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 - 211

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 211

At least 121 taken into custody over social media posts about Turkey’s military operation in Syria; trial court rules to abide by Supreme Court ruling in Altans case; Supreme Court upholds jailed journalist Nedim Türfent’s conviction


Özgür Gündem publisher Kemal Sancılı released from prison 

Kemal Sancılı, the former publisher of the shuttered daily Özgür Gündem, was released from the Edirne F Type Prison late on 11 October 2019 after completing a 3-year sentence he was given in a previous case.

The court overseeing the ongoing Özgür Gündem trial had ruled on 10 April to release Sancılı pending trial but he remained behind bars due to a previous conviction from a case against Demokratik Ulus -- a pro-Kurdish weekly that used to be published by the company that also published Özgür Gündem.

Gazete Karınca former publisher Necla Demir acquitted

Necla Demir, the former publisher of news portal Gazete Karınca, was acquitted of “systematically disseminating terrorism propaganda” on 11 October 2019. The case was overseen by the 33rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul. P24 monitored the third hearing. The accusation against Demir stemmed from Gazete Karınca’s coverage of Turkey’s military operation in 2018 on the Syrian city of Afrin.

“Legal procedure” launched against social media posts about Turkey’s operation on northern Syria

The General Directorate of Security announced on 9 October 2019 that it launched legal procedure against 78 individuals who posted critical comments on social media about Turkey’s latest military operation on northern Syria.

A day later, Chief Public Prosecutor’s Offices of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir announced that criminal investigations on the allegations of “terrorism propaganda,” “denigrating the government of the Turkish Republic” and “praising crime and criminals” were launched against a number of social media users and news outlets posting critical commentary about the operation on social media.

On 11 October 2019, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said that legal procedures were launched against a total of 500 individuals who posted critical comments about the operation and 121 among them were taken into custody.

Two others were jailed pending trial over the weekend in Kocaeli after being taken into custody in Darıca and Gebze on allegations of “incitement to hatred and animosity through terrorism propaganda” on account of their social media posts about the operation.

Trial of Meşale Tolu and 26 others adjourned until February

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 11 October 2019 at the 29th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

P24 monitored the 10th hearing, where two 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 who goes by the alias Deniz Gürhan testified via the judicial videoconferencing system SEGBİS during the hearing. In its interim ruling, the court ruled to keep the judicial control measures imposed on the defendants in place. The court ruled to hand over the case file to the prosecution for the drafting of their final opinion and adjourned the trial until 25 February 2020.

JinNews reporter Beritan Canözer’s apartment raided by police

JinNews reporter Beritan Canözer’s house was raided by police during evening hours on 10 October 2019. Police searched Canözer’s house during the raid and confiscated several magazines and newspapers they found in the apartment. They informed Canözer’s sibling, who was alone in the apartment when the police came, that the journalist had to go to the Diyarbakır Police Department to give her statement in connection with her social media posts.

BirGün and Diken editors briefly detained

Hakan Demir, the editor of the online edition of BirGün daily, was taken into custody during an early morning police raid on his Istanbul apartment on 10 October 2019. The grounds for Demir’s arrest was “the way in which a news item posted on the newspaper’s online edition was shared on Twitter.” Demir was referred to the courthouse later in the day. The 13th Criminal Judgeship of Peace ruled to release the journalist under an international travel ban.

Another journalist, the responsible managing editor of the news portal Diken, Fatih Gökhan Diler, was also arrested the same day at Diken’s offices in Istanbul. Diler too was released under a travel ban by the criminal judgeship of peace he was referred to. Diler was detained as part of an investigation on the allegation of “incitement to hatred and animosity” on account of a news story posted on Diken that featured a statement by the speaker of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Alican Uludağ and Duygu Güvenç’s trial on TCK 301 charge adjourned 

The fourth hearing of a trial where journalists Alican Uludağ and Duygu Güvenç stand accused of “publicly degrading the judiciary” under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) took place on 10 October 2019 at the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul.

Uludağ and Güvenç are accused on account of their reporting for Cumhuriyet newspaper about the developments surrounding US pastor Andrew Brunson, who remained in detention in Turkey for two years before being released in October 2018.

P24 monitored the hearing, where Duygu Güvenç and her lawyer Abbas Yalçın were in attendance. Güvenç presented her defense statement during the hearing and denied the accusation.

Güvenç’s lawyer told the court that his client faced another criminal case over the same news coverage, overseen by the 2nd High Criminal Court of Izmir, and asked the court to request the case file from the Izmir court. The lawyer also requested a continuance for Güvenç’s defense statement. Accepting Yalçın’s requests, the court adjourned the trial until 9 January 2020. 

Trial of Özgür Gündem editors and politician Hatip Dicle adjourned until February

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 shuttered newspaper, resumed on 10 October 2019 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 TCK Article 301.

