Food safety expert Bülent Şık given 15-month prison sentence; prosecutor in “Taraf MGK headline trial” asks court to rule for non-jurisdiction; journalist Ziya Ataman sentenced to 14 years on “terrorist group membership” charge
Mehmet Y. Yılmaz to stand trial on “insulting public official” charge
T24 columnist Mehmet Y. Yılmaz will stand trial on the charge of “insulting a state official” over four of his articles in which he inquired about the rise in former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and his sons’ wealth.
The indictment, drafted upon a complaint by Yıldırım, was recently accepted by Istanbul’s Anadolu 37th Criminal Court of First Instance. Yılmaz faces up to 4 years and 1 month in prison over his four articles, claimed by the prosecutor to constitute the offense of “insulting a state official via the press.” Access to one of the articles for which Yılmaz is accused was banned by the Istanbul Anadolu 4th Criminal Judgeship of Peace.
The first hearing of Yılmaz’s trial is scheduled for 14 January 2020.
Academic Bülent Şık given 15-month prison sentence
The third hearing in the trial of food safety expert Bülent Şık on charges of “disclosing restricted information,” “procuring restricted information” and “disclosing confidential information obtained by virtue of duty” was held on 26 September 2019 at Istanbul’s 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.
Şık was accused over an April 2018 article series in which he wrote about the findings of a Health Ministry-led research about carcinogenic toxins found in agricultural products in Turkey -- a study in which he was actively involved until his dismissal from Akdeniz University’s Food Safety and Agricultural Research Center through an emergency decree (KHK) for signing 2016’s Academics for Peace petition.
Issuing its verdict at the end of the third hearing, the court acquitted Şık of “disclosing restricted information” and “procuring restricted information” but convicted him of “disclosing confidential information obtained by virtue of duty” and sentenced him to 1 year and 3 months in prison. The court did not defer the sentence.
Evrensel daily faces TL 200,000 compensation case
Serhat Albayrak, the vice chairman of Çalık Holding and Turkuvaz Media Group, has filed a compensation case against Evrensel daily, seeking TL 200,000 in damages over an article by columnist Ceren Sözeri, published on 7 April 2019.
The article was titled “AKP’ye kim oy kaybettirdi?” (“Who is responsible for the slide in AKP’s vote?”). The trial will get under way on 4 March 2020 at the Istanbul Commercial Court of First Instance.
Journalist Kenan Kırkaya to stand trial over social media posts
Journalist Kenan Kırkaya will stand trial on the charge of “successively disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” over his social media posts from four years ago. The first hearing of his trial, to be overseen by the Ankara 32nd High Criminal Court, is set for 5 December 2019.
The indictment, dated 31 July 2019, accuses Kırkaya over the news stories he shared via his social media account and his posts from between 2014 and 2015.
Prosecutor asks court to rule for non-jurisdiction in “Taraf MGK report” trial
The trial of Mehmet Baransu, the former reporter of shuttered Taraf newspaper and the paper’s former responsible managing editor,.Murat Şevki Çoban, resumed on 24 September 2019 at Istanbul’s Anadolu 10th High Criminal Court.
Baransu and Çoban stand accused of “acquiring documents related to the security of the state,” “exposing documents related to the security of the state” and “exposing documents of the National Intelligence Agency (MİT)” over a news report published in November 2013, titled “Gülen’i bitirme kararı 2004’te MGK’da alındı” (Decision to finish off Gülen was taken by MGK in 2004). Both face possible prison terms of 25 to 52 years.
This was the 20th hearing in the trial. P24 monitored the hearing, where neither Baransu nor Çoban were in attendance. They were both represented by their lawyers. The hearing began two hours later than scheduled.
The prosecutor, who was expected to submit his final opinion of the case during this hearing, instead requested the court to issue a decision of non-jurisdiction and send the case file to the Anadolu 2nd High Criminal Court on the grounds that the alleged offense was “committed through the press.”
Accepting the lawyers’ request for a continuance to prepare their statements in response to the prosecutor’s opinion, the court adjourned the trial until 24 October 2019.
