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 - 166

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 166

Murat Aksoy sent back to prison as per recent appellate court ruling; jailed journo İsmail Çoban given 5-year sentence on “propaganda” charge; prosecution seeks punishment for Ahmet Kanbal in first court hearing


Journalist Murat Aksoy, who was given a 25-month prison sentence earlier this year in the major media trial publicly known as the “FETÖ media trial,” reported to the Istanbul Courthouse on 22 November to serve that prison sentence, which was recently upheld by an appellate court.

Aksoy was arrested and sent to the Metris Prison.

In March, the trial court convicted Aksoy and one of his co-defendants in the case, singer and columnist Atilla Taş, of “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.”

Aksoy and Taş had each remained in pretrial detention for more than a year as part of the case before being released by the trial court in October 2017.

An appellate court ruling on the defendants’ appeals for the prison sentences on 22 October 2018 upheld the trial court’s ruling, thus making the trial court’s verdict final concerning Aksoy and Taş because sentences less than five years cannot be appealed further once they are upheld by an appellate court.

On 13 November 2018, Aksoy received a notice ordering he report to the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in 10 days for the execution of the prison sentence. Aksoy announced on his social media account on 20 November that he was to be sent to prison on 22 November as per the verdict, and that he would have to remain behind bars until the approval of his probation.

BirGün publisher given 11-month sentence for “insulting the president”

İbrahim Aydın, the publisher of BirGün daily, was given a prison sentence of 11 months and 20 days in a trial where he was accused of “insulting the president” in an article published in BirGün.

Aydın was indicted because the said article had claimed that “the Turkish government was supporting jihadists in Syria.” The final hearing of the case was on 22 November. The 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul suspended the sentence.

Pelin Ünker appears in court for second “Paradise Papers” lawsuit

Journalist Pelin Ünker on 22 November appeared before an Istanbul court for a lawsuit where she is accused of “libel” on account of two news stories she penned for Cumhuriyet daily about the “Paradise Papers” leaks. 

The case, filed upon complaints by Minister Berat Albayrak and his brother, Serhat Albayrak, is overseen by the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul.

Ünker, her lawyers and lawyers representing the plaintiffs were in attendance at the hearing.

Ünker’s lawyer Tora Pekin requested that the files of two separate cases against Ünker before the same court where the accusations stem from the same articles be merged. Pekin requested that Ünker give her defense statement after the merging of the files.

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to review the two files against Ünker to examine the legal and de facto connection between the two, and adjourned the trial until 21 February 2019.

Trial against Sibel Hürtaş and Hayri Demir adjourned until January

The second hearing of a trial where 11 defendants, including Artı TV’s Ankara representative Sibel Hürtaş and Mezopotamya news agency reporter Hayri Demir, stand accused for their social media posts concerning Turkey’s military operation on Syria’s Afrin, was held on 22 November in Ankara.

The defendants in the case are accused of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “inciting the public to hatred and animosity.” They  each face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

The trial is overseen by the 15th High Criminal Court of Ankara.

At the beginning of the hearing, the chief judge on the panel announced that the police report in response to an enquiry on the dates of the social media posts that are the grounds for the accusations has arrived.

The defendants then addressed the court for their defense statements, each rejecting the accusations and requesting for their acquittal. The defense statements were frequently interrupted by the chief judge on the panel, and were not fully transcribed in the court minutes.

Defense lawyer Nuray Özdoğan, who addressed the court on behalf of the entire defense, requested that the defendants be granted the right of exemption from attendance in hearings. Özdoğan also requested additional time to examine the reports that have recently been added to the case file.

During the hearing, defense lawyers complained that there was a perceptible noise from police radio inside the courtroom and that this constituted a violation of the defendants’ rights to a fair trial.

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court granted the defendants the right of exemption from attendance and adjourned the trial until 22 January 2019.

“Insulting the president” case against Perihan Mağden adjourned

The trial in which author and columnist Perihan Mağden and journalist İnan Ketenciler stand accused of “insulting the president” resumed on 22 November at the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul.

Mağden is accused because of her remarks in an article in April 2016, in which she likened a contestant in the TV show “Survivor” to President Erdoğan. Ketenciler is standing trial because the article was posted in the news website T24.

The court adjourned the trial until 21 February 2019 for Mağden’s final defense statement.

Case against Acar, Ok transferred to different court for lack of jurisdiction

The trial where Cihan Acar, a former reporter for the shuttered daily Özgür Düşünce, and lawyer Veysel Ok are charged with “publicly degrading the judiciary” resumed on 22 November. At the end of the hearing, the 37th Criminal Court of First Instance declared it had no jurisdiction over the case and ruled that the file be transferred to the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul, which has jurisdiction over “offenses committed through the press.”

