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 – 230

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey – 230

Osman Kavala re-arrested a day after being acquitted in Gezi Park trial; journalist Şirin Kabakcı handed down 6-year sentence; T24 Editor-in-Chief Doğan Akın stands trial on “aiding a terrorist group” charge


Trial of former Özgür Gündem editors, writers adjourned until May

The 14th hearing in a trial where former Özgür Gündem editors and journalists Hüseyin Aykol, Reyhan Çapan and Hasan Başak are among defendants charged with “praising crime and criminal” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” took place on 20 February 2020 at the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

P24 monitored the hearing, where defendant Methi Kaya addressed the court via the judicial video-conferencing network SEGBİS. Aykol and Çapan’s lawyer Özcan Kılıç was in attendance in the courtroom. In his defense in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion, Kaya rejected the accusations and asked to be acquitted.

Lawyer Kılıç also addressed the court, saying that charges in the Anti-Terror Law are being used as tools to silence journalists and that the prosecutor’s final opinion failed to establish a link between the alleged crime and the defendants. Kılıç added that his clients could not be held responsible for articles written by other authors.

The court ruled to issue arrest warrants for defendants Kemal Yakup and Hasan Başak for their defense statements to be taken and adjourned the trial until 14 May.

ÖGİ Spokesperson Hakkı Boltan released 

Hakkı Boltan, the spokesperson of the Free Journalists Initiative (ÖGİ), was taken into custody on 19 February 2020 during police raids in Diyarbakır. Boltan and Human Rights Association (İHD) Diyarbakır branch executive Adnan Örhan were among seven people taken into custody on allegations of “terrorism propaganda” and “acting on behalf of a terrorist group.” Boltan and six others were released by a court on 20 February under judicial control measures and international travel bans.

Journalist Şirin Kabakcı handed down 6-year sentence

The ninth and final hearing in the trial of former Zaman journalist Şirin Kabakcı took place on 20 February 2020 at the 35th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

The court acquitted Kabakcı of “violating the confidentiality of an investigation” but sentenced him to 6 years and 3 months in prison on the charge of “membership of a terrorist group.” The court ruled to separate the “libel” charge against Kabakcı. 

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

Gaziantep-based journalist Murat Güreş, others acquitted

Gaziantep-based journalist Murat Güreş and two other local journalists, Furkan Gökşen and Metin Aybey, were acquitted by a criminal court on 20 February 2020 in a trial where the accusations stemmed from a news report about the statement an influential local businessperson had given to a prosecutor.

The 9th Criminal Court of First Instance of Gaziantep acquitted all defendants in the case of “breaching the confidentiality of an investigation” charge.

Final hearing in Büyükada trial adjourned until April 

The trial of 11 human rights defenders accused of “aiding an armed terrorist organization” and “membership of a terrorist organization” for attending a meeting in Istanbul’s Büyükada concerning the safety of rights defenders resumed on 19 February 2020 at the 35th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

This was the 11th hearing in the trial, where Amnesty Turkey’s Taner Kılıç is accused of “membership of a terrorist organization” and 10 other HRDs are charged with “aiding a terörist organization without being its member.”

Defendants Nejat Taştan, Taner Kılıç, Veli Acu, Günal Kurşun and İlknur Üstün were in attendance at the 11th hearing, at the end of which the court was expected to issue its verdict. However, after hearing the final arguments of five defendants and some of the defense lawyers, the panel ruled to adjourn the trial until 3 April, citing lengthy defense statements.

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

T24’s Doğan Akın stands trial on “aiding a terrorist group” charge

Doğan Akın, a founding member of P24 and the editor-in-chief of the news portal T24, appeared before a criminal court in Istanbul on 19 February 2020 for the first hearing of his trial on the charge of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” over T24’s coverage of 108 posts shared by an anonymous Twitter account that went by the name “Fuat Avni.”

Ruling to send the case file to the prosecutor for the preparation of the final opinion, the court postponed the trial until 17 April 2020.

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

BirGün’s İbrahim Varlı acquitted by regional court

A judicial fine given to BirGün daily’s news coordinator İbrahim Varlı for “insulting a public official” over a series of news reports about the Panama Papers, has been reversed by a regional court of appeals. The case had been launched over a complaint by Minister Berat Albayrak.

