Expression Interrupted

Journalists and academics bear the brunt of the massive crackdown on freedom of expression in Turkey. Scores of them are currently subject to criminal investigations or behind bars. This website is dedicated to tracking the legal process against them.

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 289

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 289

Ali Ergin Demirhan indicted twice over the same Twitter post; Melis Alphan stands trial over 2015 Newroz photo; Oktay Candemir charged with “propaganda”; Beritan Canözer released under judicial control measures



Journalist Beritan Canözer released after three days in custody


JinNews reporter Beritan Canözer was taken into custody on 5 April 2021 in an early morning police raid on her home in Diyarbakır province. Police searched Canözer’s home and confiscated her digital equipment. Canözer was among 22 women arrested as part of the investigation, conducted by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. The grounds for the arrests were not disclosed due to a confidentiality order on the investigation file.


Canözer and 13 others arrested as part of the investigation were interrogated at the Police Department on 7 April. Canözer, who is facing the allegation of “membership in a terrorist organization,” was questioned about her social media posts for which she previously stood trial and was acquitted. Police also accused Canözer of taking part in demonstrations and similar assemblies, which she had covered as a journalist.


Canözer was brought to the Diyarbakır Courthouse on 8 April. After taking her statement, the public prosecutor referred the journalist to a criminal judgeship of peace, seeking her imprisonment pending trial. The court released Canözer under judicial control measures.


Access to JinNews blocked


On the same day as Beritan Canözer’s arrest, access to JinNews website was blocked by a decision of the Diyarbakır 1st Criminal Judgeship of Peace. The latest court order brought the number of access block decisions against JinNews to 20.


ECtHR to issue Ahmet Altan and Murat Aksoy judgments next week


The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will issue its judgments concerning the applications of jailed novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan and journalist Murat Aksoy on Tuesday, 13 April, according to the Court’s official website.


Both applications have been pending before the Strasbourg Court since 2017. Altan has been behind bars since September 2016 as part of the “Altans trial,” while Aksoy spent more than 15 months behind bars as part of the “FETÖ” media trial.


Ahmet Altan’s application was filed in January 2017. In February 2017, the ECtHR responded that although it did not give the application formal priority under its Rule 41, it would “take it up as soon as possible.” In June 2017, the Strasbourg Court said that it had asked the Turkish government to present its defense concerning the applications of Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak, Murat Aksoy, Atilla Taş, Şahin Alpay and Ali Bulaç.


The ECtHR’s judgment concerning Mehmet Altan, who was arrested as part of the same case file as his brother, Ahmet Altan, was issued in March 2018.


Supreme Court prosecutor seeks reversal of 3 convictions in “Büyükada trial”


The Office of the General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals has issued their judicial opinion concerning the “Büyükada trial,” seeking the reversal of the sentences given to human rights defenders Özlem Dalkıran, İdil Eser and Günal Kurşun and the affirmation of Taner Kılıç’s conviction.


Dalkıran, Eser and Kurşun were among 10 HRDs arrested in 2017 for participating in a meeting held at a hotel in Büyükada. The file against Kılıç, the honorary chair of Amnesty Turkey, who was arrested in a separate investigation, was later merged with the Büyükada case.


Journalist Kemal Göktaş reported this week that the Office of the General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals said there was no sufficient or convincing evidence to prove that Dalkıran, Eser and Kurşun “aided a terrorist organization without being its member.”


At the final hearing of the “Büyükada trial,” held on 3 July 2020, the Istanbul 35th High Criminal Court had sentenced Taner Kılıç to 6 years and 3 months in prison for “membership in a terrorist organization” and Dalkıran, Eser and Kurşun to 1 year and 13 months in prison each for “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.” The trial court’s ruling was upheld on 26 November 2020 by the 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, an appellate court.


Journalist Selda Manduz acquitted at her third hearing


Journalist Selda Manduz, an editor for the news portal Demokrat Haber, was acquitted of “membership in a terrorist organization” at the third hearing of her trial, held on 8 April 2021.


