Mehmet Baransu sentenced to 17 years on 4 charges; MA reporter Dindar Karataş jailed, Hakan Yalçın arrested; journalists Davut Uçar, Kesire Önel taken into custody
MA reporter Hakan Yalçın arrested
Hakan Yalçın, an Ankara-based reporter for the Mezopotamya news agency (MA), was arrested on 27 November 2020 in an early morning police raid on his home. Police confiscated Yalçın’s computer during the search. Yalçın, who was reportedly arrested on the allegation of “membership of a terrorist organization,” was taken to the Ankara Police Department.
MA reporter Dindar Karataş sent to prison
Dindar Karataş, a Van-based reporter for the Mezopotamya news agency, was jailed pending trial on the charge of membership of a terrorist organization” on 26 November 2020.
Karataş was arrested in a raid on his home in Van on 24 November as part of an investigation conducted by the Erzurum Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. The journalist, who was transferred to Erzurum, was taken to the courthouse on 26 November to give his statement to the prosecutor. Karataş was then referred to the Erzurum 1st Criminal Judgeship of Peace, which jailed him pending trial on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization.” Karataş was sent to the Erzurum H Type Prison.
Journalists Davut Uçar and Kesire Önel taken into custody
Journalists Davut Uçar and Kesire Önel were taken into custody on 26 November 2020 as part of a police operation in Istanbul along with at least 17 other people including Cihan Yavuz, the deputy mayor of the Şişli district.
The state-run Anadolu news agency claimed that the operation targeted the “urban division of the PKK.”
Davut Uçar, who was brought to the Istanbul Courthouse following his police interrogation, appeared before the Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court on the allegation of “membership of a terrorist organization.” The court released the journalist under judicial control measures after hearing his statement.
Kesire Önel was also arrested on the allegation of “membership of a terrorist organization.” As of late 27 November, Önel was still being held at the Police Department.
Alican Uludağ to stand trial over Twitter post about prosecutor
Journalist Alican Uludağ will stand trial over a Twitter post he shared in September about Yüksel Kocaman, the former Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor, who was appointed on Friday to the Supreme Court of Appeals by the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK).
Uludağ is charged with “disclosing the identity of a public official involved in the fight against terrorism” (Article 6/1 of the Law on the Fight against Terrorism - TMK) in the indictment, issued on 30 September 2020. The indictment was accepted by the Ankara 18th High Criminal Court, which set 2 December 2020 as the date for the first hearing.
Uludağ was called in for questioning on 23 September 2020 regarding his social media post, in which he criticized Prosecutor Kocaman for visiting President Erdoğan in the Presidential Palace following his wedding. Pro-government media outlets claimed at the time that Uludağ was “arrested for making the chief public prosecutor a target.”
Journalist Kibriye Evren’s trial adjourned until March
The 11th hearing in journalist Kibriye Evren’s trial on the charges of “membership of a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” took place on 26 November 2020 at the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court.
The court decided to ask for a copy of a separate indictment against Evren from the Mersin 2nd High Criminal Court and also to inquire about the testimony concerning Evren taken in investigations conducted in Antalya and Ağrı. The court set 9 March 2021 as the date for the next hearing.
Retrial of journalist İsmail Çoban gets underway
The retrial of journalist İsmail Çoban, the former responsible editor of the shuttered Kurdish daily Azadiya Welat, began on 26 November 2020 at the Diyarbakır 7th High Criminal Court.
The retrial was ordered by a regional court of appeals, which recently overturned Çoban’s conviction in the case, where he was charged with “terrorism propaganda” over articles published in nine different issues of the newspaper.
Çoban addressed the court via SEGBİS from the Tarsus No 3 T Type Prison, where he is currently jailed as part of another case. Çoban addressed the court in Kurdish through an interpreter.
In its interim ruling, the court decided to ask for a copy of a 2019 investigation file against Çoban from the Tarsus Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. The court also ruled that Çoban pay the fee for the interpreter. The next hearing of Çoban’s retrial is set for 16 February 2021.
“Bella Ciao trial” against Banu Özdemir adjourned until 10 December
The second hearing in the trial of Banu Özdemir, a former executive from main opposition CHP’s Izmir provincial branch, on the charge of “insulting religious values” (TCK 216/3) took place on 26 November 2020 at a criminal court in Izmir. Özdemir is on trial for sharing on social media footage of the song “Bella Ciao” being broadcasted from several mosques in Izmir in May.
Submitting his final opinion to the court, the prosecutor demanded the court to sentence Özdemir on the grounds that she “did not condemn the incident” and that she “insulted religious values” by “using a musical note emoji in her post.”
Accepting Özdemir’s lawyers’ request for a continuance, the court adjourned the trial until 10 December 2020.
Sibel Hürtaş and Hayri Demir’s trial adjourned until March
Journalists Sibel Hürtaş and Hayri Demir’s trial over their reports and social media posts criticizing Turkey’s 2018 military operation on Syria’s Afrin resumed on 25 November 2020 at the Ankara 15th High Criminal Court.
The prosecutor asked the court to wait for the Justice Ministry’s permission to press an additional charge against Demir under Article 301 of the Penal Code and to reject the requests for the judicial control measures to be lifted.
In its interim ruling, the court decided to keep the judicial control measures imposed on the defendants in place and set 4 March 2021 as the date for the next hearing.
