ECtHR rules jailing of Cumhuriyet journalists violated their rights; Müyesser Yıldız and Aziz Oruç released; Erkan Akkuş charged with “membership of terrorist group” in new indictment; Yılmaz Özdil handed down 5-month sentence; man jailed for criticizing government in street interview
Retrial in Özgür Gündem solidarity case set for February
The Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court has set 3 February 2021 as the date for the retrial of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu, Turkish Medical Association (TTB) Central Committee President Şebnem Korur-Fincancı, and journalist-writer Ahmet Nesin, whose acquittals were recently overturned by an appellate court.
In a unanimous judgment on 20 October 2020, the 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice had reversed the acquittals of Önderoğlu, Korur-Fincancı and Nesin in the “Özgür Gündem solidarity trial.”
Baransu and Çoban’s final hearing adjourned until 23 November
The trial of Mehmet Baransu, a former reporter for the shuttered Taraf daily, and Murat Şevki Çoban, the newspaper’s former responsible editor, over a news report published in November 2013 resumed on 13 November 2020 at Istanbul’s Anadolu 2nd High Criminal Court.
The journalists are charged with “acquiring documents related to the security of the state,” “exposing documents related to the security of the state” and “exposing documents of the National Intelligence Agency (MİT).”
No spectators were allowed in the courtroom due to Covid-19 measures. The court adjourned the trial until 23 November 2020. The court is expected to issue its judgment at the next hearing.
Court lifts enforcement order against Hikmet Tunç
An enforcement order issued against journalist Hikmet Tunç as part of her trial on the charge of “insulting a public official” was lifted on 13 November 2020 by the Van 3rd Criminal Court of First Instance, to which the case file had been sent by the Muradiye 7th Criminal Court of First Instance after deciding to apply “simple trial procedure” in the case. The Van 3rd Criminal Court of First Instance ruled to send the case file back to the Muradiye 7th Criminal Court of First Instance, which will issue its judgment in writing in a month.
JinNews reporter Hikmet Tunç is on trial alongside former Co-Mayor of Muradiye Leyla Balkan in the case, launched upon a complaint by Erkan Savar, the government-appointed trustee of the local Muradiye Municipality, over a May 2019 report by Tunç.
Erol Mütercimler appears before court over televised remarks
Writer and political analyst Erol Mütercimler appeared before an Istanbul court on 13 November 2020 for the first hearing of his trial on the charge of “publicly degrading a section of the public on the grounds of social class, race, religion, sect, gender or regional differences.” The accusation stems from Mütercimler’s remarks about graduates of Turkey’s Islamic “imam-hatip” schools during a political talk show on 7 September 2020.
The Istanbul 12th Criminal Court of First Instance decided to send a digital recording of the TV show to an expert and adjourned the trial until 22 February 2021.
Journalist Erkan Akkuş charged with “membership of a terrorist group”
Former Bugün TV and Kanaltürk news anchor Erkan Akkuş is charged with “membership of a terrorist organization” in the newly issued indictment against him. The indictment, issued by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, seeks up to 15 years in prison for Akkuş, who has been jailed pending trial in the Silivri Prison since August.
Columnist Enver Aysever, cartoonist Birol Çün to stand trial
Cumhuriyet columnist Enver Aysever is charged with “publicly insulting religious values” in a new indictment, where the accusation stems from a March 2020 social media post in which he shared a cartoon by Birol Çün. The indictment was recently accepted by the Anadolu 37th Criminal Court of First Instance.
A separate indictment was issued against cartoonist Çün over the same drawing. Issued by Izmir's Karşıyaka Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, the indictment seeks up to 3 years of imprisonment for Çün on the charge of "inciting the public to hatred and enmity."
Compensation case filed by Berat Albayrak against Hazal Ocak adjourned
A compensation case filed by former Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak against Cumhuriyet reporter Hazal Ocak was scheduled to get underway on 12 November 2020 at the Istanbul 8th Civil Court. The hearing was postponed until a later date since both parties submitted letters of excuse to the court.
