Four sentenced in Özgür Gündem trial; Professor Fincancı fined for “insulting Erdoğan”; five journalists charged with “membership in terrorist group”; Supreme Court upholds “propaganda” sentence given to HDP’s Gergerlioğlu
Supreme Court upholds “propaganda” sentence given to HDP’s Gergerlioğlu
The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals on 19 Febraury 2021 upheld a prison sentence given in 2018 to opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu on the charge of “terrorism propaganda.”
Gergerlioğlu was accused over a news article he shared on social media in 2016. At the final hearing of his trial, on 21 February 2018, the Kocaeli 2nd High Criminal Court had sentenced Gergerlioğlu to 2 years and 6 months in prison for “PKK/KCK propaganda.” The trial was launched before Gergerlioğlu was elected a member of the Parliament in June 2018.
In their reasoned judgment in writing, the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals held that Gergerlioğlu’s “post, dated 20 August 2016, featured a photo showing armed terrorist group members, and included expressions that legitimized or encouraged the terrorist organization's acts involving the use of force and violence. [...]”
Ahmet Altan’s trial on “insult” charge adjourned until June
The fourth hearing of novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan’s trial on the charge of “insulting a public official” took place on 18 February 2021 at Istanbul’s Anadolu 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.
Altan is on trial for allegedly insulting former Supreme Court of Appeals General Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalçınkaya in an article he penned in March 2008 for his regular column in the now-defunct Taraf newspaper.
The case was relaunched after a previous sentence Altan had been given by the Istanbul 32nd Criminal Court of First Instance for “insulting the president” was upheld in 2018 by a regional court of appeals.
In its interim ruling, the court decided to inquire of the 32nd Criminal Court of First Instance about whether the file has returned from the Supreme Court of Appeals and adjourned the trial until 8 June.
Ahmet Şık to receive compensation over imprisonment in “Odatv trial”
Independent lawmaker Ahmet Şık, a well-known investigative journalist, will be paid compensation over his 13-month pre-trial detention as part of the “Odatv trial,” where he was eventually acquitted of all charges in 2017, a criminal court in Istanbul has decided.
Ruling in the case filed by Şık, the 21st High Criminal Court of Istanbul has ordered that Şık be paid TL 9,398 in pecuniary and TL 15,000 in non-pecuniary damages.
ETHA journalists Temel and Cuştan’s trial adjourned until May
The 11th hearing in a trial where Etkin news agency (ETHA) editor İsminaz Temel and reporter Havva Cuştan are among 23 defendants charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” was held on 18 February 2021.
P24 monitored the hearing, where Temel was represented by her lawyer Ömer Çakırgöz. The lawyer once again asked the court to lift the international travel ban on his client, whose ailing mother lives in Germany. Rejecting the request, the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul adjourned the trial until 25 May.
Lawsuit against Çiğdem Toker to continue in September
A compensation case filed by T3 Foundation against Sözcü columnist Çiğdem Toker over an article she wrote on 28 January 2019 was scheduled to resume on 18 February 2021. T3 Foundation is seeking TL 80,000 in compensation. The lawsuit heard by the 3rd Civil Court of Küçükçekmece has been postponed until 23 September since the judge was on leave.
Top court: Journalist Beyza Kural’s 2015 arrest violated press freedom
The First Section of the Constitutional Court has ruled that journalist Beyza Kural's arrest in 2015 while she was covering a demonstration in Istanbul for Bianet violated three provisions of the Constitution: freedom of expression, freedom of the press and prohibition of ill-treatment.
Kural's individual application was filed in 2016. Rendering its judgment on the application some five years later, on 12 January 2021, the Constitutional Court also ruled for a compensation of TL 15,000 in non-pecuniary damages.
Musician Yılmaz Çelik’s trial adjourned until June
The fourth hearing of folk musician Yılmaz Çelik’s trial on the charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” was held on 18 February 2021. Çelik was arrested in December 2019 following a concert appearance in Tunceli. He remained behind bars for about four months before being released pending trial.