İsmail Çoban given 5-year prison sentence on “propaganda” charge

İsmail Çoban, the jailed former managing editor of the shuttered Kurdish language daily Azadiya Welat, was given a 5-year prison sentence on 21 November at the final hearing of his trial on the “propaganda” charge.

Çoban was accused of “successively disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” on account of a number of news articles and columns the newspaper published in 2013.

Submitting its final opinion of the case during the hearing at the 7th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır, the prosecution requested that Çoban be given a prison term of up to 7 years.

Çoban’s lawyer Resul Tamur, addressing the court for Çoban’s defense statement, requested that the case be dismissed due to the statute of limitations in Article 26 of Turkey’s Press Law, since the indictment against Çoban was drafted after the expiration of the four-month period prescribed by law.

Announcing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court convicted Çoban and imposed on the jailed journalist a 5-year prison term.

Ahmet Kanbal appears in first hearing of “propaganda” case

Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporter Ahmet Kanbal on 20 November appeared before an Izmir court for the first hearing of his trial on “propaganda” charge for his social media posts.

P24 monitored the hearing at the 2nd High Criminal Court of Izmir. Kanbal addressed the court from the Mardin Courthouse via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS and gave his defense statement.

Kanbal explained in his defense statement that the Tweets for which he is accused were aimed at journalism and not propaganda. He continued: “Currently, social media is an effective journalism tool. I use it for our news stories to reach a bigger audience in a country where newspapers are shut down [by the government].” The journalist requested his acquittal.

Following the defense statements by Kanbal and his lawyers, the prosecution went on to submit their final opinion of the case, claiming that Kanbal “attempted, through the press, to demean the Turkish military’s operations” and requesting that the journalist be convicted of “successively disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

Announcing its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court adjourned the trial until 26 February 2019 for Kanbal to prepare his final defense statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion.

Adil Demirci remains behind bars after first hearing

Adil Demirci, a Turkish-German reporter for the Etkin news agency (ETHA), on 20 November appeared in the first hearing of his trial on terrorism-related charges.

Demirci, who has been jailed pending trial since April, is standing trial along with 22 other defendants in the case.

The 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled at the end of the first hearing to keep Demirci behind bars while releasing six other jailed defendants in the case. The court set 14 February 2019 as the date for the next hearing.

Ministry files lawsuit against Anayurt newspaper, reporter

Turkey’s Ministry of Youth and Sports has filed a compensation case against the Anayurt newspaper and its reporter Tamer Arda Erşin.

The ministry claims that an interview published in the newspaper under Erşin’s byline violated the institution’s “personality rights” by damaging the public image of the ministry and its employees, and misled public opinion.

The ministry is seeking a total of TL 10,000 in damages from the daily’s responsible managing editor Ferda Bucak, reporter Erşin, head of the Ankara branch of the Turkish Chamber of Architects Tezcan Karakuş Candan, and Belde Basın Yayın Inc., the company that publishes the newspaper.

4 more academics convicted of “propaganda” for signing peace petition

Four more academics charged with “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” for signing 2016’s Academics for Peace petition were convicted this week.

The 36th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 22 November convicted academics Güven Gürkan Öztan and Gülhan Türkay from Istanbul University and Mehmet Rıza Türkay from Marmara University of the “propaganda” charge as per Article 7/2 of Turkey’s anti-terror law (TMK) and gave each academic 15-month prison terms. The court deferred the sentences imposed on Öztan and Rıza Türkay while Gülhan Türkay’s sentence was suspended for two years, during which time she will be subject to probation.

Earlier in the week, on 20 November, the 28th High Criminal Court of Istanbul convicted academic Ç.A. of the same charge at the end of the second hearing of that trial. The 15-month prison sentence given to Ç.A. was deferred.

Translator charged with “propaganda” acquitted

On 22 November, Sebla Küçük, a translator and interpreter, appeared before an Istanbul court for the first hearing of her trial on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

Küçük was accused because of her social media posts that featured her Turkish translations of foreign news agencies’ dispatches about Turkey’s military operation on Syria’s Afrin.

Küçük submitted her written defense statement to the 35th High Criminal Court during the hearing and requested for her acquittal. Announcing their verdict at the end of the hearing, the panel acquitted Küçük of the charges.

Journalists and media workers in prison 

The imprisonment of journalist Murat Aksoy on 22 November, around 13 months after his release from pretrial detention in Silivri, brought the number of jailed journalists and media workers in Turkey to at least 175.

The full list can be accessed here.