Three journalists taken into custody in Istanbul; Hasan Cemal handed down sentence over 2015 column; Cansu Pişkin given 10-month prison term for mentioning prosecutor’s name in news story
Journalist Canan Coşkun was taken into custody on 10 May 2019 in Istanbul based on an arrest warrant, which came up during a police security check.
It later became clear that the warrant had been issued because of an overdue legal fine of TL 12,600 handed down by the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance in a case where Coşkun was convicted of “insulting a public official” over a news story she penned in 2015 for the Cumhuriyet daily.
Coşkun spent the night at the police station. She was released the next day after the overdue fine was paid.
Journalists Zeynep Kuray, İrfan Tunççelik freed from custody
Zeynep Kuray, a reporter for the BirGün daily, and İrfan Tunççelik, a reporter for the Mezopotamya news agency (MA), were both taken into custody on 10 May as they were covering demonstrations in Istanbul aimed at raising awareness of ongoing hunger strikes in Turkey’s prisons.
Kuray was arrested while she was covering a demonstration in the Spice Bazaar in the Eminönü quarter while Tunççelik was arrested as he was covering a demonstration in front of the Bakırköy Prison.
Both journalists were brought to the Istanbul Courthouse on Monday. The prosecutor requested their imprisonment pending trial. The court released both journalists under judicial control measures.
Top Court rules in favor of school teacher convicted of “propaganda” over televised comments
The Constitutional Court ruled that the right to freedom of expression has been violated in the case of school teacher Ayşe Çelik, who was sentenced in 2017 to 15 months in prison on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” over televised comments on live TV and sent to prison on 17 April 2019, at the end of her six-month probation.
Çelik’s 2016 remarks, in which she said, among other things, “Don't let children die,” were in relation to the curfews and sweeping military operations across Turkey’s southeastern provinces back then.
In its 9 May 2019 ruling, the Constitutional Court ordered a retrial for the elimination of the violation. The top court also ruled that the government pay Çelik a compensation of TL 5,500 in non-pecuniary damages.
Based on the Constitutional Court’s ruling, Çelik was released from the Diyarbakır Prison later on 9 May.
“KCK press trial” adjourned until October
The 16th hearing of the “KCK Press Trial,” where a total of 46 journalists and other media workers stand accused of “membership in a terrorist group” and “terrorism propaganda,” took place on 9 May 2019 at the 3rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
P24 monitored the hearing, where none of the defendants were in attendance. They were represented by their lawyers.
The presiding judge announced during the hearing that a separate case file about one of the defendants, journalist Yüksel Genç, overseen by the 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, was sent to the court with the request to merge the two files. However, the trial court rejected the request and sent the file to an appellate court. The presiding judge said the appellate court had yet to rule on the matter.
The court then adjourned the trial until 22 October 2019.
Court announces deferred judgment about jailed journalist Yetkin Yıldız
A court in Ankara on 9 May announced a judgment against jailed journalist Yetkin Yıldız that had been deferred.
The Ankara 35th Criminal Court of First Instance had convicted Yıldız of “insult” in a case that had been filed in 2010 by a judge. The accusation stemmed from a news story published online in the news website Stratejik Boyut, where Yıldız was the chief editor. The 10-month sentence Yıldız was given at the time had been deferred by five years.
Yıldız later stood trial in a separate case on the charges of “insult” and “publicly inciting crime” over an article posted online on the news portal Aktif Haber, where he was chief editor during his five-year probation. Yıldız was also convicted in that case, overseen by the Silivri 1st Criminal Court of First Instance.
Since he “committed a similar offense” during his five-year probation, the Ankara 35th Criminal Court of First Instance announced its earlier judgment at the hearing on 9 May. The court suspended Yıldız’s sentence by 1 year.
Yıldız is currently imprisoned in the Silivri Prison in Istanbul. He was sentenced in 2018 to 7 years and 6 months in prison on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” as part of a major media trial where columnists Murat Aksoy and Atilla Taş were among his 25 co-defendants.
Trial of 7 journalists over 2016 report adjourned until October
A trial where seven journalists and one other defendant are charged with “making those involved in combating terrorism a target” resumed on 8 May at the 9th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır.
The case was launched after a complaint from senior gendarmerie commander Maj. Gen. Musa Çitil, who was cited in the news report, published in February 2016 by the shuttered DİHA news agency.