The 23rd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice ruled unanimously on 11 December 2019 for Varlı’s acquittal. Albayrak’s lawyers appealed the acquittal at the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Osman Kavala rearrested after being acquitted in Gezi Park trial

Businessman Osman Kavala was acquitted in the Gezi Park trial on 18 February 2020, only to be re-arrested and sent back to prison the next day on new charges as part of a separate investigation into the coup attempt of 15 July 2016.

The news of the new arrest warrant came as a crowd of supporters had gathered outside the Silivri Prison, waiting for Kavala’s release after more than two years in pre-trial detention following the verdict earlier that day by the Istanbul 30th High Criminal Court, which acquitted Kavala and eight of his co-defendants in the case of all charges and separated the files of seven others.

A report about the final hearing of the Gezi Park trial and Kavala’s re-arrest can be accessed here.

Gazete Karınca former publisher accused of “insulting the president”

Necla Demir, the former publisher of the online news portal Gazete Karınca, will be standing trial on the charge of “insulting the president” for two news stories published in the portal.

The Bakırköy Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has issued an indictment against Demir based on an anonymous complaint filed to the Presidency’s Communication Center (CİMER). 

The first hearing of Demir’s trial is scheduled for 13 May 2020 at Istanbul’s Bakırköy 8th Criminal Court of First Instance.

Arrest warrant issued for journalist Şerife Oruç

An arrest warrant was issued for journalist Şerife Oruç, a former reporter for the shuttered Dicle news agency (DİHA), as part of her ongoing trial on the charge of “membership of a terrorist group.” Oruç remained in pre-trial detention for two years, from July 2016 to July 2018, as part of this case.

Oruç did not attend the 13th hearing of her trial, held on 18 February 2020 at the 2nd High Criminal Court of Batman.She was represented by her lawyer Mesut Aydın.

Ruling to issue an arrest warrant for Oruç on the grounds that she failed to follow judicial control measures imposed on her, the court ruled to send the case file to the prosecution for the preparation of the final opinion and adjourned the trial until 12 May.

Veysi Altay’s trial over Özgür Gündem solidarity campaign adjourned

The trial of director Veysi Altay on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” for participating in a campaign to support the shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper resumed on 18 February 2020 at the 22nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

Altay didn’t attend the hearing and was represented by his lawyer Sercan Korkmaz.

Presenting their final opinion, the prosecution requested the court to convict Altay of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

Granting time for the defense to prepare a final defense statement in response to the final opinion, the court adjourned the trial until 28 February.

Kanal D reporter Şevval Şirin briefly detained 

Kanal D reporter Şevval Şirin was taken into custody by two police officers as she was covering a protest at a school in Istanbul’s Esenyurt district. The parents were protesting the school administration over claims of sexual abuse at the school.

Şirin, whose phone was confiscated without a court order, was kept in a room for hours. Soon afterwards law enforcement officials announced that the journalist was not being held in custody. While Şirin filed a complaint against the police officers, the police officers claimed to be assaulted by the reporter.

Journalist Ferhat Parlak’s trial adjourned until May

The fourth hearing in the trial of Ferhat Parlak, the owner of the shuttered Silvan Mücadele newspaper, on the charge of “terrorist group membership” was held on 17 February 2020 at the 11th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır.

Parlak and his lawyer Mehdi Özdemir were in attendance at the hearing. It was announced that the secret witness “Çaylak” was heard in between hearings, while three other witnesses had yet to give their statements.

Parlak’s lawyer pointed out that “Çaylak” had referred to his client as a journalist in his testimony. The lawyer requested the court to hear the other two witnesses in the presence of the defense.

Ruling to write a memo to hear the other secret witnesses and to give up waiting for the witnesses in case the request is not granted, the court adjourned the trial until 6 May.

Cumhuriyet reporter Hazal Ocak faces new investigation

Access to a 20 January 2020 report published in Cumhuriyet daily about the land purchased by Finance Minister Berat Albayrak near the planned route of Kanal Istanbul has been blocked by an Istanbul Criminal Judgeship of Peace.

In addition to the access ban, a criminal investigation was launched against Hazal Ocak, the reporter who penned the report, on the charge of “insulting a public official.”

Other news portals’ pages that cited Ocak’s report have also been blocked, while news about the access ban were also blocked for access.

List of journalists and media workers in prison 

As of 21 February 2020, at least 97 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.