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 - 181

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 181

Journalist Yasin Kobulan given 18-month prison sentence on “propaganda” charge; Evrensel journalists appear in courtrooms for four lawsuits in a week

On 8 March, Yasin Kobulan, a reporter for the Mezopotamya news agency (MA), was given a prison sentence of 1 year, 6 months and 22 days in a case where he was accused of “successively disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

The 30th High Criminal Court of Istanbul deferred the sentence by five years, during which Kobulan will be subject to probation.

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

Fatih Polat acquitted in case filed upon former mayor’s complaint

On 7 March, Fatih Polat, the editor-in-chief of the daily Evrensel, appeared in the final hearing of a case where he was accused of disclosing the content of communication between persons.”

At the end of the hearing, monitored by P24, the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul acquitted Polat of the charge.

The accusation stemmed from a news story published in Evrensel in February 2010 -- when Polat was the responsible managing editor of the daily. The story was about leaked tapes of an alleged phone conversation between former Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek and former AKP MP Burhan Kuzu.

MA reporter Semra Turan released from custody

Semra Turan, a Tunceli-based reporter for the Mezopotamya news agency, was taken into custody on 6 March during an early morning police raid on her home.

Turan and three others who had been detained during the same operation were brought to the courthouse on 7 March, where a prosecutor referred them to a court for release under judicial control measures. Turan and three others were accused of “membership in a terrorist group.” The court ruled to release all four without imposing any judicial control measures.

Prosecution objects to Berna Laçin’s acquittal

The Istanbul Anadolu Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office objected to the acquittal of actress Berna Laçin of “publicly insulting religious beliefs held by a part of the society.”

The prosecution filed their objection with the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, an appellate court. The prosecution argued that the actress should have been convicted.

The Istanbul Anadolu 59th Criminal Court of First Instance acquitted Laçin of the charge on 19 February. Laçin faced a prison sentence of up to 1 year in the case.

Judgeship issues ban for Yeni Yaşam’s 15 February issue

The 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace of Istanbul issued a ban on the 15 February 2019 issue of the pro-Kurdish newspaper Yeni Yaşam.

The ban was issued in response to a request by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office as part of an investigation they launched on 1 March.

The newspaper’s front page coverage of the 100th day of the hunger strike by Leyla Güven, the co-chair of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), was among the grounds for the ban. The ban order claimed that the newspaper disseminated propaganda for the PKK and the KCK.

Evrensel reporter Cansu Pişkin appears in court

Journalist Cansu Pişkin, a courthouse reporter for the daily Evrensel, appeared in an Istanbul court on 6 March for the first hearing of her trial on the charge of “marking the identity of a state official assigned in the fight against terrorism as a target.”

The accusation stems from a news report published last year in Evrensel about the prosecutor appointed to investigate the case of the Boğaziçi University students who were jailed for staging an anti-war demonstration on the school campus.

The 36th High Criminal Court of Istanbul agreed to grant additional time for Pişkin’s defense statement and adjourned the trial until 25 March.

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

Taraf “MGK” trial adjourned until June

The trial of former Taraf reporter Mehmet Baransu and responsible managing editor Murat Şevki Çoban on the charges of “obtaining classified documents” and “exposing secret information pertaining to the security of state” resumed on 6 March in an Istanbul court. 

The case is related to a news report published in Taraf on 28 November 2013 and titled “Gülen’i bitirme kararı 2004’te MGK’da alındı” (Decision to finish off Gülen taken by MGK in 2004). The story said the Fethullah Gülen network was listed as a threat in a National Security Council (MGK) meeting that year. Each journalist faces up to 52 years in prison as part of the case.

P24 monitored the hearing at the Istanbul Anadolu 10th High Criminal Court.

Çoban was not in attendance because he had given his defense statement earlier. He was represented by his lawyer Figen Çalıkuşu. Baransu and his lawyer both submitted letters of excuse because they were unable to attend the hearing.

During the hearing, lawyer Çalıkuşu submitted to the court an additional defense statement by Çoban in written form. Addressing the court concerning Çoban’s statement, Çalıkuşu said that according to Turkey’s Press Law, her client could not be held responsible for the content on which the accusations are based because the said content was published under a byline. Çalıkuşu requested Çoban’s acquittal.

