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 - 163

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 163

Trial of Taraf executives and reporter Baransu adjourned until January; Karşı newspaper trial gets under way; Ece Sevim Öztürk remains behind bars after first hearing 


The 10th hearing in a case against former executives of the shuttered Taraf daily and the newspaper’s reporter Mehmet Baransu was held on 1-2 November at the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

The accusations stem from the alleged publication of a document called “Egemen War Plan.”

P24 monitored the hearing where Baransu, the only imprisoned defendant in the case who is in pretrial detention in the Silivri Prison, and defense lawyers, as well as plaintiffs Dursun Çiçek and retired army Colonel Suat Aytın were in attendance.

Baransu made his defense statement during the two-day hearing. He explained to the court that his defense statement was taking too long to complete because some digital files he requested had only been delivered last week, and that he has also been busy preparing defense statements for numerous other ongoing cases against him.

Recounting to the court how he had received the four CDs that included the “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) coup plan documents, Baransu said following the publication of the relevant news stories in Taraf, an investigation was launched and that he handed the said CDs to the prosecution. As for the alleged war plans that constitute the basis of the allegations in this case, Baransu said they had not seen any such document. “Right now I am being put on trial in relation to some document which I have never seen or heard of,” Baransu said, adding that this was a politically motivated trial.

Continuing his defense statement on the second day of the hearing, Baransu said he had not been allowed to bring in the courtroom newspaper clippings and books to use in his defense. Adding that the said book constituted evidence, Baransu said his right to a fair trial was being violated.

After Baransu completed his defense, his lawyer Yahya Engin addressed the court. Noting that his client had been in detention on remand for almost four years, Engin called the court’s attention to Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is about the right to liberty and security. Adding that the relevant law stipulated a maximum five years of pretrial detention, Engin requested that his client be released pending trial. Engin also asked the court to reject the plaintiffs’ requests for becoming intervening parties in the trial.

The prosecution requested that Baransu be remanded in detention and given additional time to complete his defense statement, as well as the decision concerning the plaintiffs’ requests to be made following the completion of defense statements.

Announcing its interim ruling at the end of the two-day hearing, the court ruled to keep Baransu in pretrial detention and adjourned the trial until 3-4 January 2019 to allow additional time for the defense.

Çağdaş Erdoğan trial adjourned until March

The third hearing in the trial where photojournalist Çağdaş Erdoğan stands accused of terrorism-related charges for his photographs and his social media posts, was held on 2 November in Istanbul.

Erdoğan, who is exempt from appearing in the court, did not attend. 

The hearing at the 33rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul was monitored by a barrister from the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales, Michael Ivers, as well as P24.

Announcing its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court adjourned the trial until 26 March 2019, awaiting the outcome of the examination of digital material belonging to Erdoğan, and the response from the Gendarmerie General Command concerning an inquiry by the court.

Behram Kılıç released after 1 year in pretrial detention

An Istanbul court on 1 November ruled to release journalist Behram Kılıç, who had been jailed pending trial since November 2017.

Kılıç, a former reporter for the shuttered newspapers Zaman and Özgür Düşünce and the news magazine Aksiyon, was jailed on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.” Kılıç had been detained in the Silivri Prison for almost a year.

Karşı newspaper trial gets under way after two files merged

The “Karşı newspaper trial,” where 12 defendants, including the former publisher of the shuttered daily, Turan Ababey, and the newspaper’s former employees, including its one-time editor in chief Eren Erdem, stand accused of various criminal charges on account of their work at the newspaper, got under way on 31 October in Istanbul.

At the end of the three-day hearing, the court ruled for the continuation of Eren Erdem’s detention, and set 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 January 2019 as the dates for the next hearing.

A report about the hearing can be found here.

Ece Sevim Öztürk remains behind bars after first hearing

Ece Sevim Öztürk, the editor in chief of the news website Çağdaş Ses, who has been jailed pending trial since June, on 1 November appeared before an Istanbul court for the first hearing of her trial.

Öztürk is accused of “aiding a terrorist organization” on account of her journalistic work exploring the 15 July 2016 coup attempt and her social media posts.

The case is overseen by the 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

At the end of the hearing, the court ordered the continuation of Öztürk’s pretrial detention and adjourned the trial until 11 December 2018.

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

Yürüyüş magazine raided by police, 1 taken into custody 

Police on 1 November raided the offices of the left-wing magazine Yürüyüş in Istanbul’s Sultangazi district. Various documents were confiscated and one employee of the magazine was taken into custody, reports said.

