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 - 192

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 192

More press members targeted by assailants; court convicts 7 defendants in “Özgür Gündem trial”; man who shared 2 cartoons on social media given jail term for “insulting the president”

A construction worker named Deniz Avcı in the western Turkish province of Balıkesir was convicted of “insulting the president” this week at the final hearing of his trial, where the accusation stemmed from two political cartoons by Evrensel and Cumhuriyet cartoonists that Avcı had shared on social media. The trial court sentenced Avcı to 2 years and 2 months in prison. The sentence was not deferred.

Founder of local newspaper shot in Adana

Hakan Denizli, the owner of a local newspaper called Egemen, was wounded when he was shot by an assailant on 24 May 2019 outside his home in the southern province of Adana. Denizli, who received a gunshot on his leg, was immediately hospitalized. Police was working to identify the assailant.

Imprisoned journalist Ayşe Düzkan transferred to open prison

Imprisoned journalist Ayşe Düzkan was released from Bakırköy Women’s Prison on 23 May in response to her numerous requests to be transferred to an open prison.

Düzkan was to be transferred to the women’s open prison in Eskişehir province within the next 30 hours following her release. She will serve the remaining part of her 18-month sentence in Eskişehir.

Düzkan was imprisoned on 29 January 2019 to serve the sentence she was handed down in January 2018 for participating in 2016 in a campaign for solidarity with the now-defunct pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem.

Prosecutor seeks conviction for Necla Demir in first hearing

Necla Demir, the former publisher of the online newspaper Gazete Karınca, appeared before the 33rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 23 May 2019 for the first hearing of her trial.

Demir is accused of “systematically disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” for the website’s coverage of Turkey’s 2018 military operation on Syria’s Afrin district.

The prosecution presented their final opinion of the case, requesting the court to convict Demir of “systematically disseminating terrorist propaganda.”

In its interim ruling, the court granted additional time for the final defense statements and adjourned the trial until 11 July 2019.

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

Tanbay, Bulutoğlu stand trial for supporting academics

The first hearings in the trials of choreographer and dance instructor Zeynep Tanbay and businessperson Halim Bulutoğlu on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” took place on 23 May 2019 at the 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

Tanbay and Bulutoğlu were among 17 people who turned themselves in to the authorities in support of the academics who are being prosecuted for signing 2016’s Academics for Peace petition.

Tanbay and Bulutoğlu’s lawyer Bahri Belen requested his clients’ immediate acquittal. The court rejected the requests and adjourned both trials until 24 September, granting continuance for the preparation of the defense statements.

A report about the hearings can be accessed here.

Trial of 4 academics adjourned until October

The latest hearing in the trial of academics Esra Mungan, Kıvanç Ersoy, Muzaffer Kaya and Meral Camcı for signing 2016’s Academics for Peace petition was held on 23 May at the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

P24 monitored hearing, where Mungan and Camcı were in attendance. Their lawyer did not attend due to health issues. Mungan and Camcı told the court that they would like to make their final defense statements in the presence of their lawyer and requested a continuance.

The court ruled to wait for the defense statements by Kaya and Ersoy, which will be taken in Germany, where they both live and work, and adjourned the trial until 15 October 2019.

Trial of Meşale Tolu and 26 others adjourned until October

A trial where 27 defendants, including Etkin news agency (ETHA) reporter and interpreter Meşale Tolu and her husband, Suat Çorlu, a member of the central executive board of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP), stand accused of terrorism-related charges, resumed on 23 May at the 29th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

P24 monitored the hearing, where Çorlu and five other defendants were in attendance in the courtroom as well as defense lawyers. Tolu did not attend because she is exempt from personal appearance in court.

A secret witness whom the court had decided to hear in the previous hearing could not testify because of technical problems. The prosecutor then requested the continuation of the judicial control measures imposed on the defendants. The court ruled to hear the secret witness at a later hearing. Five defendants who were present at the hearing asked the court to lift the judicial control measures they have been subject to.

Çorlu, whose passport was seized by Turkish authorities upon his arrival at the Istanbul Airport on a flight from Germany to attend the hearing the night before the trial, asked the court whether his passport was confiscated upon a court order.

In its interim decision, the court ruled to lift the international travel ban on one of the defendants, Deniz Havuç, but kept the judicial control measures for 22 other defendants in place.

The presiding judge told Çorlu that there was no travel ban on him issued by the court but that they have found out that there were three ongoing investigations against Çorlu and that his passport might be taken by authorities in connection with one of those investigations.

The court set 11 October 2019 as the date for the next hearing.

Two files against Jin News director Safiye Alağaş merged

The third hearing in the trial of JinNews news director Safiye Alağaş on the charges of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group,” “inciting the public to hatred and animosity” and “praising crime or a criminal” took place on 23 May at the Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court.

