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 - 174

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 174

Journalists Reyhan Çapan, Seda Taşkın released from prison; Gazete Karınca publisher indicted for “propaganda”; Ahmet Altan’s lawyer files for his acquittal

Reyhan Çapan, the former managing editor of the shuttered pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem, who was sent to prison in May 2018 to serve a 15-month sentence that was upheld by an appellate court, was this week ordered to be released under probation. Although Çapan was expected to be freed on 16 January, she remained in prison because of a TL 55,660 sum of fines that had been imposed on her in separate cases and were overdue. Çapan was eventually released from the Erzurum Prison on 17 January.

Also on 17 January, Seda Taşkın, a reporter for the Mezopotamya news agency (MA), who had been in prison for a year, was released from the Sincan Prison in Ankara. Taşkın was released as per an interim ruling issued by an appellate court overseeing the appeal against the prison sentence Taşkın was given in October. Taşkın was sentenced to a total of 7,5 years in prison on the charges of “aiding a terrorist group without being its member” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group.”

Court rules to merge two trials against Sözcü daily

A new court case in which five journalists from the daily Sözcü, including columnists Emin Çölaşan and Necati Doğru, are accused of “aiding the terrorist organization ‘FETÖ’ without being part of its hierarchical structure” got under way on 18 January at the 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

The other defendants in the case are the newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief Metin Yılmaz, website news coordinator Yücel Arı and website editor Mustafa Çetin.

The court, which also oversees the ongoing trial into three other Sözcü employees and the newspaper’s former publisher, Burak Akbay, ruled at the end of the first hearing to merge the two case files and hand over both files to the prosecution for their final opinion of the case to be drafted.

The next hearing in the merged case is set for 12 March 2019.

Celalettin Can taken into custody

Celalettin Can, the speaker of the 78'liler Girişimi (78'ers initiative) was taken into custody on 18 January during an early morning raid on his Istanbul home.

Can was detained as part of an investigation concerning a speech he had delivered in Izmir. Can was initially taken to the Ataköy Police Station, from where he was set to be taken to Izmir.

Özgür Gündem main trial adjourned until April

The “Özgür Gündem main trial,” where the former publisher, editors, and advisory board members of the shuttered newspaper stand accused of “disrupting the unity of the state,” “terrorist group membership” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group,” resumed on 17 January in Istanbul.

P24 monitored the hearing at the Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court. The paper’s jailed publisher Kemal Sancılı addressed the court from the Edirne Prison via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS. Both Sancılı and his lawyer Özcan Kılıç requested for his release pending trial.

The prosecution requested the continuation of Sancılı’s pre-trial detention. Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ordered the continuation of Sancılı’s detention and adjourned the trial until 10 April 2019.

Ahmet Altan’s lawyer files for his acquittal and release

The lawyer representing jailed novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan has filed a petition with the Supreme Court of Appeals, requesting for Altan’s acquittal and release. Altan has been imprisoned since September 2016.

In her petition dated 16 January, Altan’s lawyer Figen Çalıkuşu objected to the accusation in the judicial opinion by the General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals, which was submitted on 8 January to the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Court. The Chamber will be overseeing the appeals against the verdict for Altan, his brother, Mehmet Altan, journalist Nazlı Ilıcak, and their three co-defendants, who were convicted in February 2018 of the “coup” charge and sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment. After the trial court’s verdict was upheld by an appellate court in October, defense lawyers brought the verdict before the Supreme Court of Appeals.

The judicial opinion by the General Prosecutor requested the reversal of the appellate court’s verdict and asserted that the Altan brothers and Ilıcak should have been charged with “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member,” instead of the original charge of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order." 

Çalıkuşu asserted in her petition that the new accusation sought for Altan in the judicial opinion was unacceptable and that her client should be acquitted and released.

Academic Bülent Şık faces new investigation for social media posts

A new investigation has been launched into academic Bülent Şık, who is already facing a court case over a series of articles he penned last year for the Cumhuriyet daily.

The allegation is that Şık “disseminated propaganda for a terrorist group” via his social media posts. An article by Şık in which he wrote about nitrates in food was added to the investigation file.

The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Offices of Antalya and Istanbul and the police are jointly working on the investigation file, reports said.

Court lifts travel ban on İshak Karakaş

The fourth hearing in a trial where journalist İshak Karakaş, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper Halkın Nabzı, and nine other defendants stand accused of “propaganda” on account of their social media posts, took place on 17 January at the 28th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

P24 monitored the hearing, where the defendants and their lawyers responded to the accusations in the prosecutor’s final opinion of the case, which was submitted to the court in between hearings, and requested continuance for the final defense statements.

The prosecution’s final opinion requests that Karakaş be convicted of “successively disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group.”

Addressing the court during the hearing, Karakaş made explanations concerning his social media posts cited in the prosecution’s final opinion. Karakaş requested to be acquitted as he wrapped up his statement.

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to lift the international travel ban imposed on all defendants in the case because all defense statements have been heard. The court also lifted other judicial control measures imposed on the defendants and set 26 March 2019 as the date for the next hearing.

Ziya Ataman remains behind bars in fifth hearing

A trial where former Dicle news agency (DİHA) reporter Ziya Ataman is among jailed defendants resumed on 17 January.

Ataman, who has been jailed pending trial since April 2016, and 18 others are on trial on eight different charges, including “disrupting the unity and integrity of the state,” “attempting to intentionally kill with premeditation a civil servant because of the performance of a public duty” and “attempting to premeditated murder.”

After hearing the defense lawyers, the 1st High Criminal Court of Şırnak ordered the continuation of detention of all jailed defendants and adjourned the trial until 26 March 2019.

