Boğaziçi students charged with “inciting hatred”; journalist Abdurrahman Gök, cartoonist Öznur Kalender appear in court; Kurdish politician Mahmut Alınak sentenced to 1.5 years; court blocks access to Mezopotamya news agency
Boğaziçi students charged with “inciting hatred” in new indictment
The Press Offenses Investigation Bureau under the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has issued an indictment against seven Boğaziçi University students, accusing them of “inciting hatred and hostility” over a depiction of the Kaaba in an exhibition they put together on the school campus in protest of the new rector of the university, appointed by President Erdoğan. Two of the students are currently jailed pending trial.
“Bloomberg trial” adjourned until June
The trial of Bloomberg journalists Fercan Yalınkılıç and Kerim Karakaya on the charge of “violating the Capital Market Law” over an August 2018 report on Turkey’s 2018 currency crisis resumed on 26 February 2021 at Istanbul’s 3rd Criminal Court of First Instance.
Yalınkılıç and Karakaya are on trial alongside 36 others who commented on or shared the report on social media. Among them are journalists Sedef Kabaş, Merdan Yanardağ, Orhan Kalkan and economist and columnist Mustafa Sönmez.
P24 monitored the hearing, where Orhan Kalkan and defense lawyers were in attendance. Issuing an interim ruling, the court decided to wait for the submission of an expert report on whether the defendants made any profits due to their social media posts and set 4 June 2021 as the date for the next hearing.
Mezopotamya agency faces investigation for two news reports
An investigation has been launched into two news reports by Mezopotamya news agency (MA), titled “Sur'da tecrit yürüyüşle protesto edildi” (Protest march in Sur against [Öcalan’s] isolation) and “Roboski Katliamı 109'uncu ayında” (109 months passed since the Roboski massacre), dispatched on 27 and 28 January 2021, respectively.
MA’s Responsible Editor Ferhat Çelik was summoned to the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office this week to give his statement as part of the investigation, launched following a complaint filed with the Presidency’s Communication Center (CİMER).
BİK demands explanation from Evrensel over Boğaziçi report
The Public Advertising Authority (BİK) has demanded an explanation from Evrensel newspaper for their 3 February 2021 report on Boğaziçi University protests. The report was titled “Gözaltı, yasak, saldırı durduramadı dayanışma büyüyor” (Arrests, bans, attacks couldn’t stop [protests], solidarity growing). BİK held that the word “attack” in the headline violated the Press Ethics Code.
Trial against Rüstem Batum adjourned until May
The fourth hearing of a trial where former TV talk show host Rüstem Batum is charged with “insulting the president” and “inciting hatred and hostility” took place on 25 February 2021 at the Istanbul 5th Criminal Court of First Instance. Batum is on trial over 20 social media posts he shared in 2016 and 2018.
P24 monitored the hearing. Batum’s lawyer asked the court to issue a letter rogatory for Batum’s statement to be taken by a US court. Ruling to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant for Batum, the court decided to rule on the request to take Batum’s statement abroad after his current address is submitted to the court and adjourned the trial until 4 May.
Cartoonist Öznur Kalender appears in court
Cartoonist Öznur Kalender appeared before a court in Istanbul on 25 February 2021 for the first hearing of his trial over a cartoon in which he depicted pro-government cult leader Ahmet Mahmut Ünlü. After hearing Kalender’s defense statement, the Anadolu 14th Criminal Court of First Instance adjourned the trial until 8 July.
Kalender is accused of “hurting religious values by insulting religious leaders” in the trial, launched following a complaint filed with the Presidency’s Communication Center (CİMER).
Özgür Gündem trial against Aykol and Çapan adjourned until June
The 19th hearing in the trial of former Özgür Gündem Co-Editor-in-Chief Hüseyin Aykol and Responsible Editor Reyhan Çapan on the charges of “insulting the president” and “terrorism propaganda” took place on 24 February 2021 at the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court.
P24 monitored the hearing, where Aykol and Çapan were represented by their lawyer Özcan Kılıç. Ruling to wait for the execution of the arrest warrants for the other two defendants in the case, Kemal Yakut and Hasan Başak, the court adjourned the trial until 22 June 2021.
The trial was launched over a news article published in September 2015 in Özgür Gündem. Lawyer Eren Keskin, whose name was symbolically featured as co-editor-in-chief on the newspaper’s masthead, was among the defendants in the initial case file, but her file was later separated to be merged with another trial against her.
Kurdish politician-author Mahmut Alınak sentenced over 2017 book
Kurdish politician and author Mahmut Alınak was sentenced to 1 year and 6 months in prison on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” at the final hearing of his trial, held this week at the Istanbul 22nd High Criminal Court. Alınak was accused over his book Mehmet Tunç ve Bêkes.
The book, published in 2017, was banned in 2019. Another trial where Alınak is charged with “insulting the president” over his book is underway at another Istanbul court.
Journalist Hakkı Boltan acquitted at his first hearing
Journalist Hakkı Boltan was acquitted of “membership in a terrorist organization” charge at the first hearing of his trial, held on 24 February 2021 at the Diyarbakır 10th High Criminal Court.
Boltan was accused over his public statements and his social media posts from when he was the co-speaker of Özgür Gazeteciler İnisiyatifi (Free Journalists Initiative). The indictment also alleged that Boltan was a representative for the
Democratic Society Congress (DTK).
