Trial court refuses to abide by Supreme Court ruling in retrial of Cumhuriyet case; Fikret Başkaya acquitted in “propaganda” trial; journalist Ahmet Takan assaulted; pro-gov’t businessman files TL 1M lawsuit against Cumhuriyet
Fikret Başkaya acquitted of “propaganda”
Writer and academic Fikret Başkaya’s trial on the charge of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” over an article he wrote in November 2016 resumed on 22 november 2019 at the 21st High Criminal Court of Ankara.
P24 monitored the third hearing, where Başkaya and his lawyers were present in the courtroom for Başkaya’s final defense statement.
After hearing Başkaya’s defense statement, the court announced its verdict, acquitting Başkaya of the “propaganda” charge. The court also ruled that Başkaya can seek compensation for his detention in November 2017 as part of the investigation for the case.
Court refuses to abide by Supreme Court ruling in Cumhuriyet retrial
The retrial of the Cumhuriyet case took place on 21 November 2019 at the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. Thirteen former columnists and executives of Cumhuriyet daily appeared before court for their retrial, ordered by the Supreme Court of Appeals, which ruled in September that Akın Atalay, Orhan Erinç, Murat Sabuncu, Aydın Engin and Hikmet Çetinkaya should be acquitted and that Ahmet Şık should be charged with “terrorism propaganda” and “denigrating the bodies and organs of the state of the Turkish Republic” instead of the original charge of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.” The high court had also ruled for a stay of execution concerning the defendants who were sentenced to prison terms less than five years: Musa Kart, Güray Öz, Bülent Utku, Mustafa Kemal Güngör, Kadri Gürsel, Hakan Kara and Önder Çelik.
Announcing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled partially in line with the prosecutor’s opinion. The court acquitted Kadri Gürsel but ruled against the Supreme Court of Appeals judgment concerning the rest of the defendants: Akın Atalay, Ahmet Şık, Aydın Engin, Bülent Utku, Güray Öz, Hakan Kara, Musa Kart, Hikmet Çetinkaya, Murat Sabuncu, Orhan Erinç, Mustafa Kemal Güngör and Önder Çelik.
A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Court rules for stay of proceedings in Ahmet Altan’s trial over 2009 article
Jailed novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan’s trial on the charge of “violating the confidentiality of an investigation” over a news story and an article published in 2009 in the now-defunct Taraf daily got under way on 21 November 2019 at Istanbul’s Anadolu 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.
Altan, who was re-arrested on 12 November 2019 and sent to Silivri Prison only eight days after being released from pre-trial detention, was not present in the courtroom. He was represented by his lawyer Melike Polat at the hearing.
Polat asked the court to dismiss the case citing the ongoing appeal process against a previous verdict rendered by the Istanbul 32nd Criminal Court of First Instance, which sentenced Altan for “insulting the president.” Altan’s lawyers appealed that verdict in accordance with the amendments introduced with the Judicial Reform Package.
The court issued an interim decision, ruling for a stay of proceedings until the ongoing appeal process against the previous verdict against Altan is finalized.
Şebnem Korur Fincancı’s trial on “insult” charge adjourned
Human rights defender Şebnem Korur Fincancı’s trial on the charge of “insulting a public official” over a Twitter post she shared in 2013 about the nationwide Gezi Park protests resumed on 21 November 2019 at Istanbul’s Anadolu 42nd Criminal Court of First Instance.
This was the third hearing of the trial. Fincancı and her lawyer Meriç Eyüboğlu were present in the courtroom as well as the lawyer representing the plaintiff Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was then Turkey’s prime minister.
Fincancı told the court that her social media post was not meant to insult public officials but to expose torture.” Rejecting the accusation, Fincancı requested to be acquitted. In its interim decision at the end of the hearing, the court adjourned the trial until 17 March 2020, granting additional time to the lawyers for their final statements.
Özgür Gündem trial adjourned until February
The trial of former Özgür Gündem editors and journalists Hüseyin Aykol, Reyhan Çapan and Hasan Başak on the charges of “praising crime or a criminal” and “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” resumed on 21 November 2019 at the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
None of the defendants were in attendance. They were represented by their lawyer Özcan Kılıç. The prosecution said they reiterated the final opinion they submitted during the previous hearing and asked the court to sentence Aykol.