Submitting their final opinion during the hearing, the prosecutor demanded Manduz’s acquittal. Ruling in line with the prosecutor’s final opinion, the Kars 2nd High Criminal Court acquitted the journalist on the grounds that the elements of the alleged offense were not present.


Manduz was arrested in Kars province on 1 October 2020 and released pending trial three days later. She was accused based on testimony by two secret witnesses and the content of her three phone calls, two of which were with fellow journalists.


Oktay Candemir charged with “propaganda” in new indictment


Journalist Oktay Candemir is charged with “terrorism propaganda” under article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMK) in a new indictment, recently accepted by the Van 5th High Criminal Court.


Video footage and photos found in the digital equipment confiscated from Candemir during a police raid on his home, conducted on 5 April 2019, as well as several social media posts the journalist shared in 2014 and 2015 are cited among evidence against Candemir in the four-page indictment. News footage Candemir recorded between 2005 and 2009 during Democratic Society Congress (DTP) assemblies held in Ağrı, Kars and Iğdır provinces are also held as evidence.


The first hearing of Candemir’s trial is scheduled for 17 June 2021.


Objection against four journalists’ release rejected


The prosecutor’s objection against the Van 5th High Criminal Court’s decision to release journalists Adnan Bilen, Cemil Uğur, Nazan Sala and Şehriban Abi pending trial has been rejected by the next court of first instance.


Bilen, Uğur, Sala and Abi, who were arrested in October 2020 over their coverage of allegations that two locals were tortured and thrown out of a chopper by soldiers in Van, were released from the Van Prison on 2 April 2021 based on the Van 5th High Criminal Court’s interim ruling at the end of their first hearing.


Ali Ergin Demirhan indicted twice over the same Twitter post


Sendika.Org editor Ali Ergin Demirhan appeared before the Istanbul 22nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 7 April 2021 for the first hearing of his trial on the charge of “insulting the president” under Article 299/1-2 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).


The accusation stemmed from five social media posts Demirhan had shared in 2018 and 2019. However, one of the posts Demirhan was indicted for was among six Twitter posts for which he was sentenced in 2020 in another trial, also overseen by the same court.


Issuing its judgment at the end of the hearing, the court dismissed the case pursuant to Article 223/7 of the Turkish Code of Criminal Procedure (CMK), which stipulates that a final judgment by a criminal court bars further prosecution for the same crime against the same person.


A report on the hearing can be accessed here.


Journalist Melis Alphan appears in court over 2015 Newroz photo


The first hearing of journalist Melis Alphan’s trial on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMK) was held on 6 April 2021 at the Istanbul 32nd High Criminal Court. Alphan is on trial for sharing a photo taken during the 2015 Newroz festivities in Diyarbakır on her Instagram account.


Presenting their final opinion, the prosecutor asked the court to convict Alphan as charged. Granting Alphan and her lawyers time to prepare their final defense statements, the court adjourned the trial until 21 May.


A report on the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.


Journalist Yetkin Yıldız’s trial adjourned until July


The 17th hearing of journalist Yetkin Yıldız’s trial on the charges of “insult” (TCK 125) and “libel” (TCK 267) over an article published on 23 July 2015 on the news portal Aktif Haber was held on 6 April 2021.


The trial, overseen by the Bakırköy 31st Criminal Court of First Instance, was launched in 2016 based on a complaint filed by former Interior Minister Efkan Ala. The accusations stem from a report titled “Fuat Avni Suruç patlaması ile ilgili Twitter’dan çarpıcı mesajlar paylaştı” (striking remarks by Fuat Avni concerning the Suruç bombing).


Based on a decision the Bakırköy court rendered on 15 May 2018, the sentence Yıldız was given in the case publicly known as the “FETÖ media trial” is a prejudicial question in this case. Yıldız told the court that his retrial has been adjourned until 26 October.


The prosecutor demanded that the court wait for the conclusion of Yıldız’s retrial. Issuing an interim ruling, the court decided to inquire of the Istanbul 25th High Criminal Court about Yıldız’s retrial and set 8 July as the date for the next hearing.


At least 73 journalists and media workers in prison


As of 9 April 2021, at least 73 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.