Journalists İshak Karakaş, Lezgin Akdeniz handed down jail terms; jailed journalists Semiha Şahin, Pınar Gayıp, Harun Çümen ordered to remain behind bars; arrest warrant issued for musician Ferhat Tunç
Musician Ferhat Tunç’s trial on the charge of “inciting the public to hatred and animosity” on account of his social media posts resumed on 29 March 2019 at the Büyükçekmece 4th Criminal Court of First Instance.
Tunç, who was abroad, was represented at the hearing by his lawyer Damla Koç.
Tunç’s lawyer requested a continuance for Tunç’s defense statement. In its interim decision, the court ruled to issue an arrest warrant for Tunç because he has still not given his defense statement by the end of the fourth hearing in the case and adjourned the trial until 18 September.
Tunç is currently standing trial in four separate court cases on various charges, including “terrorism propaganda” and “insulting the president.” Last September, Tunç was convicted in another case of “propaganda” and handed down a prison sentence of 1 year, 11 months and 12 days.
Pelin Ünker’s “Paradise Papers” case dismissed
Journalist Pelin Ünker appeared in an Istanbul court on 28 March 2019 for the fourth hearing of a lawsuit where she was accused of “libel and insult” on account of two news stories she penned for Cumhuriyet daily in November 2017 about the “Paradise Papers” leaks.
P24 monitored the hearing at the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul, where Ünker, her lawyers and the lawyers representing the plaintiffs were in attendance. The case had been filed upon complaints by Minister Berat Albayrak, his brother, Serhat Albayrak, and businessman Ahmet Çalık.
Rendering her judgment at the end of the hearing, the judge said the case was dismissed based on the statute of limitations in Turkey’s press law.
Journalist Şirin Kabakçı’s trial adjourned until July
The fifth hearing in the trial of journalist Şirin Kabakçı, the former Konya bureau chief for the shuttered daily Zaman, on the charge of “terrorist group membership” took place on 28 March at the 35th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
Kabakçı remained in pre-trial detention for 20 months as part of the case before he was released in December pending the conclusion of the trial.
P24 monitored the fifth hearing, where the court heard witness Halil Doğanay, who testified to the court from Konya via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS.
Issuing an interim decision at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to hand over the file to the prosecution for the drafting of their final opinion and adjourned the trial until 2 July 2019.
Journalist Harun Çümen ordered to remain behind bars
The second hearing of the trial of former Zaman editor Harun Çümen on the charge of “terrorist group membership” took place on 28 March.
Çümen is standing trial alongside three other defendants in the case, overseen by the 32nd High Criminal court of Istanbul.
P24 monitored the hearing, where Çümen, who has been in pre-trial detention for 11 months, addressed the court via SEGBİS from the Balıkesir Prison. In his defense statement, Çümen rejected the accusations and requested to be released pending trial. Çümen also requested the findings of an investigation in Keşan, Edirne, to be included in his file.
Defense lawyers then addressed the court and requested Çümen’s release pending trial. The prosecution, however, requested the continuation of his detention on remand. Accepting the prosecution’s request, the court ordered the continuation of Çümen’s detention and adjourned the trial until 19 June 2019.
23-defendant Özgür Gündem trial adjourned
The trial of 23 defendants that include former editors and employees of the shuttered pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” resumed on 28 March at the 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
This was the 11th hearing in the case. Defense lawyers Özcan Kılıç and Senem Doğanoğlu were in attendance.
The prosecution said they reiterated their previous opinion of the case. Kılıç requested additional time for the defense statements due to the large number of defendants in the case and multiple indictments against the defendants.
Kılıç also asked the court to separate Eren Keskin’s file in this case and merge it with the case overseen by the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul, where Keskin is on trial on account of her role as the co-editor-in-chief of Özgür Gündem.
In its interim decision, the court adjourned the trial until 8 May, awaiting the outcome of the arrest warrants in place for some of the defendants in the case. The court also ruled to issue a memo to the 23rd High Criminal Court in which to discuss whether or not to merge Keskin’s file.
“Özgür Gündem solidarity case” adjourned until next week
A trial where 13 people, most of whom are journalists, stand accused of “terrorism propaganda” for joining in a solidarity campaign for the shuttered Özgür Gündem daily resumed on 28 March at the 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
P24 monitored the hearing, where the prosecution reiterated their previous opinion of the case. The prosecutor is seeking prison terms for 12 of the 13 defendants -- Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, Celal Başlangıç, İhsan Çaralan, Fehim Işık, Öncü Akgül, Faruk Eren, Celalettin Can, Ömer Ağın, Veysel Kemer, Dilşah Karakaya, Yüksel Oğuz and Özgür Gündem’s former co-editor-in-chief Hüseyin Aykol -- on the charge of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization.” The prosecutor did not request a prison sentence for the 13th defendant, Mehmet Şirin Taşdemir, on grounds that he has already been convicted in another case.
