Indictment accepted against journalists jailed over coverage of MİT operative’s funeral; columnist Ragıp Zarakolu faces investigation; journalist Hakan Aygün released at first hearing, prosecutor objects to ruling
Trial of journalists jailed over coverage of MİT operative’s funeral to begin 24 June
An indictment issued in April against eight people, including six journalists who have been jailed pending trial since March, over a news report about the burial of a Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) operative killed in Libya, was accepted on 7 May by the 34th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
The 50-page indictment accuses the eight defendants of “disclosing classified information crucial to the security and interests of the state” (Turkish Penal Code 329/1) and “exposing the contents of documents and information concerning intelligence operations” (MİT Law Article 27).
The full indictment, in Turkish, can be found here.
Odatv Editor-in-Chief Barış Pehlivan, News Director Barış Terkoğlu, reporter Hülya Kılınç, Yeni Yaşam daily’s Editor-in-Chief Ferhat Çelik, Responsible Editor Aydın Keser, and Murat Ağırel, a columnist for Yeniçağ daily, have been behind bars since March as part of the investigation. Also facing charges in the case are journalist Erk Acarer, who is overseas, and Eren Ekinci, a press officer with the local Akhisar Municipality, who is claimed in the indictment to have shared footage from the MİT operative’s funeral with Odatv reporter Kılınç.
The 34th High Criminal Court of Istanbul issued its decision concerning the commencement of the trial on 8 May. Ruling by a majority for the continuation of the six jailed journalists’ detention on remand, the court set 24 June 2020 as the date for the first hearing.
Columnist Ragıp Zarakolu faces investigation
Ragıp Zarakolu, a columnist for Evrensel daily and the news portal Artı Gerçek, is facing an investigation initiated by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office over his article dated 5 May 2020, titled “Makus kaderden kaçış yok” (No escape from ill fate). Zorlu is accused of “targeting the constitutional order by insinuating a coup.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun had filed separate complaints against Zarakolu’s article during the week, claiming that Zarakolu had “threatened” Erdoğan by “calling for a coup and his execution.”
CHP Deputies Özgür Özel and Engin Özkoç face investigation
An investigation was launched against CHP Deputies Özgür Özel and Engin Özkoç on allegations of “insult” and “slander” for their social media posts concerning a newspaper report about Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun.
According to a statement issued by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, the investigation was launched upon a complaint filed on 6 May by Altun’s lawyers over the posts Özel and Özkoç shared on social media, in which they referenced a news report published in Cumhuriyet daily on 14 April 2020.
The report, about a structure Altun commissioned on a plot of land he rented in Kuzguncuk, Istanbul, is also being investigated separately.
Top court to take up appeal for the annulment of early release law
The Plenary of the Constitutional Court on 6 May found the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) appeal against the early release law, which came into force in April, to be admissible.
Following the enactment of the law, about 45,000 prisoners excluding those behind bars over political reasons have been released. The Plenary ruled to deliberate on the annulment of the law and whether or not to rule for a stay of execution, as also called for by CHP.
Broadcasting watchdog fines Halk TV and Habertürk
The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) imposed a maximum administrative fine on Halk TV over remarks made by Canan Kaftancıoğlu, CHP’s Istanbul Provincial Chair, during a program that recently aired on the channel. Additionally, a five-day broadcast ban was imposed on the program called “Sözüm Var,” where Kaftancıoğlu made the comments.
Habertürk TV was also handed down a maximum administrative fine over remarks by Fatih Altaylı, the host of the weekly show “Teke Tek,” during a recent episode featuring Meral Akşener, the leader of the İyi (good) Party, as guest.
Journalist Hakan Aygün released, prosecutor objects
The first hearing in the trial of journalist Hakan Aygün over a post he shared on Twitter took place on 6 May at the Bodrum 3rd Criminal Court of First Instance. Aygün was accused of “inciting the public to hatred and animosity” and “insulting religious values held by a segment of the society” and had been in pre-trial detention since April.
Addressing the court via the judicial video-conferencing system SEGBİS, Aygün said in his defense statement that his intention for sharing the posts had been to express criticism, not to insult. Taking into consideration the time Aygün spent in pre-trial detention, the court ruled to release the journalist pending trial. The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Bodrum filed an objection against the release decision.
10 jailed over “provocative” social media posts
Interior Ministry Spokesperson İsmail Çataklı announced last week that 7,127 accounts had been investigated for sharing “provocative” content on social media concerning the Covid-19 outbreak. Çataklı said that out of the 1,058 social media users identified, 496 were arrested and 10 were jailed pending trial.
Twitter user imprisoned in Gaziantep as part of FETÖ investigation
H.Y., identified as one of the users behind the Twitter account “kacsaatolduson,” was jailed pending trial on 5 May following his arrest as part of an investigation conducted by the Gaziantep Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office into the alleged “social media leg of FETÖ (Fethullahist Terrorist Organization).
Trials postponed as part of Coronavirus containment measures
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 efforts to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. Courts remain open for emergency procedures.
The final hearing in the trial of Yusuf Karataş, a columnist for Evrensel daily, scheduled for 4 May at the 9th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır, was postponed to 21 September 2020.
The trial of writer and activist Temel Demirer, scheduled for 5 May at Istanbul’s Anadolu 33rd Criminal Court of First Instance, was postponed to 24 November 2020.
Journalist Ferhat Parlak’s trial, scheduled to resume on 6 May at the 11th High Criminal of Diyarbakır, was postponed to 21 September 2020.
List of journalists and media workers in prison
As of 8 May 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.