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 - 167

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 167

İsminaz Temel remains behind bars in second hearing; appellate court upholds sentences given in Özgür Gündem trial; Fatih Polat to stand trial on “insulting the president” charge


The second hearing in a trial where jailed journalist İsminaz Temel, a reporter for the Etkin news agency (ETHA), is accused of “membership in a terrorist group” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” was held on 29 November in Istanbul.

The court ruled to keep Temel and two of her co-defendants in detention on remand and adjourned the trial until 14 February 2019.

Twenty-three defendants are facing terrorism-related accusations in the trial, overseen by the 27th High Criminal court of Istanbul. Temel’s co-worker Havva Cuştan, who is also among the defendants in the case, was released from pretrial detention at the end of the first hearing.

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

Appellate court upholds prison sentences in Özgür Gündem trial

Prison sentences given in January to five journalists and columnists who joined in a campaign for solidarity with the shuttered pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem were upheld by an appellate court.

At the end of the final hearing of the case in January, the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul had convicted Ayşe Düzkan, Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Ragıp Duran, Hüseyin Bektaş and the newspaper’s former Co-Editor-in-Chief Hüseyin Aykol of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.” Aykol was given a prison sentence of 3 years and 9 months while the rest of the defendants were each given an 18-month sentence. Defense lawyers appealed the sentences. 

Rendering its judgment concerning the appeal requests, the 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, on 29 November ruled that the trial court’s decision was lawful.

Supreme Court of Appeals reverses Nagehan Alçı ruling

The Supreme Court of Appeals has reversed a court ruling that fined columnist Nagehan Alçı TL 10,000 in a compensation case, where she was accused for calling Muzaffer Tekin, a defendant in the “Ergenekon trial,” a “triggerman and an instigator” in her newspaper column.

The Supreme Court of Appeals ruling said that Alçı should have been given a lesser fine considering the date of publication of her column, the expressions in her column, and the fact that the column was about a topic that was among matters of public interest at the time of its publication.

“Paradise Papers” case against Evrensel journalist Çağrı Sarı adjourned

The fourth hearing in a case where journalist Çağrı Sarı, the former responsible managing editor of the daily Evrensel, is accused of “libel and insult” for the newspaper’s coverage of “Paradise Papers” leaks, was held on 28 November in Istanbul.

The case was filed upon a complaint by Minister Berat Albayrak and his brother, Serhat Albayrak. 

Sarı did not attend the hearing at the Bakırköy 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. Addressing the court during the hearing, Sarı’s lawyer, Devrim Avcı, requested a continuance for Sarı’s written defense statement. The court accepted the request for additional time and adjourned the trial until 19 February 2019.

Şerife Oruç trial adjourned until February

The trial into Şerife Oruç, a former reporter for the shuttered Dicle news agency (DİHA), resumed on 27 November in the southeastern province of Batman.

Oruç remained in pretrial detention for two years as part of the case before the court ruled for her release in July. The journalist is charged with “membership in a terrorist organization,” for which she faces up to 15 years of imprisonment if convicted.

Oruç did not attend the latest hearing, where witnesses testified against Oruç in relation to the accusations in the indictment. 

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court decided to continue hearing witness testimonies in the next hearing and adjourned the trial until 26 February 2019.

Yeni Yaşam daily employees released from custody 

Seven employees of the daily Yeni Yaşam who were taken into custody late last week during police operations in Istanbul, Izmir, Adana and Van have been released.

Yeni Yaşam employees Şükran Erdem, Naci Erdem, Suat Karagöz, Ferhat Duman, Murat Karakaş, Mizgin Fendik and Özkan Akyürek were all brought to Van to give their statements as part of an investigation launched in Van. All seven were released under judicial control measures on 27 November after giving their statements at the Van Courthouse.

Sedat Sur released after one week in prison

Sedat Sur, a reporter for the online media outlet Özgürü, who was given an 11-month jail term earlier in November for his coverage of corruption allegations surrounding the government-appointed trustees of the Mardin Municipality, and who was sent to prison to serve this sentence on 19 November, has been freed.

Since his jail term was less than a year, normally Sur had to be freed, but the journalist still had to remain behind bars for a week until his papers were formally submitted to the prison management. Sur was released on November 26 from the Midyat M Type Prison.

Fatih Polat to stand trial on “insulting the president” charge 

Fatih Polat, the editor-in-chief of the daily Evrensel, will be standing trial on the charge of “insulting the president” for his column published on 28 May 2017. 

An Istanbul court had previously ordered the column be removed from the Evrensel website. Evrensel’s lawyers objected to the court order, but their objection was rejected and the article was subsequently removed from the website. After the removal of the article, lawyers representing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan filed a lawsuit against Polat for his column on the charge of “insulting the president” as per Article 299/1 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).

Excerpts from the indictment against Polat read as follows: “It is not important whether [remarks] amounting to libel and insult have been taken from another news story. Those who publish, without proof, claims [in another news story] exactly the way they were published before, are deemed to have committed the same libel and insult. Otherwise, anyone could write, or get someone they know to write, a similar news story about people they are not fond of, and then get it published abroad.”

The first hearing of the trial is scheduled for 7 February 2019 at the Bakırköy 31st Criminal Court of First Instance.

2 more academics given prison terms for signing peace petition

Two more academics charged with “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” for signing a 2016 peace petition were given prison terms by two Istanbul courts this week.

The 28th High Criminal court of Istanbul on 29 November convicted academic Onur Baysal of the “propaganda” charge in absentia and gave him a prison sentence of 15 months. The court ruled to defer the sentence without asking the defendant.

On 28 November, the 36th High Criminal Court of Istanbul convicted Sinan Yıldırmaz of the same charge and gave the academic a 15-month prison sentence. The court deferred the sentence.

Ferhat Tunç appears before court on “insulting the president” charge

Musician Ferhat Tunç on 28 November appeared before an Istanbul court for the first hearing of his trial on the charge of “insulting the president.” 

Addressing the Büyükçekmece 14th Criminal Court of First Instance after the reading of the indictment, Tunç requested for additional time because he had been unable to work on a defense statement due to his ongoing album work.

The court agreed to grant Tunç additional time and adjourned the trial until 20 March 2019.

Onur Hamzaoğlu given 5-month prison sentence 

Onur Hamzaoğlu, an academic and the Co-Speaker of the People’s Democratic Congress (HDK), was given a 5-month prison sentence on 27 November at the final hearing of a case where the accusations stemmed from a speech he made during a rally in April 2017 in Adana.

The Adana 25th Criminal Court of First Instance ruled that the professor be sentenced to 5 months in prison on the charge of “degrading the Turkish nation, the State of the Turkish Republic and the organs and institutions of the state.” The sentence was suspended. The court also ruled that Hamzaoğlu be subject to probation for one year.

Filmmaker Kazım Öz taken into custody, released

Filmmaker Kazım Öz was taken into custody on 24 November in the eastern province of Tunceli on the grounds of an arrest warrant in an investigation where he is accused of “membership in a terrorist group” and “terrorism propaganda.”

Öz was taken to Diyarbakır to give his statement as part of the investigation that was launched by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. He was released under judicial control measures on 25 November, after giving his statement in Diyarbakır.

List of journalists and media workers in prison 

As of 30 November 2018, at least 175 journalists and media workers are in prison in Turkey, either in pretrial detention or serving a sentence.

The full list can be accessed here.