Accepting the defense lawyers’ request for additional time for the final defense statements, the court adjourned the trial until 3 April.
Trial of Özgür Gündem editors and Hatip Dicle adjourned
A trial where journalists Hüseyin Aykol, Zana Kaya and İnan Kızılkaya -- former co-editors-in-chief and managing editor of the shuttered daily Özgür Gündem -- and Kurdish politician Hatip Dicle stand accused for the news stories and articles published in the newspaper resumed on 28 March at the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul.
The four defendants are accused of “publicly degrading the government, the judiciary or the police force” and “publicly degrading the Turkish nation, the Turkish Republic and the Parliament” under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).
None of the defendants were in attendance at the hearing, where they were represented by lawyer Özcan Kılıç. This was the 12th hearing in the case.
Kılıç requested a continuance for additional defense statements. The court agreed to grant additional time and adjourned the trial until 16 May.
Court rules it has no jurisdiction over Onur Hamzaoğlu “propaganda” case
Academic and public health specialist Onur Hamzaoğlu appeared before an Istanbul court on 28 March for his trial on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” for being among the signatories of 2016’s Academics for Peace petition.
Hamzaoğlu told the court that he was employed with the Kocaeli University during the time he signed the petition and therefore this court had no jurisdiction over the case. The prosecution agreed and requested the court send the file to the authorized court in the Kocaeli province.
The 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled that it had no jurisdiction over the case and sent the case file to a Kocaeli court.
Semiha Şahin, Pınar Gayıp remain behind bars in 4th hearing
Jailed Etkin news agency (ETHA) journalists Semiha Şahin and Pınar Gayıp appeared before the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 27 March for the fourth hearing of their trial on terrorism-related charges.
Both Şahin and Gayıp have been in pre-trial detention as part of this case for 11 months. Their two co-defendants in the case, Gülsen İmre and Ferhat Harun Pehlivan, were released pending trial at the end of the second hearing in the trial.
P24 monitored the fourth hearing, where the lawyers representing İmre and Pehlivan requested to wait for the completion of the forensic report about the digital material before proceeding with their defense statements in response to the prosecution’s final opinion.
Gayıp’s lawyer Kader Tonç requested further inquiry as to when the investigation into the journalists was launched. The lawyer requested that the court inquire of law enforcement officials and the prosecutor about how and why social media posts from highly varied time frames by the two journalists were brought together in the same investigation file as evidence.
Tonç also added that they suspected that the social media posts held as evidence against the journalists were not obtained through an open source search, in which case evidence would be obtained illegally.
Tonç added that no new incriminating evidence was added to Gayıp’s case file throughout the time she has been in pre-trial detention and requested her release pending trial.
Şahin’s lawyer Özcan Karakoç also addressed the court, asserting that the prosecution's final opinion was technically unacceptable and that the case file was not yet ready for the judgment phase. Karakoç added that witness testimonies were also ignored. Karakoç requested Şahin’s release pending trial.
Gayıp and Şahin also addressed the court and requested to be released.
The prosecution said they reiterated their final opinion of the case, submitted to the court in the previous hearing, and requested the continuation of both journalists’ detention.
In its interim decision, the court ruled in line with the prosecution’s requests and ordered the continuation of Şahin and Gayıp’s detention on remand, as well as rejecting the lawyers’ requests for the expansion of the investigation. The trial was adjourned until 13 June.
Kemal Özer handed down 6-year prison sentence
Kemal Özer, a former Tunceli correspondent for the daily Evrensel, appeared in the final hearing of his trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group” on 27 March.
The 1st High Criminal Court of Tunceli convicted Özer of the charge and sentenced him to 6 years and 3 months in prison. Özer’s lawyers said they will appeal the verdict before an appellate court.
New charge under TCK 301 sought in Sibel Hürtaş and Hayri Demir’s trial
The fourth hearing in a trial where 11 defendants, including journalists Hayri Demir and Sibel Hürtaş, stand accused for their social media posts, was held on 27 March in Ankara.
The defendants in the case are accused of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” and “inciting the public to hatred and animosity” over their social media posts critical of Turkey’s military operation on the Syrian city of Afrin.
Hürtaş, Demir, their co-defendant Bengü Aslı Bayramoğlu and defense lawyers were in attendance for the hearing at the 15th High Criminal Court of Ankara.
The prosecution submitted their final opinion of the case during the hearing, seeking convictions for Bengü Aslı Bayramoğlu, Hüseyin Gökdemir, Osman Konukçu, Lezgin Tekay, Muhammed Barış Ceyhan and Saim Serin of the “propaganda” charge.
The prosecution also sought conviction for Demir on the same charge, however, the accusation was based on a social mediapost by Demir that was not included in the indictment.