Alağaş did not attend the hearing, where she was represented by her lawyer, Pirozhan Karali. The court merged another file against Alağaş on the “propaganda” charge, issued on 16 January 2019 by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, with the ongoing case. The presiding judge said the merged file still lacked the journalist’s permanent address.

Lawyer Karali requested additional time to file the permanent address notification and other lacking documents. The court granted the lawyer 20 days to complete the documents and ruled that it would issue an arrest warrant for Alağaş in order for her defense statement to be taken in the event her lawyer fails to meet the deadline.

Mustafa Göktaş ordered to remain behind bars

The fifth hearing of the trial of Mustafa Göktaş, a former employee of the shuttered pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, took place on 23 May at the Urfa 2nd High Criminal Court.

Göktaş and his lawyer were in attendance at the hearing. The prosecution reiterated their final opinion of the case, submitted during the previous hearing, in which they asked the court to convict Göktaş of “membership in a terrorist group” and “disseminating terrorist propaganda.” Göktaş’s lawyer Mustafa Vefa told the court they rejected the prosecutor’s final opinion and requested his client’s release pending trial.

Göktaş requested a continuance, saying he was physically unfit to make his defense statement because he has been on a hunger strike since 1 March.

Granting Göktaş additional time for his defense statement, the court adjourned the trial until 12 September.

Constitutional Court rejects Osman Kavala’s individual application

The Constitutional Court has rejected the individual application filed on behalf of Osman Kavala, who has been jailed pending trial since 1 November 2017.

The Plenary of the Constitutional Court took up Kavala’s file on 22 May. The top court found no rights violations in Kavala’s file. The judgment was rendered through a majority vote.

Kavala is facing life imprisonment on the allegation that he orchestrated Turkey’s nationwide Gezi Park protests. The “Gezi trial,” where Kavala will stand trial alongside 15 others, including journalist Can Dündar and actor Memet Ali Alabora, will get under way on 24 June at the 30th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

Court overturns Füsun Üstel’s permit to transfer to open prison

A criminal court in Eskişehir has overturned a recent ruling by the Eskişehir 1st Judge of Execution that granted imprisoned academic Füsun Üstel permission to transfer to an open prison. The Eskişehir 1st High Criminal Court overturned the ruling based on an objection filed by the prosecutor.

Üstel has been in the Eskişehir Women’s Prison since 8 May 2019, serving a 15-month sentence she was given in April 2018 because she was one of the signatories of 2016’s Academics for Peace petition.

Ahmet Altan makes defense statement in “insulting public official” case

A trial in which imprisoned novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan is accused of “insulting a public official” got under way on 21 May at the Anadolu 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.

The case was originally launched in 2010 upon a complaint by former public prosecutor İlhan Cihaner, currently a lawmaker with the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). The case concerns an article Altan penned in 2010, titled “Büyük Savaş Başladı” (The great battle has begun), in which he mentioned a leaked phone conversation between two justices of the Supreme Court of Appeals about Cihaner’s release from prison, a subject that had previously been covered by news media. Cihaner later withdrew his complaint, and the case was put on hold. However, it got under way again after Altan’s conviction in a case where he was accused of “insulting the president” was upheld by an appellate court in March 2018.

Submitting Altan’s written defense statement to the court during the hearing, his lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu said they would make their final defense statement at a later stage.

Addressing the court via the courtroom video-conferencing network SEGBİS, Altan said that the prosecution was trying to cover up a scandal in the judiciary that took place 10 years ago by attempting to incriminate him.

In its interim decision, the court ruled to wait for the response from the Gölbaşı Criminal Court of First Instance concerning Cihaner and adjourned the trial until 17 September 2019.

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

Court convicts 7 defendants of "propaganda" in Özgür Gündem trial

The final hearing in the trial of 24 defendants including former Özgür Gündem daily editors and columnists was held on 21 May at the 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

The court convicted 7 defendants, including the shuttered newspaper’s co-editors-in-chief Eren Keskin and Hüseyin Akyol, managing editor Reyhan Çapan and columnists Ayşe Batumlu and Reyhan Hacıoğlu, of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

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

Assailants attack local journalist in Antalya

A local journalist in Antalya was targeted by assailants on 20 May. Ergin Çevik, the editor-in-chief of the Antalya-based news portal Güney Haberci, was attacked by three people in the Aksu district. Çevik was reportedly assaulted because he wrote about allegations of unearned income in Kundu in a column he published.

Journalist Mustafa Yayla sent to prison in Izmir

Mustafa Yayla, a local journalist based in the Aegean province of Aydın, was sent to prison on 19 May after an appellate court upheld a previous conviction on the charge of “insulting the president.”

Yayla had been given a prison sentence of 11 months and 20 days over his social media posts in a trial overseen by the Kuşadası 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. The court refused to defer his sentence or commute it to a judicial fine.

Yayla, who had recently relocated in Izmir after getting married, was placed in the Torbalı Prison in Izmir.

List of journalists and media workers in prison

As of 24 May 2019, at least 147 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.