“RedHack trial” against 6 journalists adjourned until February
The “RedHack trial,” where six journalists stand accused of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization,” “hindrance or destruction of a data processing system,” “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” and “terrorist group membership” for their coverage of the emails of Minister Berat Albayrak leaked by RedHack, resumed on 24 September 2019 at an Istanbul court.
This was the eighth hearing of journalists Derya Okatan, Tunca Öğreten, Mahir Kanaat, Eray Sargın, Metin Yoksu and Ömer Çelik.
The presiding judge announced the arrival of the long-awaited expert report confirming that all the devices confiscated from the defendants had been fully examined.
The court adjourned the trial until 6 February 2020 to allow time for the examination of the digital forensic report.
A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Journalist Kibriye Evren remains behind bars at 7th hearing
The seventh hearing in the trial of jailed journalist Kibriye Evren on the charges of “membership in a terrorist group” and “terrorism propaganda” took place on 24 September 2019 at the 5th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır.
Issuing an interim decision at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to once again inquire of the Şanlıurfa Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office about a 2016 investigation file against Evren on the allegation of “terrorist group membership” and also inquire of the Mersin Chief Public Prosecutor's Office about another investigation against Evren from 2018. Ordering the continuation of Evren’s detention on remand, the court adjourned the trial until 12 November 2019.
A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
14 rights defenders on trial for supporting academics acquitted
Fourteen out of 17 rights defenders who were on trial on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” have been acquitted by the respective criminal courts overseeing their trials.
In 2016, 17 rights defenders had turned themselves in to the authorities in support of the academics who were being prosecuted for signing 2016’s Academics for Peace petition. The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office had issued separate indictments against all 17.
The courts rendered the acquittal verdicts without holding courtroom hearings. The acquittals follow on the heels of the Constitutional Court’s ruling in July, which held that the trials of academics who signed the 2016 petition were in violation of their right to freedom of expression.
Journalist Hayri Demir appears in court on terrorism-related charges
Journalist Hayri Demir appeared before a criminal court in Ankara on 24 September 2019 for the first hearing of his trial on the charges of “terrorism propaganda” and “membership in a terrorist group.”
News footage found in memory cards that were stolen from Demir’s house in 2017 are held as evidence against Demir in the case, overseen by the 15th High Criminal Court of Ankara. Demir faces up to 22.5 years in prison if convicted.
Demir told the court during the hearing that he could not prepare his defense statement because he did not receive notification of the indictment against him prior to the court date. The court granted Demir additional time to prepare his defense statement and adjourned the trial until 23 October 2019.
Jailed journalist Ziya Ataman sentenced to 14 years in prison
Jailed journalist Ziya Ataman was convicted of “membership in a terrorist organization” at the final hearing of his trial on 24 September 2019 by the Şırnak 1st High Criminal Court.
The court sentenced Ataman to 14 years and 3 months in prison and ruled to keep the journalist, who has been jailed for more than 3 years, behind bars pending the appeal process.
This was the 12th hearing in the trial. Ataman, a former intern reporter for the shuttered Dicle news agency (DİHA), has been in detention on remand at the Van Maximum Security Prison since 11 April 2016.
Journalist Filiz Zeyrek acquitted
Journalist Filiz Zeyrek and her 19 co-defendants were acquitted of terrorism-related charges against them at the final hearing of their trial on 24 September 2019 at the 13th High Criminal Court of Adana.
The prosecution asked the court to acquit all defendants on the grounds that the elements of the alleged offense were not present. Announcing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court panel acquitted all 20 defendants of the charges against them.
Zeyrek, a former reporter for the shuttered Jin News Agency (JINHA), was charged with “terrorist organization membership” and “disseminating terrorist propaganda.” She was on trial for reporting about the funeral of YPG militant Şemdin Eye. Eye’s relatives were among Zeyrek’s 19 co-defendants.
List of journalists and media workers in prison
As of 27 September 2019, at least 129 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.