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 – 202

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey – 202

Independent news portal bianet’s website “erroneously” put on long list of websites to be blocked; peace academic acquitted after Constitutional Court ruling

The Ankara 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace has ruled for access to a total of 136 websites, web pages and social media accounts, including the entire website of independent news portal bianet to be blocked. Details pertaining to the court decision that were obtained by bianet’s lawyer later revealed, however, that was erroneously included in the list of URLs to be blocked although decision remains in effect for 135 other web addresses.

Among the websites blocked by the decision are those of news portal Gazete Fersude and Etkin News Agency (ETHA). The website, which follows the trial of Osman Kavala and 15 others facing the charge of “attempting the overthrow the government” for their involvement in the Gezi protests, is also among those that were blocked for allegedly violating Turkey’s Internet law. The ruling dated 16 July 2019 was rendered in response to a complaint submitted on the same day by the Gendarmerie Command. The complainant applied to the court the following day saying that was erroneously included in the list, bianet reported. The court then ordered removal of from the list but kept the ban on the remaining 135 web sources intact. A more detailed report can be accessed here.

Peace declaration signatory acquitted in “propaganda” case

A court in the western province of İzmir ruled for the acquittal of writer Ahmet Kardam who was charged with “spreading propaganda for a terrorist group” for signing the Academic for Peace statement of 2016 to support the academics who had first signed it, in what appears to be the first penal court decision to acquit a defendant following a landmark judgment from the Constitutional Court.

The top court ruled last month that the freedom of expression of a group of academic who were prosecuted and convicted for signing the peace declaration were violated. The İzmir 13th High Criminal Court cited the Constitutional Court judgment in its ruling and ordered the acquittal of defendant Ahmet Kardam as per Article 223/2-a of the Turkish Criminal Procedure Code (CMK), which states that a defendant is acquitted immediately in the event the act attributed to him/her is not defined by the law as an offence.

Bar associations call for former Cumhuriyet employees to be released

72 bar associations and the Union of Turkish Bar Associations published on 6 August 2019 a joint statement calling for the release of former Cumhuriyet newspaper employees who have been behind bars for over 100 days.

The bar associations that signed the statement, 72 out of all the 79 provincial bar associations, represent about 90 percent of all lawyers in Turkey.

Former Cumhuriyet columnists and employees Güray Öz, Önder Çelik, Musa Kart, Hakan Kara, Mustafa Kemal Güngör and Emre İper, who were sentenced to less than five years in prison in Cumhuriyet trial, had to return to prison on 25 April 2019 to serve the remainder of their sentences after their convictions were upheld by an appellate court in February 2019. They remain in prison even though the Chief Public Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals said all except one of the six former Cumhuriyet employees should be acquitted.

Mümtazer Türköne refuses to have heart surgery

Mümtazer Türköne, a former columnist of the shuttered Zaman newspaper, was sent back to prison without an open-heart surgery doctors said was necessary because he refused to undergo the operation due to his concerns over post-surgery care in prison.

Türköne was hospitalized due to blockage in two of his arteries. Doctors recommended open-heart surgery to clear the blockage but Türköne’s family said he refused as he was not going to get the required care after the operation in prison. Instead, he had an angioplasty during which doctors placed a stent in one of the clogged arteries and was sent back to prison. His daughter, Sıla Türköne, said his 63-year-old father’s health is at risk every day he does not have the surgery and called for his release so that he could have the open-heart surgery and the necessary care.

Journalist İdris Yılmaz’s trial adjourned

A court in the eastern province of Van ruled to keep imprisoned journalist İdris Yılmaz in pre-trial detention at the end of a hearing on 8 August 2019. The hearing was the first one after two separate cases where he is charged with “membership of a terrorist organization” were merged.

Yılmaz was previously sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison but his sentence was overturned by an appellate court, which ordered re-trial. This case was then merged with another ongoing one in which Yılmaz is again charged with “membership of a terrorist organization.” Yılmaz attended the court hearing via court video-conferencing system SEGBİS from Elazığ Prison, where he is held.

His lawyer said although Yılmaz was accused of membership of the PKK, the purported evidence included in the case file appear to point to “FETÖ membership,” adding, “This shows that the judges who oversee the trial ruled for Yılmaz’s continued detention without even reading the case file,” said the lawyer.

The court ruled for Yılmaz’s continued pre-trial detention at the end of the hearing and adjourned the trial until 27 September.

German national arrested for social media posts

The German government has confirmed that a German national was arrested upon his arrival in Turkey for holiday over his social media posts.

German Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Adebahr said the German government was unable to contact the Turkish authorities about the fate the German national, identified as Osman B.

The German media reported that the 36-year-old Osman B. faced the charge of “terrorism propaganda” over some of his Facebook posts from a few years ago. He was arrested at Antalya Airport as he arrived there for vacation with his family. He reportedly admitted at a court hearing to sharing posts on Facebook several years ago, which he now regrets. He reportedly denied running a second Facebook profile, on which pictures of Abdullah Öcalan, the founder of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), were also posted.

PİRHA reporter arrested in Ankara

Cebrail Arslan, a reporter for the Pir News Agency (PİRHA) was arrested on 8 August 2019 along with five other people during a raid on his home in Ankara.

Arslan and the five other people were released one day after giving their statement. News reports said the six people were questioned in relation to their involvement in protests, called “White Flag,” against the military operations and curfews in civilian areas of the Southeast in 2016,

138 journalists and media workers in prison

As of 9 August 2019, at least 138 journalists and media workers are imprisoned in Turkey, either in pre-trial detention or serving a sentence.

The full list can be accessed here.