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 – 227

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey – 227

27 Boğaziçi University students sentenced for staging anti-war protest; Jin News reporter Melike Aydın released; 50 social media users face investigation over tweets about quake in Elazığ


27 sentenced, 3 acquitted in trial of Boğaziçi students

The final hearing in the trial of 30 students from Boğaziçi University, who were facing the charge of “disseminating terrorism propaganda” for staging an anti-war protest on campus, took place on 31 January 2020 at the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

Issuing their verdict after hearing the students’ final defense statements, the court sentenced 20 students to 10 months in prison, seven students to a judicial fine of TL 6,000 and acquitted three students.

A report about the hearing can be accessed here.

Indictment against Eser and Topaloğlu drafted

An indictment has been issued against Mezopotamya News Agency reporters Sadiye Eser and Sadık Topaloğlu, who were both jailed pending trial on 3 December 2019.

Topaloğlu’s arrest in 2011 during an operation targeting Kurdish media outlets and his notes and news reports found in a raid of his home were listed as evidence against him in the indictment. Eser faces charges over the demonstrations she attended as a journalist and her arrest following a 2012 operation, for which the prosecution is ongoing.

The first hearing in Eser and Topaloğlu’s trial on the charge of “membership of a terrorist group” will be held on 26 March 2020.

Jin News reporter Melike Aydın released

Jin News reporter Melike Aydın was released from İzmir Aliağa Şakran Closed Women’s Prison on 30 January 2020. Aydın had been in prison since 16 November 2019, when she was arrested in relation to an investigation conducted by the Izmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Aydın’s lawyer Şükran Öztürk filed for Aydın’s release pending trial on 29 January. The 2nd High Criminal Court of Izmir, which will be overseeing Aydın’s trial, ordered the journalist’s release pending trial.

Pelin Ünker and Orhan Erinç’s trial adjourned

The fourth hearing in a compensation case against journalist Pelin Ünker and the former Executive Board Chairman of the Cumhuriyet Foundation Orhan Erinç over two news reports published in Cumhuriyet daily about the Paradise Papers leaks, took place at Istanbul’s 21st Civil Court of First Instance on 30 January 2020.

Çalık Holding is seeking TL 10,000 in compensation in the lawsuit.

P24 monitored the hearing. Neither Erinç nor Ünker were in attendance in the courtroom. Ünker’s lawyer Abbas Yalçın and Çalık Holding’s lawyer Gözde Güzin Erol were present.

Announcing the information added to the file since the last hearing, judge Türkan Gürpınar informed that the request for the socio-economic status of the two parties to be examined had been rejected. The judge said the court had also received the file of Ünker’s trial on the charge of “insulting a public official” over the same articles. That case had been dismissed by the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 28 March 2019.

Çalık Holding’s lawyer said they appealed the dismissal verdict. Erol also argued the case did not fall within the scope of press freedom. Ünker and Erinç’s lawyer Yalçın asked the court to wait for the outcome of the appeal.

Ruling to write a memo to Istanbul’s 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance to inquire about whether their verdict has become final, the court adjourned the trial until 28 April 2020.

Journalist Aziz Oruç’s trial adjourned until March

The ninth hearing in the trial of journalist Aziz Oruç, who was jailed pending trial after being returned to Turkey by Iran, was held on 29 January 2020 at the 9th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır. Oruç is charged with “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group over social media.”

Delivering his defense statement via the video-conferencing system SEGBIS from prison, Oruç said his Twitter posts were just news and he requested to be acquitted.

Oruç’s lawyer Ferhat Kılınç also said that based on the amendment introduced with the judicial reform package, newsworthy content can no longer be considered “propaganda.” Noting that the elements of the alleged offense were not present, Kılınç requested his client’s acquittal.

Presenting their final opinion, the prosecutor asked the court to convict Oruç as charged. Granting Oruç and his lawyer time to prepare their defense statements in response to the prosecution’s final opinion, the court adjourned the trial until 2 March 2020.

Kavala remains behind bars once again despite ECtHR judgment

The Gezi Park trial, in which jailed businessperson Osman Kavala and 15 other civil society figures face aggravated life imprisonment on the charge of “attempting to overthrow the government,” resumed on 28 January 2020 at the 30th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

The lawyers requested the recusal of the panel, for hearing witness Murat Papuç’s testimony in the absence of the defense. They also asserted that the granting of intervning party status as a plaintiff to Mevlüt Saldoğan, the police officer who was convicted in the case into the murder of Ali İsmail Korkmaz during the Gezi Park protests, was unacceptable. After the court rejected the requests for recusal, defense lawyers exited the courtroom in protest of the judges.

At the end of the hearing, which proceeded without the presence of the lawyers, the court ruled to send the case file to the prosecution for the preparation of the final opinion. Citing “readily available evidence, strong suspicion of crime and detention being a proportionate measure” among reasons, and saying the European Court of Human Rights judgment was “still not finalized,” the court ruled for the continuation of Kavala’s detention on remand. The next hearing will take place on 18 February.

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

Prosecution asks court to convict Beritan Canözer of “propaganda”

Journalist Beritan Canözer appeared before the 11th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır on 27 January 2020 for the second hearing of her trial for allegedly “making terrorist group propaganda.”

Canözer and her lawyer Resul Tamur were in attendance in the courtroom. Rejecting the accusation, Canözer said the social media posts she is accused for were not hers. Canözer said she wasn’t questioned in relation to the claims against her at the police station, but was only shown photos that she had taken. Canözer also explained that her social media accounts were deactivated at the time of the investigation.

Presenting their final opinion, the prosecutor requested the court to sentence Canözer for “disseminating terrorist group propaganda.” 

Granting Canözer and her lawyer additional time to prepare her final defense statement, the court set 25 March 2020 as the date for the next hearing.

50 social media users face investigation over tweets about Elazığ quake

An investigation has been launched against 50 social media users who posted about the earthquake that took place in Elazığ on 25 January. Actors Berna Laçin and Seçket Çoruh are among those facing investigation, news reports said.

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office said the investigation would be based on the charges of “causing fear and panic among the public” and “insulting the Turkish nation, the state of the Turkish Republic, the Parliament, the government and the judicial bodies of the state.”

Press cards of 894 journalists “still under review”

The Presidency’s Communications Director Fahrettin Altun has issued a written statement about the cancellation of the state-issued press cards, announcing that 894 of the applications were currently under review.

Evrensel daily had reported in late January that the press cards of dozens of journalists had been canceled without explanation. Following public backlash, the press cards were reactivated over that weekend.

Altun’s statement, issued on 27 January, read: “The number of press card applications still under review is 894. In this process it must first be determined whether applicants are professionally engaged in journalistic activity, whether he/she is affiliated with a terrorist organization and whether he/she has been engaged in any action or conduct that tarnishes the integrity of the profession. The cancellation of press cards currently under review is out of question.”

List of journalists and media workers in prison 

As of 31 January 2020, at least 96 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.