Deciding to hear witnesses, the 2nd High Criminal Court of Tunceli adjourned the trial until 1 June.
Retrial of Veysi Altay and Dicle Anter adjourned until June
The retrial of filmmaker Veysi Altay, the director of the documentary feature Nû Jîn, and Dicle Anter, the former manager of the Yılmaz Güney Movie Theatre in Batman, where the film was shown in 2015, continued on 18 February 2021 at the 2nd High Criminal Court of Batman.
The court had convicted Altay and Anter of “propaganda” at the final hearing of the trial in February 2019. A regional court of appeals overturned their convictions in 2020.
Altay and Anter’s lawyer Mehmet Bağatır asked the court to lift the international travel ban imposed on his clients. Rejecting the request, the court adjourned the trial until 3 June, awaiting the submission of requested documents.
Journalist Murat Güreş to be paid TL 1,600 over unjust imprisonment
A case filed by Gaziantep-based local journalist Murat Güreş, seeking compensation for his wrongful detention as part of a trial where he was eventually acquitted, was heard on 17 February 2021.
Güreş had remained in pre-trial detention for 14 days as part of the trial, where he and two other local journalists were charged with “violating the confidentiality of an investigation.” All three were acquitted in February 2020.
The 10th High Criminal Court of Gaziantep ordered a payment of only TL 1,600 for Güreş’s wrongful imprisonment.
Prosecutor seeks sentence for actors Metin Akpınar and Müjdat Gezen
The second hearing of veteran stage and screen actors Metin Akpınar and Müjdat Gezen’s trial on the charge of “insulting the president” was held on 17 February 2021. The accusation stems from Akpınar and Gezen’s on-air comments during a TV show they appeared as guests in December 2018.
Presenting their final opinion, the prosecutor asked the court to sentence Akpınar and Gezen. Granting time for the preparation of final defense statements, the Anadolu 8th Criminal Court of First Instance adjourned the trial until 1 March.
Professor Fincancı fined TL 7.080 TL for “insulting Erdoğan”
Professor Şebnem Korur Fincancı, the chair of the Turkish Medical Association's Central Committee and a columnist for Evrensel daily, appeared before an Istanbul court on 16 February 2021 for the final hearing of a trial where she was accused of “insulting Erdoğan” in a Twitter post she had shared in 2013, during Turkey’s nationwide Gezi Park protests, when Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was Prime Minister.
After hearing Fincancı and her lawyer’s final defense statements, the Anadolu 42nd Criminal Court fined Fincancı TL 7,080 for “insulting a public official.”
Former DİHA employee Fatih Gönül released pending trial
The first hearing of the trial against former Dicle news agency (DİHA) journalist Fatih Gönül was held on 16 February 2021 at the 25th High Criminal Court of Ankara.
Gönül, who is charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda,” addressed the court from the Edirne F Type Closed Prison via SEGBİS. In his defense statement, Gönül rejected the allegation that he “recruited members to the terrorist organization during soccer games he organized on school campus.” Gönül’s lawyer Atiye Arıkan told the court that the accusations against her client were baseless and requested Gönül’s release.
In their interim ruling, the court decided to release Gönül under an international travel ban and adjourned the trial until 27 May.
Prosecutor asks court to once again convict journalist İsmail Çoban
The retrial of jailed journalist İsmail Çoban, the former responsible managing editor of the shuttered Kurdish-language newspaper Azadiya Welat, on the charge of “disseminating terrorism propaganda via the press” resumed on 16 February 2021 in Diyarbakır.
This was the second hearing in the retrial of Çoban, who is currently in Tarsus Prison in Mersin province as part of a separate trial against him. Çoban was scheduled to address the court via the judicial video-conferencing network SEGBİS. However, Tarsus prison administrators told the court that Çoban was “not there.” Therefore the hearing was held in the absence of Çoban.
Presenting his final opinion, the prosecutor asked the court to convict Çoban as charged. Granting Çoban and his lawyer time to prepare their final defense statements, the court adjourned the trial until 4 May.