Albayrak is seeking TL 200,000 in damages over Ocak’s report titled “Damat İşi Biliyor.” Ocak stood trial on the charge of “insulting a public official” over the same report and was acquitted on 27 October 2020.
Journalist Melike Aydın's trial adjourned
The second hearing of the trial of journalist Melike Aydın on the charge of "being a member of a terrorist organization" was scheduled to be held on 12 November 2020 at the Izmir 2nd High Criminal Court. The trial was postponed until a later date because the Izmir courthouse was damaged during the earthquake on 30 October.
Hayko Bağdat’s trial on "propaganda" charge adjourned
A trial where journalist Hayko Bağdat is charged with "terrorism propaganda" due to his social media posts resumed on 12 November 2020 at Istanbul 28th High Criminal Court. Bağdat’s lawyers, who submitted letters of excuse, did not attend the hearing. The court adjourned the trial until 4 March 2021.
An arrest warrant was issued against Hayko Bağdat in February 2019 as a part of the investigation initiated upon an anonymous tip-off.
Musician Yılmaz Çelik’s trial adjourned until February
Musician Yılmaz Çelik’s trial on “terrorism” charges resumed on 12 November 2020 at the Tunceli 2nd High Criminal Court. During the previous hearing on 10 September, the prosecutor was asked to submit clarifications concerning the accusations in the indictment. Since the clarifications demanded by the court have not been submitted, the court adjourned the trial until 18 February.
Oktay Yaşar acquitted of “propaganda”
Oktay Yaşar, the user behind the Twitter account “Ankara Kuşu,” who was accused of “making propaganda for the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ),” was acquitted.
Yaşar and his lawyer attended the final hearing at the Kocaeli 5th High Criminal Court. In his final opinion, the presiding prosecutor requested a prison sentence of 1.5 to 7.5 years for the defendant. After hearing Yaşar and his lawyer’s defense statements in response to the final opinion, the court acquitted the defendant due to a lack of legal elements of the crime.
Trial of Adil Demirci and 22 others adjourned until March
The ninth hearing of a trial in which Etkin News Agency (ETHA) reporter Adil Demirci and 22 other defendants are charged with "membership of a terrorist organization" and "terrorism propaganda" was held on 11 November 2020 at the Istanbul 25th High Criminal Court.
P24 monitored the hearing, where Demirci’s lawyer Keleş Öztürk demanded that police records regarding the events cited as grounds for the accusation be submitted to the case file.
The court rejected Öztürk and other defense lawyers’ requests for further investigation and adjourned the trial until 17 March 2021.
ECtHR rules jailing of Cumhuriyet journalists violated their rights
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled on 10 November 2020 that the pre-trial detention of former Cumhuriyet journalists and executives as part of the “Cumhuriyet trial” violated their right to liberty and security and freedom of expression.
The Second Section of the Court held unanimously that Articles 5/1 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) had been violated. The Court ruled unanimously that there had been “no violation” of Article 5/4 (right to speedy review of the lawfulness of detention).
The application on behalf of Murat Sabuncu and Cumhuriyet’s columnists and executives Önder Çelik, Turhan Günay, Akın Atalay, Mustafa Kemal Güngör, Kadri Gürsel, Hakan Kara, Musa Kart, Güray Öz and Bülent Utku was filed with the European Court on 2 March 2017.
For more information, see this report.
Trial of Canan Coşkun, Can Uğur and Ali Açar adjourned
The second hearing of journalists Canan Coşkun, Can Uğur and Ali Açar’s trial on the charge of “identifying officials on anti-terrorism duties as targets” was held on 10 November 2020 at the Istanbul 34th High Criminal Court. The journalists are on trial for their reports on the investigation into the murder of Berkin Elvan during the Gezi Park protests.
P24 monitored the hearing, where Coşkun and Açar were in attendance. In his defense statement, Açar denied the accusation and said that he had no intention to target anyone in his report.
Following Açar, Coşkun stated that Berkin Elvan's murder suspect, Fatih Dalgalı, was cited in the case file as a plaintiff although his name was not mentioned in the news report. Coşkun stressed that it is not possible for him to be harmed by the alleged crime. Stating that Dalgalı’s name was not mentioned in the reports and that therefore he can’t be harmed by the crime, the lawyers of the journalists also asked the court to cancel Dalgalı’s plaintiff status.