The prosecution said they restated their final opinion of the case.

The court adjourned the trial until 19 June 2019 for Baransu and his lawyer’s final defense statements in response to the prosecution’s final opinion.

5 more academics convicted for signing peace petition

Courts in Istanbul convicted five more academics this week of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” under Article 7/2 of the Law on the Fight against Terrorism over signing 2016’s Academics for Peace petition.

The 30th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 8 March convicted Y.Ö. of the “propaganda” charge and gave the academic a 15-month prison sentence. The sentence was deferred.

On 6 March, the 36th and 37th high criminal courts of Istanbul convicted academics Deniz Parlak and S.U. of the same charge, and sentenced both academics to 15 months in prison. Both sentences were deferred.

On 5 March, the 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul handed down Professor L.N. a prison sentence of 2 years and 1 month. The sentence was not deferred because it is longer than 24 months.

Ruling on the case against academic Başak Tuğ Onaran, the 28th High Criminal Court of Istanbul gave Onaran a prison sentence of 1 year and 6 months. The court did not grant reduction in the sentence because the “defendant did not show remorse.” The sentence was deferred.

In another development on 5 March, the 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul issued an arrest warrant for an academic who is currently abroad, whose case the court has been overseeing.

“Insult” case against Cem Şimşek adjourned

The second hearing of a case where Evrensel daily’s former responsible managing editor Cem Şimşek stands accused of “insulting” the Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak that was scheduled for 5 March was postponed to a later date because the judge was on leave.

The case, overseen by the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Bakırköy, was filed in relation with a news story published in Evrensel on 13 July 2018. Şimşek is accused of insult and slander.

Lawsuit against Evrensel filed by Bilal Erdoğan adjourned 

Another lawsuit against Evrensel, filed by President Tayyip Erdoğan’s son Bilal, claiming that a news story published on 9 March 2014 “violated his personal rights,” also resumed this week in Istanbul.

This was the third hearing in the case, overseen by the 20th Civil Court of First Instance of Istanbul. Bilal Erdoğan is seeking TL 50,000 in compensation in the case.

Erdoğan’s lawyer requested that the court wait for the outcome of an ongoing criminal lawsuit against the same content. Accepting the request, the court adjourned the trial until 15 October.

Akit TV news director acquitted of “insulting Atatürk”

The final hearing of a case where Akit TV’s responsible news director Ali Özken was standing trial on the charge of “publicly insulting the memory of Atatürk” took place on 5 March in Istanbul.

The Küçükçekmece 5th Criminal Court of First Instance ruled for Özken’s acquittal. Özken was accused because of a news story headlined “Zulüm 1938’de son buldu” (cruelty ended in 1938) broadcast on 10 November 2015.

Gezi Park trial to get under way on 24 June

The 30th High Criminal Court of Istanbul has accepted the recently issued indictment into 16 people including journalist Can Dündar and the jailed businessman Osman Kavala on the charge of “attempting to overthrow the government.”

The indictment seeks aggravated life imprisonment for all 16 individuals on account of their involvement in 2013’s Gezi Park protests.

The court will start hearing the case on 24 June 2019 in a courtroom near the Silivri Prison complex.

Court upholds conviction for Professor Füsun Üstel

The 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, an appellate court, has upheld a prison sentence given last year to Professor Füsun Üstel on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” for signing a 2016 petition by the Academics for Peace initiative.

The appellate court rendered its verdict on 25 February. One of the judges on the panel gave a dissenting opinion, saying that the file should be sent back to the trial court because Üstel should have stood trial on the charge under Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code (“insulting the Turkish nation or the government of Turkey”).

Since Üstel was imposed a sentence less than five years, the appellate court’s ruling is final and Üstel will have to be sent to prison. Among academics standing trial for signing the petition, Üstel will be the first one to serve prison time.

List of journalists and media workers in prison

As of 8 March 2019, at least 150 journalists and media workers are in prison in Turkey, either in pre-trial detention or serving a sentence.

The full list can be accessed here.