Kılıç asked the court for a continuance for the preparation of the final defense statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion. The court ruled to notify the defendants of the prosecutor’s final opinion and adjourned the trial until 20 February 2020, giving the defendants additional time for their statements.
Özgür Halk magazine responsible editor handed down prison sentence
The final hearing in the trial of Özgür Halk magazine responsible managing editor Mahmut Gülecan and staff member Mevlüt Gür on the charges of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group,” “praising crime or a criminal” and “criminal incitement” took place on 21 November 2019 at the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
Both Gür and Gülecan, who are in detention on remand as part of other cases, addressed the court from prison via the judicial video-conferencing network SEGBİS. Announcing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court acquitted Gür of all charges while sentencing Gülecan to 3 years and 9 months in prison.
Gazete Yolculuk reporter freed after 2-day detention
Buse Söğütlü, a reporter for Gazete Yolculuk news portal, was taken into custody in Istanbul on the night of 19 November 2019 on the grounds that she had an incomplete statement to deliver to a prosecutor as part of an investigation against her on the allegation of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group.”
The investigation was launched over a post Söğütlü made on social media about Judge Akın Gürlek. Reportedly, Söğütlü had already gone twice to the courthouse to give her statement but she could not reach the prosecutor. Söğütlü was released from detention on 21 November 2019.
Police raid house of former radio program director
Police teams in Adana raided the house of Medine Gümüş, the former director of programming of the shuttered radio station Radyo Dünya, on 21 November 2019. The raid was based on an arrest warrant for Gümüş on the allegation of “terrorism propaganda.” Gümüş was abroad during the time of the raid so she was not arrested.
Journalist Ahmet Takan assaulted
Ahmet Takan, a columnist for Korkusuz newspaper, was attacked by an assailant with a baseball bat in front of his Ankara home on the night of 20 November 2019. Takan was later taken to a hospital where he received a disability report and filed a complaint against the unidentified assailant.
Murat Güreş’s trial adjourned until February
The trial of journalist Murat Güreş on the charge of “violating the confidentiality of an investigation” resumed on 19 November 2019 at the Gaziantep 9th Criminal Court of First Instance. Lawyers, who had submitted letters of excuse, were not present at the hearing. The court adjourned the trial until 20 February 2020.
Güreş and his co-defendant Furkan Gökşen, the chief editor of the local online gazette Detail Haber, were jailed pending trial on 2 August 2017 for reporting on the contents of a statement an influential local businessperson gave to a prosecutor. After spending 13 days in detention on remand as part of the case, Güreş and Gökşen were freed under judicial control measures on 15 August 2017.
Prosecutor seeks sentence for academic Tuna Altınel
Tuna Altınel, an assistant professor at University Claude Bernard Lyon 1, and a signatory of the Academics for Peace petition, appeared before the 2nd High Criminal Court of Balıkesir on 19 November 2019 for the second hearing of his trial on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.”
Presenting their final opinion of the case during the hearing, the prosecution asked the court to sentence Altınel for “propaganda,” citing his posts on social media about an invitation for a conference, which is held as evidence against the academic.
In his defense statement, Altınel said: “The text you just read is an invitation to the event of the association. What you’ve just read is not the propaganda of a terrorist organization. It is a sequence of truth.” Altınel requested to be acquitted and for his passport to be returned.
In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court adjourned the trial until 24 January 2019, granting Altınel time to prepare his final defense statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion.
Altınel spent 81 days in pre-trial detention as part of the case before being released at the end of his first hearing on 30 July 2019.
Businessman files TL 1 mln lawsuit against Cumhuriyet newspaper
Pro-government businessman Mehmet Cengiz, the chairman of Cengiz Holding, has filed a lawsuit against the Cumhuriyet newspaper, seeking TL 1 million in non-pecuniary damages over a news report published on 6 October 2019.
Alev Coşkun, the newspaper’s publisher and chair of the board of Cumhuriyet Foundation, and reporter Hazal Ocak will be appearing before the 14th Anadolu Civil Court of First Instance on 8 January 2020 for the first hearing of the lawsuit.
List of journalists and media workers in prison updated
As of 25 November 2019, at least 119 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.