A report on the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Prosecutor seeks “propaganda” sentence for journalist Barış Barıştıran
The seventh hearing of a trial where Barış Barıştıran, the former responsible editor of the shuttered local TV station Gün TV, is charged with “terrorism propaganda” took place on 16 February 2021 at the Diyarbakır 8th High Criminal Court.
Barıştıran and Democratic Society Congress (DTK) executives Hilmi Aydoğdu and Mustafa Çukur are on trial because DTK’s 2016 congress was aired live on Gün TV. Aydoğdu and Çukur are accused over the speeches they delivered during the event.
P24 monitored the hearing, where Barıştıran, who lives abroad was not in attendance. He was represented by lawyer Resul Tamur. The prosecutor presented their final opinion, asking the court to convict Barıştıran and Çukur as charged and to acquit Aydoğdu.
Granting a continuance for the preparation of the defendants’ final statements, the court adjourned the trial until 16 March.
Journalists jailed in Van charged with “membership in terrorist group”
The Van Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has issued an indictment against Mezopotamya news agency (MA) journalists Adnan Bilen and Cemil Uğur, JinNews reporter Şehriban Abi, freelance journalist Nazan Sala, who have been jailed pending trial since October, and MA reporter Zeynep Durgut, who was arrested and released pending trial as part of the same investigation, charging all five with “membership in a terrorist organization.”
News reports penned by the journalists are held as evidence in the 14-page indictment, which alleges that the media outlets the journalists work for have been “publishing provocative content against the state.” Nazan Sala is additionally charged with “terrorism propaganda” in the indictment, accepted by the Van 5th High Criminal Court. The first hearing of the trial is scheduled for 2 April.
Court overseeing Ali Sönmez Kayar’s trial to hear witnesses
The ninth hearing of a trial where Etkin news agency (ETHA) reporter Ali Sönmez Kayar is charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” was held on 16 February 2021.
Ruling to hear the testimonies of the secret witnesses cited in the case file, the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul adjourned the trial until 6 May.
“Özgür Gündem raid trial” adjourned until April
The eighth hearing of a trial where 22 journalists arrested during the 2016 police raid on Özgür Gündem newspaper’s head office in Istanbul are charged with “insulting a public official” and “resisting police to prevent the performance of their duty” was held on 16 February 2021.
After hearing statements by lawyers representing the defendants, the Istanbul 5th Criminal Court of First Instance adjourned the trial until 22 April.
All four defendants sentenced in Özgür Gündem main trial
The final hearing in the trial of Özgür Gündem newspaper’s former Co-Editor-in-Chief Zana Kaya, publisher Kemal Sancılı, responsible editor İnan Kızılkaya and lawyer Eren Keskin was held on 15 February 2021 at the Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court.
Lawyer and human rights defender Eren Keskin, former responsible editor İnan Kızılkaya and their lawyers were present at the hearing, which marked the fourth since their files were separated last year from the main trial.
The court sentenced Sancılı, Keskin and Kızılkaya to 6 years and 3 months in prison on the charge of "membership in a terrorist organization” and Kaya to 2 years and 1 month in prison on the charge of "terrorism propaganda.”
Sancılı and Kızılkaya face investigation over fake social media account
On 15 February, shortly after the final hearing in the Özgür Gündem main trial, Kızılkaya was taken to the prosecutor’s office at the courthouse to give his statement as part of an investigation launched against Kızılkaya and Sancılı on allegations stemming from a fake social media account with the handle “Özgür Gündem.” Kızılkaya was released after giving his statement.
Upon finding out about the investigation, Sancılı went to the courthouse the next day to give his statement. Sancılı and his lawyer Sercan Korkmaz explained to the prosecutor that the newspaper, closed down by the government more than five years ago, had no existing official or unofficial social media accounts. After taking his statement, the prosecutor's office lifted the arrest warrant against Sancılı and released him.
At least 82 journalists and media workers in prison
As of 19 February 2021, at least 82 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.