Ali Sönmez Kayar released at second hearing 

Ali Sönmez Kayar, a reporter for the Etkin news agency (ETHA), who had been jailed pending trial since February, was released on 31 October at the end of the second hearing of his trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group.” 

All nine defendants in the case are accused of membership in the MLKP (Marxist-Leninist Communist Party), each facing up to 15 years of imprisonment.

The 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled that all five jailed defendants in the case be released under judicial control measures that also include an international travel ban, and adjourned the trial until 19 February 2019.

Former TRT employees face up to 15 years in jail on terrorism-related charge

The prosecution requested up to 15 years of imprisonment for 42 of the 44 former employees of Turkish state broadcaster TRT who are standing trial before an Ankara court on the charge of “membership in FETÖ.”

The case is overseen by the 22nd High Criminal Court of Ankara. Submitting his final opinion of the case during the latest hearing on 31 October, the prosecutor requested that 42 of the defendants, including former news anchor Hamza Günerigök, be given up to 15 years in prison each for “membership in a terrorist group.”

In addition to Günerigök, the prosecutor is seeking jail terms for Abdullah Yeldan, Ahmet Çat, Ahmet Özdemir, Ali Hancı, Ayhan Baykara, Beşir Elmas, Cumali Çaygeç, Enes Bora, Ertan Rıha, Eşref Üzüm, Evren Kara, Eyüp Keser, Koray Demirci, Mehmet Akif Öztürk, Mehmet Salih Helvacı, Niyazi Özkan, Orhan Tokmak, Osman Taha Sirkeci, Özkan Püsküllü, Selçuk Çelik, Serkan Canbaz, Sezai Yavaş, Sinan Güneş, Şaban Harman, Tuğral Çakır, Yunus Ayhan, İbrahim Öztürk, Hüseyin Arslan, Murat Karaca, Hakan Karaca, Ali Fuat Ayhan, Özgür Aksoy, Salih Üzer, Nurdan Ayşe Coşkun, Kubilay Süslü, Şefik Cürebal, Ali Suat Günek, Emrah Timuçin Yazıcı, Mehmet Kuş and Safiye Tokgöz. The prosecutor also requested that defendant Murat Kaban benefit from effective remorse, and the files of Sultan Öztürk and Sedat Turhan be separated.

Nine of the defendants in the case are currently in pretrial detention.

The court adjourned the trial to allow time for the final defense statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion to be prepared.

Mehmet Gündem remains behind bars in second hearing 

Mehmet Gündem, a former columnist for the daily Milliyet, who has been jailed pending trial since November 2017, appeared before an Istanbul court on 30 October for the second hearing of his trial.

Gündem is charged with “membership in a terrorist organization (FETÖ)” and is accused of using the encrypted messaging application ByLock.

P24 monitored the hearing at the 35th High Criminal court of Istanbul. 

Addressing the court for his defense statement, Gündem rejected the prosecution’s allegations that he had connections with certain persons. As for the ByLock allegation, Gündem told the court that he was reiterating his previous defense statement and rejected the accusation.

Gündem’s lawyer Ömer Faik Çetiner, addressing the court following his client, asked that Gündem be released since the collection of evidence was finalized. Macit Ceylan, another lawyer representing Gündem, told the court that the ByLock allegations in the case file were riddled with conflicting records.

Announcing its interim decision at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to keep Gündem in pretrial detention and adjourned the trial until 8 January 2019.

MP faces criminal investigation for parliament speech

Cihangir İslam, a Saadet (Felicity) Party MP from Istanbul, is facing a criminal investigation on account of a speech he made in the Parliament, which he also posted on social media. The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office said that the accusations against İslam were “insulting the Turkish nation, the Republic of Turkey, and the organs and institutions of the state” as per Article 301, and “praising a crime or a criminal” as per Article 215 of the Turkish Penal Code.

Lawyer to stand trial for “insulting the president in petition” 

Özgür Urfa, an attorney, will be standing trial on the charge of “insulting the president” on account of a petition he had filed with an appeals court on behalf of one of his clients. The 30th High Criminal Court of Ankara recently accepted the indictment against the attorney, issued by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s office. The first hearing of his trial is scheduled for 13 February 2019.

List of journalists and media workers in prison 

Following the release from pretrial detention of imprisoned journalists Ali Sönmez Kayar and Behram Kılıç, there are still at least 174 journalists and media workers in Turkey’s prisons, either in pretrial detention or serving a sentence.

The full list can be accessed here.