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 - 164

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 164

Atilla Taş jailed to serve sentence upheld by appellate court; Evrensel’s Sefer Selvi ordered to pay compensation for “Paradise Papers” cartoon; Hüsnü Mahalli given jail sentence for “insulting the president”

Singer and former newspaper columnist Atilla Taş was arrested and sent to prison on 9 November in Istanbul after an appellate court last month rejected the appeals for the prison sentences given in March in the co-called “FETÖ media structure” trial.

Taş was among 25 defendants in the case convicted in March by the 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. The court imposed on Taş a prison sentence of 3 years, 1 month and 15 days for “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.” On 22 October, the 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice upheld the sentences, thus making the trial court’s verdict final as regards Taş and his co-defendant Murat Aksoy, also a columnist, since prison sentences less than five years cannot be appealed further once they are upheld by an appellate court.

Taş was taken into custody at his home in Istanbul and brought to the Istanbul Courthouse. From there, he was first sent to the Metris Prison. He was transferred to the Silivri Prison later that day. Taş had remained in pretrial detention in Silivri for around 14 months as part of the case before being released on 24 October 2017 pending the conclusion of the trial.

Sedat Sur given prison sentence for reporting on trustee-appointed municipality

A court in Mardin on 9 November convicted Sedat Sur, a reporter for the online news outlet Özgürü, in a case where the accusations stemmed from Sur’s reporting and his social media posts concerning the trustees appointed by the government to the Mardin Municipality. Sur was given a jail term of 11 months and 20 days. The journalist was indicted for “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

Sefer Selvi ordered to pay compensation for “Paradise Papers” cartoon 

An Istanbul court overseeing a compensation case against Evrensel daily, filed by Parliament Speaker and former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and his son, ordered on 8 November that the daily and its cartoonist, Sefer Selvi, pay a total of TL 10,000 to Yıldırım and his son for non-pecuniary damages.

Yıldırım and his son were claiming that Selvi’s cartoon, which was themed around the “Paradise Papers” leaks, which also involved Yıldırım’s son, “violated their personal rights.” The Yıldırıms had been seeking a total of TL 40,000 in compensation. Journalist Çağrı Sarı, the newspaper’s responsible managing editor during the time of the cartoon’s publication, was also a defendant in the case.

The Anadolu 29th Civil Court of First Instance ordered that Selvi and Evrensel pay TL 5,000 to Binali Yıldırım and TL 5,000 to his son, Erkam Yıldırım, in compensation. The court rejected the compensation claim against Çağrı Sarı.

Sözcü trial adjourned until March 

The latest hearing in the trial into the Sözcü newspaper was held on 7 November in Istanbul.

Sözcü’s web editor Mediha Olgun, Financial Affairs Manager Yonca Yücekaleli, Izmir correspondent Gökmen Ulu and former publisher Burak Akbay are indicted in the case. Akbay is accused of “leading an armed terror organization,” while the other three are accused of “aiding the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization [FETÖ] while not being its members.” An arrest warrant is in place for Akbay, who is abroad.

P24 monitored the hearing at the 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. None of the defendants were in attendance.

Akbay’s lawyer Celal Ülgen requested the lifting of the arrest warrant against his client. Defense lawyers also requested that Akbay’s mobile phone that was confiscated during the investigation be returned, and that the judicial control measures imposed on the other defendants in the case be lifted.

The 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul rejected the defense lawyers’ requests and ruled to hand over the case file to the prosecutor for the final opinion to be prepared. The court adjourned the trial until 12 March 2019.

The accusations in the indictment mostly owe to a news report uploaded on the newspaper’s website on the day of the 15 July 2016 coup attempt, showing that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was holidaying in Marmaris. The prosecutor claimed Sözcü had assisted putschists locate the president.

Court convicts Hüsnü Mahalli of “insulting the president”

An Istanbul court on 8 November convicted journalist Hüsnü Mahalli of “insulting the president” and “insulting public officers on account of the performance of their duty” in a column he penned and his remarks on a television program.

Mahalli made an additional defense statement during the hearing, rejecting the accusations.

The Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance sentenced Mahalli to a prison term of 1 year, 8 months and 25 days for “insulting public officers on account of the performance of their duty” and deferred the sentence by five years. The court also gave Mahalli an additional jail term of 2 years, 5 months and 5 days for “insulting the president,” thus imposing on the journalist a prison term of 4 years and 2 months in total.

Trial against 11 rights defenders adjourned until March 

The trial into 11 human rights defenders including Taner Kılıç, the honorary chair of Amnesty Turkey, resumed on 7 November in Istanbul.

Kılıç and 10 other rights defenders who were arrested during a meeting in Büyükada in July 2017 are indicted in the case for terrorism-related charges. Kılıç was arrested a month before the Büyükada meeting participants as part of a separate investigation. Their files were later merged. The indictment seeks up to 15 years in prison for Kılıç on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” and up to 10 years in prison for the other defendants on the charge of “aiding a terrorist organization.”

P24 monitored the hearing at the 35th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. Kılıç, who was released from prison in August, after spending more than a year in pretrial detention, was in attendance. His lawyer requested that Kılıç be granted the right to exemption from appearance in court and that his international travel ban be lifted.

In its interim ruling, the court agreed to grant Kılıç right to exemption from appearance in court but refused to lift the judicial control measure imposed on him. The court set 21 March 2019 as the date for the next hearing.

Ferhat Tunç indicted once again for “insulting the president” 

An Istanbul court has accepted a new indictment against musician Ferhat Tunç. The musician is accused of “insulting the president on social media” and 10 of his Twitter posts are among the grounds for the accusation in the indictment. Tunç will appear before the Büyükçekmece 7th Criminal Court of First Instance on 9 January 2019 for the first hearing of this trial.

Academic Cenk Yiğiter detained in Ankara 

Cenk Yiğiter, an academic who was expelled through a statutory decree for signing 2016’s Academics for Peace petition, was taken into custody on 9 November in Ankara during an early morning police raid on his home. Yiğiter was among numerous people detained during the operation. The grounds for the arrests have not been disclosed.

Antalya court convicts man for “insulting the president” 

An Antalya court on 8 November convicted an individual named Mustafa Ertem of “insulting the president. The Criminal Court of First Instance of Antalya sentenced Ertem to 11 months and 20 days in prison. The sentence was deferred.

List of journalists and media workers in jail 

The imprisonment of Atilla Taş on 9 November 2018 brought the number of journalists and media workers in prison to at least 175.

The full list can be accessed here.