The prosecution did not submit their final opinion concerning the remaining four defendants in the case, however, they asked the court to seek the Justice Ministry’s approval for new charges to be pressed against all defendants in the case under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) -- “publicly denigrating the Turkish nation, the state of the Turkish Republic, or the institutions and organs of the state.”
Addressing the court during the hearing, Demir requested additional time for his defense statement. He also said the social media post for which he is accused was actually a news item that was based on official documents.
DEfense lawyers also requested continuance for defense statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion. The lawyers also reacted to the prosecution’s request to press new charges under Article 301, saying any legal process to be carried out in connection with this charge would be unlawful.
In its interim decision, the court agreed to seek the Justice Ministry’s approval to press new charges under TCK 301 against the defendants and adjourned the trial until 3 July 2019. In the event the ministry gives the go-ahead, the court will return the case file to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Reporter Lezgin Akdeniz sentenced in first hearing
Lezgin Akdeniz, a reporter for Mezopotamya news agency (MA) who was among 142 individuals taken into custody and later released in October as part of a sweeping operation launched in Diyarbakır, appeared in court on 27 March for the first hearing of his trial on terrorism-related charges.
The 9th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır rendered its decision at the end of the first hearing of the case, convicting Akdeniz of the “propaganda” charge against him while acquitting the journalist of the “terrorist group membership” charge. The court gave Akdeniz a prison sentence of 1 year and 3 months. The court deferred the sentence by five years.
İshak Karakaş given 1.5-year prison term over social media posts
Journalist İshak Karakaş, the former editor-in-chief and owner of the shuttered weekly newspaper Halkın Nabzı, appeared in the final hearing of his trial on the “propaganda” charge on 26 March in Istanbul.
Karakaş was accused on account of his social media posts critical of Turkey’s military operation on the Syrian city of Afrin.
P24 monitored the hearing, where Karakaş and his co-defendants as well as their lawyers were in attendance.
Rendering its verdict after hearing all defense statements, the 28th High Criminal Court of Istanbul convicted Karakaş and his co-defendants Yücel Üney, Yaşar Yılmaz Altunbilek, Tarzan Aktan, Ömer Karakurt, Murat Demir, Şervan Dinçer and Abdullah Yeşilbağdan of “successively disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” and sentenced each to 1 year, 6 months and 22 days in prison.
Two other defendants in the case, Cevdet Taş and Ahmet Alanç, were also convicted of the “propaganda” charge and given 1 year and 3 months in prison. The court deferred all sentences.
Çağdaş Erdoğan’s “propaganda” trial adjourned until May
The fourth hearing of the trial into photographer Çağdaş Erdoğan on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” took place on 26 March at the 33rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
P24 monitored the hearing, where both Erdoğan and his lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu were in attendance.
Çalıkuşu told the court that Erdoğan was unable to retrieve his passport despite the international travel ban imposed on her client to have been lifted in June 2018. The presiding judge said there were no judicial control measures in connection with Erdoğan’s passport in place and that the problem must be in connection with an administrative decision.
The presiding judge then informed those in attendance that the court had just received the documents it had been waiting for the case and set 7 May 2019 as the date for the next hearing.
Ziya Ataman remains behind bars in 6th hearing
A trial where former Dicle news agency (DİHA) reporter Ziya Ataman is among jailed defendants resumed on 26 March at the 1st High Criminal Court of Şırnak.
This was the sixth hearing in the case.
Ataman, who has been jailed pending trial since April 2016, and 18 others are accused of 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.”
The prosecutor requested the continuation of the detention of all jailed defendants in the case.
Addressing the court from the Van Maximum Security Prison via SEGBİS, Ataman requested to make his defense statement in Kurdish. The court told him that he should have an interpreter ready for the next hearing in case he does not speak in Turkish in this hearing.
In its interim decision, the court ruled to keep all jailed defendants in the case behind bars and to hand over the case file to the prosecution for the drafting of their final opinion until the next hearing, set for 28 May.
Journalist Cansu Pişkin’s trial adjourned until May
The second hearing of a trial in which journalist Cansu Pişkin, a courthouse reporter for the daily Evrensel, is accused of “marking the identity of a state official assigned in the fight against terrorism as a target” took place on 25 March at the 36th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
Pişkin is accused because of a news report published last year in Evrensel about the prosecutor appointed to investigate the Boğaziçi University students who were jailed over staging an anti-war demonstration on the school campus.
P24 monitored the hearing, where Pişkin’s lawyer Mustafa Söğütlü requested the court immediately acquit Pişkin based on the fact that there was no new evidence raising criminal suspicion.
The prosecution then submitted their final opinion of the case, requesting that Pişkin be convicted. Lawyers requested additional time for Pişkin’s defense statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion.
The court agreed to grant additional time and adjourned the trial until 7 May. The panel said they would decide on the request for Pişkin’s immediate acquittal at the next hearing.
List of journalists and media workers in prison
As of 29 March 2019, at least 145 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.