Journalists Hakan Aygün, Ali Ergin Demirhan sentenced; students appear in court over Boğaziçi exhibition; HDP’s Gergerlioğlu stripped of MP status; journalist Arif Aslan acquitted in trial where he spent 8 months behind bars
İHD’s Öztürk Türkdoğan, 10 others arrested in Ankara
Human Rights Association (İHD) Co-Chairperson Öztürk Türkdoğan was arrested on 19 March 2021 during an early morning police raid on his home in Ankara. Türkdoğan was among 11 people arrested during the raids, which also targeted members and local executives of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). The grounds for the arrests were not disclosed.
The Ankara 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace issued a confidentiality order on the investigation and those arrested were initially imposed a 24-hour restriction on access to a lawyer.
Türkdoğan, who was taken to the courthouse later on Friday, was released after giving his statement to a prosecutor. Türkdoğan will be subject to judicial control measures in the form of reporting to the police station twice a month and a travel ban.
Trial against four Cumhuriyet journalists adjourned until June
Cumhuriyet reporter Hazal Ocak, Managing Editor İpek Özbey, Responsible Managing Editor Olcay Büyüktaş Akça and photojournalist Vedat Arık appeared before the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court on 18 March 2021 for the second hearing of a trial where they are accused of “violating the secrecy of one's private life” under Article 134 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) and "marking officials involved in the fight against terrorism as targets" under Article 6/1 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMK).
P24 monitored the hearing, where all four journalists and their lawyer Turan Karakaş were in attendance.
The charges stem from an April 2020 report by Ocak about allegations of illegal construction work commissioned by Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun on a plot of land in Istanbul that he had rented from the Foundations’ General Directorate.
In a complaint filed with the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, Altun claimed that the Cumhuriyet report “revealed his address and the photos of his residence” and that it “marked him as a target.”
Accepting Altun's request to intervene, the court ruled to send the case file to the prosecutor for the drafting of their final opinion and adjourned the trial until 24 June.
Journalist Arif Aslan acquitted in case where he spent 8 months behind bars
The final hearing of the trial against journalist Arif Aslan on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization" was held on 18 March 2021 at the Van 5th High Criminal Court.
Aslan was arrested along with fellow journalist Selman Keleş on 20 March 2017 for shooting photos of the barriers placed in front of the Van City Hall following its takeover by state-appointed trustees. They both remained in pre-trial detention for eight months on the allegation that they were shooting photos of the municipal building and its vicinity for reconnaissance.
Issuing its judgment after hearing the final defense statements by Aslan’s lawyers, the court acquitted the journalist.
HDP lawmaker Gergerlioğlu stripped of MP status over “propaganda” sentence
Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, an opposition lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was stripped of his parliamentary status on 17 March 2021 based on a recently finalized prison sentence he was given in 2018 on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” over a Twitter post he had shared in 2016.
Gergerlioğlu’s parliamentary status was terminated when a decision announcing his finalized conviction was read out at the Parliament’s General Assembly. Gergerlioğlu is now expected to be sent to prison to serve the 2.5-year sentence, which was upheld in February by the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals.
An individual application Gergerlioğlu has filed against the finalized conviction, claiming that the penalty violates his freedom of expression and his right to engage in political activity through political intervention, is still pending before the Constitutional Court.
Trial against ETHA journalist Adil Demirci to continue in September
A trial where Etkin news agency (ETHA) reporter Adil Demirci and members of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) and Federation of Socialist Youth Associations (SGDF) are among 23 defendants charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” resumed on 17 March 2021 at the Istanbul 25th High Criminal Court.
P24 monitored the hearing, which marked the 10th hearing in the case. Demirci, who resides in Germany, did not attend the hearing. He was represented by his lawyer.
Ruling to release jailed defendant Mustafa Bozali and to separate the file against Özge Doğan, the court decided to initiate processes to hear secret and open witnesses during the upcoming hearing and adjourned the trial until 15 September.
Trial of 7 students charged with “inciting hatred” over Boğaziçi exhibition begins
The trial against seven university students charged with “inciting hatred and hostility” under Article 216/1 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) over an exhibition put together on the Boğaziçi University campus as part of protests against the school’s newly appointed rector, got underway on 17 March 2021 at the Istanbul 21st Criminal Court of First Instance.
The indictment accuses all seven students over a depiction of the Kaaba in an exhibition put together on 29 January on the Boğaziçi campus as part of protests against the appointment of Rector Melih Bulu.
The court released two students who had been in pre-trial detention as part of the case and set 5 July 2021 as the date for the second hearing. The court also granted all seven students exemption from attending upcoming courtroom hearings.
A report on the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Journalist Ali Ergin Demirhan fined for “insulting the president”
The third and final hearing of the trial against Ali Ergin Demirhan, the editor of the website Sendika.org, who was initially indicted on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMK) over social media posts featuring several news articles the website published in 2018, was held on 17 March 2021.
The Istanbul 24th High Criminal Court sentenced Demirhan to 11 months and 20 days in prison for “insulting the president” at the end of the hearing. The court commuted the sentence to a judicial fine of TL 7,000.
A report on the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Columnist Enver Aysever briefly detained
Cumhuriyet columnist Enver Aysever was briefly detained on 17 March 2021 based on an arrest warrant issued by the Çerkezköy Criminal Judgeship of Peace. Aysever was detained as he was leaving a police station in Istanbul, where he gave his statement concerning a separate investigation against him over a cartoon he had shared on Twitter.
The warrant issued by the Çerkezköy Criminal Judgeship of Peace was based on another Twitter post Aysever had shared on 20 March 2020, for which he faces the allegation of “inciting hatred and hostility,” his lawyer told journalists. Aysever, who was taken to the Anadolu Courthouse, was released after giving his statement.