The defendants include Ömer Çelik, who was the news editor at DİHA at the time, DİHA reporters Çağdaş Kaplan, Hamza Gündüz and Selman Çiçek, journalist Abdulvahap Taş, the shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper’s responsible editor İnan Kızılkaya and publisher Kemal Sancılı. Çiçek is additionally charged with “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.” An eighth defendant, who is at large, is also cited in the indictment.
This was the third hearing in the case. P24 monitored the hearing, where Sancılı, who is currently imprisoned in Edirne, addressed the court via the courtroom video-conferencing network SEGBİS. The rest of the defendants were not in attendance and were instead represented by their lawyers.
Sancılı and Resul Temur, the lawyer representing journalists Çelik, Çiçek and Taş, reiterated their previous defense statements. In its interim ruling, the court ruled to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant in place for the eighth defendant, Selim Günenç, and adjourned the trial until 2 October 2019.
Özgür Gündem trials adjourned
The trial of 23 former Özgür Gündem editors and columnists, including Eren Keskin, Hüseyin Aykol, Reyhan Çapan, Filiz Koçali, Ayşe Berktay, Nuray Özdoğan, Celalettin Can, Ayşe Batumlu and Reyhan Hacıoğlu, resumed on 8 May at the 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. The 23 defendants are accused of “praising crime and criminals," "inciting crime," and "disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group."
This was the 13th hearing in the case. P24 monitored the hearing, where the defendants were represented by their lawyers. One of the jailed defendants in the case, Hüseyin Güçlü, addressed the court via the courtroom videoconferencing network SEGBİS.
The prosecution reiterated their final opinion of the case, submitted to the court on 26 October 2017. Lawyer Özcan Kılıç, who represents part of the defendants in the case, requested additional time for the final defense statements since the court has rejected his request at the previous hearing to merge this case with another ongoing Özgür Gündem trial overseen by the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul, where Eren Keskin is accused because of her title as the newspaper's co-editor-in-chief.
The court granted additional time for the defense statements and adjourned the trial until 21 May 2019.
Another Özgür Gündem trial that was expected to resume on 7 May at the 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, where Eren Keskin, Hüseyin Aykol, Reyhan Çapan and Hasan Başak are among defendants, was postponed to 17 July 2019 because the case had recently been merged with another Özgür Gündem file overseen by the same court.
Prosecutor seeks conviction for jailed journalist Mehmet Gündem
The fifth hearing in the trial of jailed journalist and columnist Mehmet Gündem on the charge of “terrorist group membership” took place on 8 May at the 35th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
P24 monitored the hearing. Gündem, who is in pre-trial detention in the Silivri Prison, was brought to the courtroom under the supervision of gendarmerie officers.
Gündem’s lawyer Ömer Faik Çetiner told the court that the defense was only just notified of the prosecutor’s final opinion of the case, submitted to the court in between courtroom hearings. The prosecutor seeks conviction for Gündem on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group” in their final opinion.
Çetiner requested a continuance for Gündem’s final defense statement in response to the final opinion. Osman Bera Yurdakul, another lawyer representing Gündem, said his client has been in detention on remand 19 for months without any concrete evidence against him. He requested his client’s release. Gündem also asked to be released pending trial.
The prosecution requested the continuation of Gündem’s detention on remand.
Ruling for the continuation of Gündem’s pre-trial detention, the court granted additional time for the final defense statements and adjourned the trial until 29 May.
Professor Füsun Üstel sent to prison for signing peace petition
Professor Füsun Üstel was sent to prison on 8 May 2019 to serve the 15-month sentence she was given in 2018 on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” for signing a 2016 petition by the Academics for Peace initiative.
The 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, an appellate court, upheld her sentence in February. Since Üstel was imposed a sentence less than five years, the appellate court’s ruling is final and it cannot be further appealed. Among the hundreds of academics standing trial for signing the petition, Üstel became the first one to serve prison time.
Üstel was placed in the Eskişehir Women’s Prison. Üstel will remain behind bars for 11 months, according to news reports.
Hasan Cemal convicted of “propaganda” over 2015 column
P24’s founding president and T24 columnist Hasan Cemal was given a prison sentence of 3 months and 22 days on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” on 7 May 2019.
Cemal was standing trial over an article he penned in 2015, titled “Silvan’dan: Bizi acılara ve ölümlere o kadar alıştırdılar ki…” (Silvan: They’ve inured us to pain and death).