Çağdaş Erdoğan acquitted of “insulting the president”

Photojournalist Çağdaş Erdoğan on 16 January appeared in a court in Bursa for the first hearing of his trial on the charge of “insulting the president” in a social media post.

Erdoğan and his lawyer were in attendance at the 13th Criminal Court of First Instance of Bursa for the hearing. Erdoğan submitted a written defense statement to the court, where he responded to the allegation and explained to the court that the said social media post was not about the president.

Issuing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court ruled for Erdoğan’s acquittal.

7 more academics convicted for signing peace petition

Two Istanbul courts convicted seven more academics last week for signing a peace petition in 2016.

On 17 January, the 36th High Criminal Court of Istanbul convicted academics Emin Alper and Kerem Eksen of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” as per Article 7/2 of the Law on the Fight against Terror (TMK). Both academics were given a 15-month prison sentence and both sentences were deferred.

The 36th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 16 January convicted academics  Efe Arık, U.Ş., Reyda Ergün and Taner Gören of the same charge and sentenced each to 15 months in prison. All four sentences were deferred.

The 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, on the other hand, convicted academic M.A. of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” instead of the initial charge, and gave the academic a prison sentence of 2 years and 1 month. The sentence was not deferred. One of the judges on the panel wrote a dissenting opinion, saying the defendant “should have been punished as per Article 7/2 of the TMK” -- the propaganda charge.

Commission rejects Mehmet Altan's application for reinstatement

The Inquiry Commission on the State of Emergency Measures (OHAL Commission) has rejected Mehmet Altan’s application for reinstatement. Altan was dismissed from his post as a professor of economics with the Istanbul University with an emergency decree after a prosecutor pressed charges against him and his brother.

The reasoning cited in OHAL Commission’s decision, dated 6 December 2018, was that legal proceedings against Altan were still ongoing, as well as an administrative report about Altan. Altan was notified of the decision on 8 January -- more than one month after the commission’s decision.

Upon receiving the notification, Altan and his lawyer petitioned against the president and the members of the commission on the grounds that the decision on his application was rendered without waiting for the completion of the legal proceedings against him.

The petition, filed by Altan’s lawyer Figen Çalıkuşu, requested that the president and the members of the OHAL Commission violated the Turkish Constitution and that they should be made to stand trial for misconduct.

Turkey deports Dutch journalist

Ans Boersma, the Turkey correspondent for the Dutch media outlet FD Nieuws, was deported.

FD Nieuws reported that the journalist was told on 16 January at the immigration office, where she went to extend her residence permit, that she “had been deported.” No grounds for her deportation were provided.

ECtHR: Turkey has violated Osman Baydemir’s freedom of expression

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Turkey pay compensation to Kurdish politician Osman Baydemir for violating his right to freedom of expression.

Baydemir, the former mayor of Diyarbakır, stood trial in 2008 for his remarks during a speech he delivered in 2006. The trial court found Baydemir guilty of “praising crime and criminals” and gave Baydemir a prison sentence which it then reduced to a fine. After Baydemir’s fine was upheld in 2010 by the Supreme Court of Appeals, his lawyer took Baydemir’s case to the ECtHR.

In its judgment rendered on 15 January 2019, the Second Section Committee of the Court ruled that Turkey pay Baydemir 2,975 euros in compensation for the violation of Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Ferhat Tunç detained at Istanbul airport

Musician Ferhat Tunç was taken into custody on 13 January at the Atatürk Airport upon arriving in Istanbul on a flight from Germany. He was detained on the grounds of an arrest warrant. Tunç was brought to the Bakırköy Courthouse the next day, where he gave his statement to the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor as part of two separate investigations. Tunç was released after his statements were taken.

Prosecution seeks jail terms for all defendants in “Gün Matbaa case”

The third hearing in the trial into the 21 employees of Gün Matbaacılık, the company that printed the shuttered newspaper Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, took place on 14 January in Istanbul.

The prosecution submitted their final opinion of the case during the hearing, requesting that 12 defendants (owner of the printing house Kasım Zengin, employees İrfan Karaca, Mahmut Abay, Cemal Tunç, Erdoğan Zamur, İhsan Sinmiş, Kazım Göçer, Mehmet Emin Sürmeli, Musa Kaya, Sadettin Demirtaş, Necat Hizarcı and Polat Arslan) be convicted of “membership in a terrorist group” and 9 defendants (printing house employees Mehmet Kadir Özkara, Mürsel Demir, Özgür Bozkurt, Cumali Öz, Süleyman Güneş, Kemal Daşdöğen, Derviş Arvas, Muhammet Özkan and Uğur Selman Kelekçiler) of “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization.” The prosecution also demanded the continuation of detention of defendants who have been in prison on remand.

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled to keep nine jailed defendants in the case behind bars and adjourned the trial until 11 February.

Gazete Karınca publisher to stand trial on “propaganda” charge

A recent indictment issued by the Press Offenses bureau under the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office accuses Necla Demir, the publisher of the online news outlet Gazete Karınca, with “successively disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group.”

The indictment, accepted by the 33rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul, seeks up to 13 years in prison for Demir.

The investigation into Gazete Karınca was based on a complaint filed on 21 January 2018 with the Prime Ministry Communication Center (BİMER). The complaint accused the media outlet of serving “as a speaker for the PYD/PKK.”

The media outlet’s coverage of Turkey’s military operation on Syria’s Afrin are held as evidence in the indictment.

List of journalists and media workers in prison

Following Reyhan Çapan and Seda Taşkın’s release on 17 January, at least 160 journalists and media workers still remain behind bars in Turkey, either in pre-trial detention or serving a sentence.

The full list can be accessed here.