Investigation against journalist Oktay Candemir dismissed
An investigation launched in September 2020 against journalist Oktay Candemir over a Twitter post he had shared about Diriliş Ertuğrul (Resurrection: Ertuğrul), a historical series about the father of the founder of the Ottoman state, that airs on Turkish state broadcaster TRT, has been dismissed.
The journalist was arrested in a police raid on his home in connection with the investigation, where he was accused of “insulting the beloved memory of the Ottoman sultans” under Article 130 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).
After the dismissal decision, Candemir demanded that his computer confiscated as part of the investigation be returned but his request was denied on the grounds that “not enough time has elapsed.”
Two trials against Ferhat Tunç adjourned
The 10th hearing in musician Ferhat Tunç’s trial on the charge of “insulting the president” over his social media posts was held on 23 February 2021. Ruling to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant for Tunç, the Büyükçekmece 14th Criminal Court of First Instance adjourned the trial until 14 September 2021.
Another trial against Tunç, where he is charged with “terrorism propaganda” and “membership in a terrorist organization,” resumed on 25 February 2021 at the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court. Accepting a letter of excuse submitted by Tunç’s lawyer, the court decided to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant for Tunç and adjourned the trial until 13 July 2021.
Trial against journalist Abdurrahman Gök begins
Journalist Abdurrahman Gök, who was arrested in Diyarbakır in October 2018 on alleged ties to PKK/KCK, appeared before a criminal court in Diyarbakır on 23 February 2021 for his first hearing.
Gök is charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” in the indictment, where his phone calls with his sources, his social media posts and his reports are held as evidence against him.
After hearing Gök and his lawyer’s defense statements, the 5th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır issued an interim ruling, lifting the international travel ban imposed on Gök. Also ruling to hear the secret witness “Sabır” in between courtroom hearings, the panel adjourned the trial until 3 June 2021.
A report on the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Canan Coşkun, Can Uğur and Ali Açar’s trial to continue in June
The latest hearing of a trial where journalists Canan Coşkun, Can Uğur and Ali Açar are charged with “disclosing the identities of public officials involved in the fight against terrorism” was held on 23 February 2021. All three are accused over their coverage on the trial into the murder of Berkin Elvan during 2013’s Gezi Park protests.
P24 monitored the hearing, where Canan Coşkun and defense lawyers were in attendance. The Istanbul 34th High Criminal Court decided to wait for the response from the Istanbul Police Department and adjourned the trial until 8 June 2021.
Top court rules Hakan Aygün’s imprisonment violated his right to liberty
The First Section of the Constitutional Court ruled that journalist Hakan Aygün’s imprisonment over his social media posts violated his right to liberty and security, enshrined in Article 19 of the Constitution. The Court also ruled for a payment of TL 40,000 in compensation. The judgment, rendered on 12 January 2021, was published in the Official Gazette on 23 February.
Aygün was arrested on 2 April 2020 in Bodrum over a Twitter post in which he made a wordplay about a donation campaign initiated by President Erdoğan as part of Covid-19 relief efforts. The next day, the Bodrum Criminal Judgeship of Peace jailed Aygün on the charge of “inciting hatred and hostility.” He was released pending trial at the end of his first courtroom hearing, held on 6 May 2020.
Lawyer jailed for reacting to AKP’s Zengin on Twitter
Mert Yaşar, a lawyer, was jailed pending trial by a criminal judgeship of peace in Istanbul on 23 February 2021 over a Twitter post in which he reacted to Justice and Development Party (AKP) Parliamentary Group Deputy Chair Özlem Zengin, who called women who reveal their experiences of unlawful prison strip-searches disreputable and immoral. Yaşar was jailed on the charge of “insulting the president.”
MA reporter Ruken Demir’s trial adjourned until June
The fifth hearing of Mezopotamya news agency reporter Ruken Demir’s trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” was held on 23 February 2021 in Izmir. Demir’s phone calls with her sources are held as evidence against her in the case file.
Demir and her lawyer Zafer İncin were in attendance at the hearing. After hearing statements by Demir and her lawyer, the Izmir 19th High Criminal Court adjourned the trial until 8 June, awaiting the submission of a digital forensics report.
Access to Mezopotamya news agency blocked
Access to the website of Mezopotamya news agency (MA) was blocked by a decision of the Kayseri 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace, issued on 22 February 2021.
Local politician sentenced over Las Tesis chant
Ayşe Özdemir, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) women’s branch chair in Aydın province, was sentenced by a local court to 11 months and 20 days in prison for “insulting the president.” The charge against Özdemir stemmed from the lyrics of the feminist protest chant Las Tesis, performed during CHP’s provincial congress in 2020. The final hearing of Özdemir’s trial was held on 22 February 2021 at the Aydın 8th Criminal Court of First Instance.
Investigation against MA editor dismissed
An investigation launched by the Cizre Chief Public Prosecutor's Office against Mezopotamya news agency editor Gökhan Altay on the allegation of “terrorism propaganda” over his social media posts from between 2014 and 2018 has been dismissed.
Erol Mütercimler’s trial adjourned until April
Writer and political analyst Erol Mütercimler appeared before an Istanbul court on 22 February 2021 for the second 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 Istanbul 12th Criminal Court of First Instance decided to send the case file to the prosecutor for their final opinion and adjourned the trial until 19 April.
The accusation stems from remarks Mütercimler made about graduates of Turkey’s Islamic “imam-hatip” schools during a political talk show on 7 September 2020.
At least 81 journalists and media workers in prison
As of 26 February 2021, at least 81 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.