.

At the end of the hearing, the 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice rejected the appeals against the aggravated life sentences given in February by the trial court, and ruled for the continuation of detention of all imprisoned defendants in the case.

The case is now headed for the Supreme Court of Appeals.

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

Trial into 7 journalists for 2016 news report gets under way

The first hearing in a trial where seven journalists are charged with “making those involved in combating terrorism a target” was held on 3 October in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır.

The case was launched after a complaint from senior gendarmerie commander Maj. Gen. Musa Çitil, who was cited in the news report, published in February 2016 by the shuttered DİHA news agency.

The defendants include Ömer Çelik, who was the news editor at DİHA at the time, DİHA reporters Çağdaş Kaplan, Hamza Gündüz and Selman Çiçek, journalist Abdulvahap Taş, the shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper’s responsible editor İnan Kızılkaya and publisher Kemal Sancılı.

Three of the defendants, Taş, Çiçek and Çelik, attended the first hearing at the 9th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır. The journalists denied the accusation and told the court that they acted within the right to information and that they had no intention of exposing any official as a target.

The court adjourned the trial until 16 January 2019.

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

“MİT Trucks case” against Can Dündar adjourned until February 

The latest hearing in the retrial of a case where Can Dündar, the former editor in chief of the Cumhuriyet daily, faces “espionage” charges for the publication of a 2015 news report about the alleged transfer of weapons to Syria on trucks operated by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT), was held on 2 October in Istanbul.

The 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which is overseeing the retrial, adjourned the case, awaiting the outcome of Justice Ministry’s application before the German authorities for Dündar’s extradition to Turkey and set 6 February 2019 as the date for the next hearing.

Saudi journalist goes missing after going to consulate in Istanbul

Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist critical of his country’s government, has gone missing after going to the Consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul on 2 October to complete paperwork for his upcoming marriage.

Khashoggi's fiancée accompanied him to the building, but she had to wait outside. She did not see him leave.

Turkish authorities have said they believe Khashoggi is still there.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned Saudi Arabia's ambassador and “asked for an explanation” about the disappearance, but the ambassador told Turkish authorities that he had no information about Khashoggi's whereabouts.

Saudi human rights group Prisoners of Conscience allege that Khashoggi was kidnapped and brought to Saudi Arabia, a claim Saudi authorities have denied, saying the journalist left the building after completing his paperwork.

Fadıl Öztürk given suspended jail term for his articles, social media posts

Fadıl Öztürk, a poet and a regular contributor to the news website Artı Gerçek, was given a prison sentence of 1 year and 10 months for “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” in his social media posts and his online articles.

The 2nd High Criminal Court of Izmir convicted Öztürk at the end of the hearing on 2 October. The court deferred the sentence by five years.

Öztürk had been taken into custody in January as part of the case, and was released under judicial control measures, pending the conclusion of his trial.

Özgürlükçü Demokrasi distributor released

Barış Polat, a distributor for the shuttered Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper, was released from pretrial detention on 2 October, at the end of the second hearing of his trial.

Polat, who is accused of “membership in a terrorist group” and “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization,” had been in detention on remand for seven months. In his defense statement during the hearing, olat told the court that distributing or selling a newspaper was not a crime, and rejected the accusations. 

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the 7th High Criminal Court of Gaziantep ruled to release Polat with an international travel ban and adjourned the trial until 20 April 2019.

Odak magazine employees taken into custody 

Three employees of the political magazine Odak were taken into custody during early morning police raids on their homes on 1 October in Ankara. The raids were conducted as part of a criminal investigation launched by the Chief Public Prosecutor of Ankara.

Kazım Kızıl trial adjourned until December

The latest hearing in a trial where video-activist and documentary maker Kazım Kızıl and 23 others are accused of “insulting the president” and “violating the Law on Protest and Assembly,” was held on 1 October in Izmir.

Kızıl and his co-defendants were taken into custody in April 2017 in Izmir during a demonstration held in protest of Turkey’s constitutional referendum results.

The 33rd Criminal Court of First ınstance of Izmir adjourned the trial until 19 December 2018.

Court lifts travel ban on Boğaziçi students 

The second hearing of a trial where 30 students from Istanbul’s Boğaziçi University stand accused of “terrorism propaganda” for taking part in an anti-war demonstration on the campus, was held on 3 October at the Istanbul Courthouse.

The students are indicted for staging a protest against another group of Boğaziçi students distributing Turkish delights (lokums) on campus to mark Turkey’s military operation on the Syrian town of Afrin.

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled to grant all defendants the right to exemption from attending the hearings and lifted their international travel ban. The court set 19 March 2019 as the date for the next hearing.

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

Six people in Adana taken into custody over social media posts 

Six individuals in Adana were taken into custody during early morning police raids on their homes. The suspects were accused of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” in their social media posts. The police also confiscated the suspects’ cell phones and other digital material during searches.

Defendant acquitted in “propaganda” case 

A court in Antalya acquitted an individual who goes by the initials S.Ş. of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” in the final hearing of the trial, where the accusations stemmed from the defendant’s social media posts critical of Turkey’s military operation on Syria’s Afrin.

S.Ş., a member of Turkey’s Human Rights Association (İHD), was kept in custody for five days during the initial phase of the investigation.

The 10th High Criminal Court of Antalya ruled that for the crime to have taken place, “propaganda must have been made about the said terrorist organization’s methods involving violence,” therefore acquitting S.Ş. The court also said in its verdict that S.Ş.’s social media posts deemed by the prosecution to “incite the public to hatred and animosity” were “thoughts that must be tolerated in democratic societies” and that the defendant’s actions were “part of the exercising of freedom of expression.”

List of journalists and media workers in prison 

At least 174 journalists and media workers are in prison in Turkey as of 5 October 2018.

The full list can be accessed here.