This was the third hearing in the trial, overseen by the Istanbul 36th High Criminal Court. Hasan Cemal and his lawyer Fikret İlkiz were in attendance.
Addressing the court for his defense statement, Hasan Cemal rejected the accusation and asked to be acquitted.
After hearing the defense statements by Cemal and his lawyer, the court went on to issue its verdict, convicting Cemal of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” and giving him 1 year, 6 months and 22 days in prison. The panel ruled for the sentence to be deducted from a previous sentence Cemal was given on the same charge by the 22th High Criminal Court. As a result, the court gave Cemal a prison sentence of 3 months and 22 days, which it then commuted to a judicial fine of TL 3,360.
A detailed report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Journalist Cansu Pişkin given 10-month prison term for news story
Journalist Cansu Pişkin was handed down a prison sentence on the charge of “marking the identity of a state official assigned in the fight against terrorism as a target” over a news report published in 2018 in the Evrensel newspaper.
Pişkin and her lawyers Levent Pişkin, Devrim Avcı and Mustafa Söğütlü were in attendance at the 36th High Criminal Court of Istanbul for the third hearing of her trial, held on 7 May.
Following the completion of the defense statements, the court issued its verdict, finding Pişkin guilty of “marking the identity of a state official assigned in the fight against terrorism as a target.” The court sentenced her to 10 months in prison and deferred the sentence.
A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Prosecution seeks sentence for Çağdaş Erdoğan on “propaganda” charge
The fifth hearing of the trial of photojournalist Çağdaş Erdoğan on the charges of “membership in a terrorist group” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” took place on 7 May at the 33rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
In addition to P24, representatives from Article 19, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the International Press Institute (IPI) also monitored the hearing, where Erdoğan and his lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu were in attendance.
The prosecution submitted their final opinion of the case during the hearing, seeking conviction for Erdoğan on the charge of “propaganda” as per Article 7/2 of Turkey’s anti-terror law (TMK). The prosecution requested Erdoğan’s acquittal of the second charge in the indictment.
Lawyer Çalıkuşu requested a continuance for Erdoğan’s final defense statement. Granting additional time for the defense, the court adjourned the trial until 13 June 2019.
Kibriye Evren ordered to remain behind bars
The trial of jailed journalist Kibriye Evren on terrorism-related charges resumed on 7 May at the 5th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır.
P24 monitored the fifth hearing in the case. Evren, who is jailed in the Diyarbakır Prison, and has been on a hunger strike since 16 December 2018, did not attend the hearing. She was represented by her lawyers Pirozhan Karali and Resul Temur.
The prosecution said they reiterated their final opinion of the case, submitted to the court on 16 April. The prosecutor also requested the continuation of Evren’s pre-trial detention.
Evren’s lawyer Temur said he reiterated his previous defense statement and requested additional time for Evren to make her final defense statement in person in the courtroom. He also requested his client’s release pending trial. Karali told the court that Evren was a dissident journalist. Noting that no concrete evidence proving the allegation against Evren was present in the case file, Karali requested Evren’s release.
In their interim decision, the court ruled to keep Evren in pre-trial detention and adjourned the trial until 18 July 2019.
Appellate court drops jail sentence given to Pelin Ünker
An appellate court has overturned a jail sentence handed down in January to former Cumhuriyet daily reporter Pelin Ünker.
Ünker was given a 13-month prison sentence by the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul in a lawsuit filed by former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and his two sons over Ünker’s reporting on the “Paradise Papers” leaks.
In the 19 April 2019 ruling, the appellate court ruled for the conviction against Ünker in the case filed by Bülent and Erkam Yıldırım to be dropped because the four-month statute of limitations for pressing charges had expired. The appellate court upheld the legal fine Ünker was given on the charge of “insulting a public official.”
For further information, see this report.
MA reporter Barış Polat released under judicial control measures
Barış Polat, an intern reporter for the Mezopotamya news agency (MA), who was taken into custody on 3 May as he was covering a news story at the Şanlıurfa Courthouse, was released from custody on 5 May. Polat was taken to the courthouse following his questioning at the anti-terror branch of the Şanlıurfa Police Department. Polat was released under judicial control measures by the court he was referred to.
List of journalists and media workers in prison
According to P24’s list, compiled using information available in open sources, as of 10 May 2019, at least 146 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.