This was the 14th hearing in the case. In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant against Hatip Dicle and adjourned the trial until 6 February 2020.

“Büyükada trial” adjourned until November awaiting prosecutor’s final opinion

The “Büyükada trial,” where 11 human rights defenders, including Taner Kılıç, the honorary chairman of Amnesty Turkey, face terrorism-related charges, resumed on 9 October 2019 at the 35th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

The 10 rights defenders were arrested during a meeting in Büyükada in July 2017. Kılıç was arrested a month before the Büyükada meeting participants as part of a separate investigation. Their files were later merged. The indictment seeks up to 15 years in prison for Kılıç on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” and up to 10 years for the rest of the defendants on the charge of “aiding a terrorist organization.” Kılıç spent more than a year in pre-trial detention as part of the case before being released pending trial in August 2018.

P24 monitored the latest hearing, where defendants Taner Kılıç, İlknur Üstün, Nalan Erkem and Günal Kurşun were in attendance as well as defense lawyers.

Citing the large volume of contents of the case file, the prosecutor requested additional time for the preparation of the final opinion. Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court agreed to grant the prosecution additional time and adjourned the trial until 27 November 2019.

Supreme Court of Appeals upholds journalist Nedim Türfent’s conviction 

The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction against journalist Nedim Türfent, who has been in prison for more than three years.

Türfent, a former reporter for the shuttered Dicle news agency (DİHA), was jailed pending trial on 13 May 2016. At the end of the final hearing of his trial on 15 December 2017, the 2nd High Criminal Court of Hakkari convicted Türfent of “terrorist group membership” and sentenced the journalist to 8 years and 9 months in prison.

Court issues judgment in Ziya Ataman case

The 2nd High Criminal Court of Şırnak, which sentenced jailed journalist Ziya Ataman to 14 years and 3 months in prison on the charge of “terrorist group membership” in September, has issued its judgment.

The judgment showed that the court had taken into consideration in its verdict the testimony by Kadir Ataman that was based on hearsay. Kadir Ataman was one of Ziya Ataman’s co-defendants in the case. The court also cited the hunger strike Ziya Ataman participated in among the grounds for conviction.

Trial court abides by Supreme Court ruling in Altans case

The retrial of the “coup” case against six defendants including jailed journalist and novelist Ahmet Altan, his brother, professor of economics and journalist Mehmet Altan and jailed journalist Nazlı Ilıcak got under way on 8 October 2019 at the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

This was the first hearing after the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the aggravated life sentences given to six defendants in the case.

The court heard statements from the prosecutor and the defendants and their lawyers in response to the Supreme Court decision. The prosecutor asked the court to comply with the decision but also to keep all five imprisoned defendants in the case behind bars pending trial.

At the end of the hearing, the court decided to abide by the Supreme Court of Appeals ruling and to keep the five imprisoned defendants in pre-trial detention. The court also ruled to lift the international travel ban on Mehmet Altan and adjourned the trial 4 November 2019.

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

Osman Kavala remains behind bars as Gezi Park trial resumes

The “Gezi Park trial,” where 16 rights defenders, activists and civil society members, including jailed businessperson Osman Kavala, face aggravated life imprisonment on the charge of “attempting to overthrow the government,” resumed on 8 October 2019 at the 30th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

P24 monitored the third hearing, which took place in a courtroom near the Silivri Prison complex. The court interrogated nine defendants during the daylong hearing. The court also heard statements by defense lawyers, who asked the court to acquit their clients.

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ordered the continuation of Kavala’s pre-trial detention and set 24 and 25 December 2019 as the dates for the next hearing, during which three witnesses of the prosecution will be heard.

Aret Demirci handed down jail term on “insult” charge

Aret Demirci, an employee of the German Friedrich Naumann Foundation, was handed down a prison sentence of 11 months and 20 days on 8 October 2019 at the final hearing of his trial on the charge of “insulting the president.”

P24 monitored the hearing. Demirci was on trial because of a social media post he shared in 2018. The Istanbul 59th Criminal Court of First Instance deferred Demirci’s sentence.

Journalist Berzan Güneş’s trial adjourned until November

The 17th hearing in the trial of journalist Berzan Güneş on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group” took place on 8 October 2019 at Istanbul’s Anadolu 2nd High Criminal Court.

The prosecution submitted their final opinion of the case during the hearing, asking the court to convict Güneş of “membership in a terrorist group” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group.”

Granting Güneş and his lawyers additional time to prepare their defense statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion, the court adjourned the trial until 5 November 2019.

More than 350 Academics for Peace acquitted so far

A total of 351 academics who have been standing trial on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” for signing 2016’s Academics for Peace petition have been acquitted as of 8 October 2019. 

The acquittals follow on the heels of a Constitutional Court ruling in July, which held that the trials of academics who signed the petition violated their rights to freedom of expression.

List of journalists and media workers in prison

As of 11 October 2019, at least 126 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.