The court decided to terminate Fatih Dalgalı’s plaintiff status and adjourned the trial until 23 February 2021.
Taylan Kulaçoğlu’s detention continues
The first hearing of the trial of Taylan Kulaçoğlu, who was arrested in May because of his social media posts, was held on 10 November 2020 at Balıkesir 3rd High Criminal Court.
Since the judges of the court did not attend the hearing on the grounds of the coronavirus pandemic, the hearing was overseen by the court’s temporary panel. In its interim decision, the court ruled for the continuation of Kulaçoğlu’s detention and set 2 December 2020 as the date for the next hearing.
MA reporter Ahmet Kanbal faces new investigation
An investigation was launched against Mezopotamya news agency reporter Ahmet Kanbal on the allegation of “violating the confidentiality of an investigation” due to his news report titled "2nd Border Commander arrested for bribery and migrant smuggling." It was stated that the investigation was launched upon a complaint filed by the lawyers representing the jailed soldiers, who claimed that the news report “disclosed all the details of the investigation and violated confidentiality.”
Columnist Yılmaz Özdil handed down 5-month sentence
The final hearing of a trial where Sözcü newspaper columnist Yılmaz Özdil was accused of “violating the Military Penal Code” took place on 10 November 2020 at the Ankara 3rd Criminal Court of First Instance.
Özdil was on trial for his remarks during an episode of the TV show “Halk Arenası” that was broadcasted on 10 November 2017 on Halk TV. The case was launched upon a complaint by Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.
Announcing its judgment at the end of the hearing, the court sentenced Özdil to 5 months in prison. The sentence was deferred.
Odatv’s Müyesser Yıldız released at first hearing
Odatv Ankara News Director Müyesser Yıldız and Tele 1 TV Ankara Bureau Chief İsmail Dükel appeared before the Ankara 26th High Criminal Court on 9 November 2020 for the first hearing of their trial on the charge of “Disclosure of confidential information relating to the security and political interests of the state.”
In its interim ruling, the panel decided to release Müyesser Yıldız and to file charges against the defendants on the charge of “Securing information that, due to its nature, is to be kept confidential for reasons relating to the security, or domestic or foreign political interests of the state.” The court set 6 January 2021 as the date for the second hearing.
A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Journalist Aziz Oruç released pending trial
The third hearing of journalist Aziz Oruç, who was arrested in Doğubayazıt district of Ağrı and jailed on 18 December 2019, was held on 9 November 2020 at the Ağrı 2nd High Criminal Court.
Oruç, who is accused of "membership of a terrorist organization" and "terrorism propaganda,” attended the hearing from the Patnos L Type Closed Prison through Sound and Video Information System (SEGBİS) and defended himself.
In its interim decision at the end of the hearing, the court panel released Oruç with a judicial control measure and adjourned the trial until 16 April 2021.
MA reporter Ruken Demir’s trial adjourned
The third hearing of the trial of Mezopotamya news agency reporter Melike Aydın on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization” was scheduled to be held on 9 November 2020 at the Izmir 19th High Criminal Court. The hearing was postponed until a later date because the courthouse was damaged during the earthquake on 30 October.
Local man jailed for criticizing government in street interview
İsmail Demirbaş, a 49-year-old citizen in Antalya, was arrested in a raid on his home on 24 October 2020 after he criticized the government in a street interview. Demirbaş was later released by court under judicial control measures.
Several days later, after Demirbaş once again spoke in a street interview, he was arrested again, but this time the court ruled for house arrest. The next day, Demirbaş went to the courthouse to appeal the house arrest decision. However, after submitting his petition, Demirbaş was arrested and jailed pending trial. The lawyer assigned to Demirbaş said his client was charged with “insulting the president.”
Demirbaş was sent to Antalya E Type Prison.
At least 86 journalists and media workers in prison
Following journalists Müyesser Yıldız and Aziz Oruç’s release during the week, as of 13 November 2020, at least 86 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.