Journalist Hakan Aygün handed down 7-month prison sentence
Journalist Hakan Aygün was sentenced to 7 months and 15 days in prison for “insulting religious values” at the final hearing of his trial, held on 16 March 2021 at the Bodrum 3rd Criminal Court of First Instance.
Aygün was charged with "inciting hatred and hostility" (Article 216/1 of the Turkish Penal Code/TCK) and "insulting religious values" (TCK 216/3) over five social media posts he allegedly shared on various social media platforms in March and April 2020.
The court sentenced Aygün to 7 months and 15 days in prison for “insulting religious values adopted by a section of the public” (TCK 216/3) for a social media post that involved a wordplay on the term “IBAN.” This social media post was the subject of the second indictment against Aygün, issued on 6 May 2020 by the Bodrum Chief Public Prosecutor's Office. The court deferred Aygün’s sentence. Accordingly, Aygün will be subject to supervision for five years.
Our report on the hearing can be accessed here.
Journalists Seyhan Avşar and Necdet Önemli acquitted
The final hearing of the trial against Cumhuriyet reporter Seyhan Avşar and Sözcü newspaper Responsible Managing Editor Necdet Önemli on the charge of “marking a public official involved in the fight against terrorism as a target” under Article 6/1 of the Anti-Terror Law was held on 16 March 2021.
Issuing its judgment at the end of the hearing, the Istanbul 29th High Criminal Court acquitted both journalists of the charge, which stemmed from two news articles published in March 2019 in Cumhuriyet and Sözcü newspapers about the prosecutor who issued the indictment for the “Sözcü trial.” Avşar and Önemli were on trial for writing the full name of the prosecutor in the articles, which were about a 10-month sentence the prosecutor had been given in a previous case where he was accused of “extortion.”
A report on the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Trial against Aziz Oruç and Ersin Çaksu adjourned until July
The fifth hearing of journalists Aziz Oruç and Ersin Çaksu’s trial on the charges of “publicly denigrating the state of the Turkish Republic and its military and security forces” under Articles 301/1 and 301/2 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) was held on 16 March 2021 at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.
The journalists are accused over several news articles published between 21 October and 1 November 2016 in the now-defunct newspaper Özgürlükçü Demokrasi. Oruç and Çaksu’s files were separated at the final hearing of the original trial, held on 28 November 2019, because their statements could not be taken.
P24 monitored the hearing. Ruling to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant for Çaksu, the court adjourned the trial until 13 July.
Trial of Alican Uludağ and Olcay Büyüktaş Akça adjourned until June
The third hearing of the trial against Alican Uludağ, the former legal correspondent for Cumhuriyet newspaper, and Olcay Büyüktaş Akça, the newspaper’s responsible managing editor, on the charge of “disclosing the identities of informants” (TMK 6/3) was held on 16 March 2021 at the Istanbul 32nd High Criminal Court.
The journalists are accused over a report on the trial into the 2015 Ankara railway station attack, published in Cumhuriyet on 22 November 2019. The report claimed that the Police Department had prior knowledge of the attack.
P24 monitored the hearing. The presiding judge announced that the court has received a copy of the indictment for the Ankara railway station attack trial, overseen by the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court. Ruling to examine the indictment, the court adjourned the trial until 15 June.
Journalist Barış Barıştıran acquitted in “propaganda” trial
The eighth and final hearing of the trial against Barış Barıştıran, the former responsible editor of the shuttered local TV station Özgür Gün TV, on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” took place on 16 March 2021 at the Diyarbakır 8th High Criminal Court.
Barıştıran and Democratic Society Congress (DTK) executives Hilmi Aydoğdu and Mustafa Çukur were on trial because Özgür Gün TV had aired a congress by the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) in 2016. Aydoğdu and Çukur were accused over the speeches they delivered during the event.
In their final opinion presented during the previous hearing, the prosecutor demanded conviction for Barıştıran and Çukur and the acquittal of Aydoğdu. Issuing their judgment at the end of the hearing, the court acquitted Barıştıran and Aydoğdu but sentenced Çukur to 1 year, 6 months and 22 days in prison for “terrorism propaganda.” The court deferred Çukur’s sentence.
Kurdish politician Mahmut Alınak acquitted of “insulting the president”
The second hearing of Kurdish lawyer, politician and author Mahmut Alınak’s trial on the charge of “insulting the president” (TCK 299) over a 2017 social media post was held on 16 March 2021. Alınak was represented by his son and lawyer Bişar Alınak during the hearing.
After hearing Alınak’s defense statement, the Kars 1st Criminal Court of First Instance acquitted Alınak, ruling that the article was within the scope of freedom of expression. The accusation was based on an article by Alınak, titled “Topunuz paralelciydiniz” (you all used to support the parallel structure), which he shared in 2017 on Facebook.
Prosecutor seeks conviction for photographer Mehmet Özer
Photographer and poet Mehmet Özer appeared before the Ankara 2nd High Criminal Court on 16 March 2021 for his trial on the charge of “terrorism propaganda.”
The accusation stems from several social media posts by Özer, dated 2012 and 2014, in which he shared photos from an exhibition called "The Museum of Shame," put together by the Revolutionary 78'ers Federation.
Submitting their final opinion, the prosecutor asked the court to convict Özer as charged. Granting Özer additional time for his defense statement, the court adjourned the trial until 24 June.
At least 78 journalists and media workers in prison
P24 updated its list of journalists and media workers in prison, compiled using information available in open sources, upon discovering that Ersin Demirci, the former Erzurum representative of Zaman newspaper, has been released from prison after completing the execution of a sentence he was given in 2017 for “membership in a terrorist organization” over alleged ties with “FETÖ.”
Accordingly, as of 19 March 2021, at least 78 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.