A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Compensation case against Hazal Ocak adjourned until March
A lawsuit filed against Cumhuriyet reporter Hazal Ocak by the local Şahinbey Municipality in Gaziantep was scheduled to resume on 25 November 2020 at the Gaziantep 6th Civil Court. The municipality is seeking TL 20,000 in compensation over Ocak’s report on corruption allegations concerning a public tender organized by the municipality. Ocak and her lawyers submitted letters of excuse. The court postponed the lawsuit until 3 March 2021.
ECtHR: Ahmet Şık's right to liberty and freedom of expression violated
The European Court of Human Rights issued its judgment concerning Ahmet Şık’s application on 24 November 2020, finding a violation of the rights to liberty and security and freedom of expression. The court ordered that Turkey pay Şık 16,000 euros in compensation.
In its chamber judgment, the European Court held unanimously that Şık’s pre-trial detention as part of the “Cumhuriyet trial” violated his right to liberty and security (Article 5/1 of the European Convention on Human Rights). The Court ruled by a majority that Şık’s freedom of expression (Article 10) was violated, with a partly concurring and partly dissenting opinion by the Turkish Judge Saadet Yüksel.
A report about the judgment can be accessed here.
Activist Temel Demirer’s trial adjourned until March
Writer and activist Temel Demirer’s trial on the charge of “praising crime or criminals” resumed on 24 November 2020 at the Anadolu 33rd Criminal Court of First Instance. Demirer is accused over a speech he made in 2017 in Kadıköy during a demonstration commemorating the victims of the 2015 Suruç bombing.
Demirer and two of his lawyers were in attendance. A third lawyer representing Demirer submitted to the court Demirer’s defense statement in response to the prosecutor's final opinion, as well as a letter of excuse. Accepting the letter of excuse, the judge adjourned the trial until 30 March 2021.
Kenan Kırkaya’s trial adjourned until February
The 11th hearing of a trial where journalist Kenan Kırkaya is charged with “membership of a terrorist organization” took place on 24 November 2020 at the Ankara 14th High Criminal Court. The court adjourned the trial until 17 February 2021, granting the defendants additional time for their statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion.
Trial of Selman Keleş adjourned until February
Self-exiled journalist Selman Keleş’s trial on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization” resumed on 24 November 2020 at the Van 5th High Criminal Court. The trial court had ruled at the previous hearing to separate the file against journalist Arif Aslan, Keleş’s former co-defendant in the case.
Issuing an interim ruling, the court decided to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant for Keleş and adjourned the trial until 9 February 2021.
Jailed journalist Mehmet Baransu sentenced to 17 years in prison
The final hearing in the trial of former Taraf journalists Mehmet Baransu and Murat Şevki Çoban took place on 23 November 2020 at Istanbul’s Anadolu 2nd High Criminal Court.
The journalists were on trial over a news report published in November 2013, titled “Gülen’i bitirme kararı 2004’te MGK’da alındı” (Decision to finish off Gülen was taken at the 2004 National Security Council meeting).
The court acquitted Çoban of all charges but sentenced Baransu to 3 years and 4 months for “Securing confidential information related to the security of the state” (TCK 327/1), 6 years and 3 months for "Exposing confidential information related to the security of the state" (TCK 329/1); 4 years and 2 months for "Unauthorized acquisition of documents and information concerning MİT’s duties and operations” (MİT Law 27/1) and 3 years and 4 months for “Disclosing the contents of documents and information concerning MİT’s duties and operations through the press” (MİT Law 27/3).
A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Melis Alphan faces investigation over old Twitter post
Journalist Melis Alphan is facing an investigation on the allegation of “terrorism propaganda” over an old Twitter post featuring a photograph showing a scene from 2015’s Newroz celebrations in Diyarbakır. Alphan gave her statement to the prosecutor conducting the investigation on 23 November 2020.
JinNews editor Roza Metina released after 3 days in custody
JinNews Kurdish editor and Kurd-Pen executive Roza Metina, who was arrested on 20 November in Diyarbakır as part of an investigation against the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), was taken to the Diyarbakır Courthouse on 23 November. The prosecutor who took her statement referred Metina to a criminal judgeship of peace, seeking her release under judicial control measures. The judgeship released Metina under judicial control.
Top court rejects request for release of 4 journalists jailed in Van
The Constitutional Court on 20 November 2020 issued an interim ruling concerning the applications on behalf of jailed journalists Adnan Bilen, Cemil Uğur, Şehriban Abi and Nazan Sala, rejecting the request for the journalists’ release from prison due to Covid-19.
Mezopotamya news agency reporters Bilen and Uğur, JinNews reporter Abi and journalist Sala have been in pretrial detention since 9 October 2020.
The application on behalf of the four journalists claiming violations of their rights to liberty and security and freedom of expression is still being reviewed by the Constitutional Court.
University student in Van jailed over social media posts
Reber Mazlum Safran, a student at the Van Yüzüncü Yıl University (YYÜ), was jailed pending trial over his correspondence with the jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş and the jailed businessman Osman Kavala and for “disclosing the identity” of Van Governor M. Emin Bilmez on social media. Safran was arrested on 16 November in a police raid on his home. After being held in police custody for three days, Safran was sent to prison by the Van 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace.
At least 87 journalists and media workers in prison
Following the imprisonment of Dindar Karataş this week, as of 27 November 2020 at least 87 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.