Bill proposing early release for 90,000 inmates excluding political prisoners submitted to Parliament; at least 6 journalists called in for questioning over coronavirus reports and posts; journalist Hakan Aygün jailed pending trial
Journalist Hakan Aygün jailed pending trial
Journalist Hakan Aygün was taken into custody in the southwestern town of Bodrum on 2 April 2020 over a post he shared on Twitter concerning a donation campaign inaugurated by President Erdoğan on 30 March to help citizens in need during the coronavirus pandemic. Aygün was brought to the Bodrum Courthouse the next day, where he was referred to a criminal judgeship of peace. The judgeship jailed Aygün pending trial on the charge of “incitement to hatred and animosity.” He was sent to the Muğla Prison.
Social media users jailed as part of FETÖ investigation
An individual named Mesut A. was taken into custody in Istanbul as part of an investigation conducted by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office into the alleged “social media leg of FETÖ (Fethullahist Terrorist Organization).” Mesut A. was identified as the user behind the Twitter accounts “Mustafa Selanik” and “Türkiye Gerçekleri.” Following the completion of procedures at the Istanbul Police Department, Mesut A. was sent to Ankara. Another person named O.Y., a journalist who turned out to be behind the Twitter account called “Ankara Kuşu,” was also arrested in Gebze as part of the same investigation.
Jailed journalists Çelik and Keser’s lawyers file Constitutional Court application
The lawyers of Ferhat Çelik, the editor-in-chief of Yeni Yaşam newspaper, and Aydın Keser, the newspaper’s responsible editor, filed an application with the Constitutional Court concerning the pre-trial detention of the journalists over a news report published by Odatv about the burial of a Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) operative killed in Libya.
The application claims that Çelik and Keser’s pre-trial detention amounts to violations of the right to liberty and security and freedom of the press.
Keser and Çelik are currently jailed in Silivri Prison.
Journalist Ahmet Kanbal called in for questioning
An investigation has been launched against Ahmet Kanbal, a reporter for Mezopotamya Agency, on the charge of “inciting the public to hatred and enmity” over a news report concerning a hospital in Mardin where children who tested positive for Covid-19 were being kept in the same unit with those who tested negative. Kanbal gave his statement on 1 April 2020 in relation to the investigation, launched after the Mardin Provincial Directorate of Health filed a complaint against him.
Early release bill submitted to Parliament
A bill jointly drafted by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), proposing early release for up to 90,000 prisoners through 70 amendments to the law on the execution of penalties, was submitted to the Parliament on 31 March 2020. The bill excludes persons convicted of “terrorism-related crimes” and those in pre-trial detention. The Parliament’s Justice Commission passed the draft on 3 April 2020. The bill is expected to be voted on by the General Assembly on Tuesday, 7 April. If the bill is passed, up to 90,000 people are expected to be released from prison with the exclusion of political prisoners.
Journalist Hakan Gülseven briefly detained for social media post
Journalist Hakan Gülseven, a columnist for Independent Türkçe, was taken into custody on 31 March 2020 over a post he shared on Twitter about the donation campaign launched following the coronavirus crisis. Gülseven, who is accused of “inciting the public to hatred and enmity,” was released after giving his statement.
Journalist Nurcan Baysal questioned
Columnist Nurcan Baysal was called in for questioning over her posts on social media concerning letters sent by prisoners and two articles published online on Ahval. Baysal gave her statement at the Diyarbakır Police Department on 31 March 2020. She was then referred to the Diyarbakır Courthouse. She was freed after giving her statement to a prosecutor and later to a judgeship.
Journalist Oktay Candemir called in for questioning
Journalist Oktay Candemir was called in for questioning by the Van Police Department on 31 March 2020 over his news reports about the coronavirus outbreak and quarantine measures. Candemir is expected to give his statement next week.
University student briefly detained over social media post
Ata Egemen Çakıl, a student at the Dokuz Eylül University in Izmir, was taken into custody over a post he shared on Twitter about the coronavirus donation campaign on the night of its launch. Çakıl was released after giving his statement at the prosecutor’s office in the Izmir Bayraklı Courthouse the next day.
Jailed journalist Barış Terkoğlu faces new investigation
Jailed journalist Barış Terkoğlu, Odatv news director and a columnist for Cumhuriyet daily, is facing another investigation over a news report published in april 2019 on Odatv. The investigation was launched on 16 March 2020, about 10 months after Sabah columnist Hilal Kaplan filed a complaint against Terkoğlu with the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office concerning the article. Terkoğlu gave his statement in writing on 25 March 2020 in response to the allegations in the new investigation file.
Trials postponed as part of measures against spread of Covid-19
Trials and other legal procedures at courthouses across Turkey -- except for trials of persons in detention on remand -- have been temporarily put on hold as of 16 March 2020 as part of measures against the spread of Covid-19 in Turkey. Courts remain open for emergency procedures.
Journalist Sertaç Kayar’s trial, scheduled for 1 April at the 10th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır, was postponed to 9 October 2020.
The latest hearing in the trial of 11 human rights defenders, also known as the “Büyükada trial,” which was scheduled for 3 April at the 35th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, was postponed to 3 July 2020.
Journalist Arafat Dayan’s trial on the charge of “terrorism propaganda,” scheduled for 2 April at the 2nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul, was postponed to 17 September 2020.
Journalist Deniz Yücel’s trial, scheduled for 2 April at the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul, was postponed to 24 June 2020.
List of journalists and media workers in prison
As of 4 April 2020, at least 101 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.