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 - 296

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 296

MA reporter Mehmet Aslan released pending trial; Roza Metina appears in court; Gökhan Biçici gives statement over 2019 report; HDP’s Demirtaş sentenced over his defense statement in court

 

Journalist Aslıhan Gençay released

 

Journalist Aslıhan Gençay was released from prison, Lawyer Tugay Bek announced on 28 May 2021 on his Twitter account.

 

Gençay, who was initially imprisoned as part of a trial that began in 1992, suffered injuries during the December 2000 “Hayata Dönüş” (return to life) operation on 20 prisons by Turkish security forces. She was released shortly after due to being diagnosed with the Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. In 2016, she was placed in the Kayseri Women’s Closed Prison to serve the remainder of her sentence. In October 2020, she was transferred to the Sivas Open Prison due to being eligible for release under probation. However, she was denied probation based on a disciplinary penalty because she refused a strip search during her admission to the open prison.

 

HDP’s Demirtaş sentenced over statement in court

 

Former Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Co-Chairperson Selahattin Demirtaş, who has been in pre-trial detention since November 2016, was handed down a prison sentence of 2 years and 6 months on 28 May 2021 in a trial where he was accused of “threatening” former Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor Yüksel Kocaman and “marking him as a target for terrorist organizations.”

 

The Ankara 25th High Criminal Court acquitted Demirtaş of the charge of “threat” and sentenced him to 2 years and 6 months in prison for “marking public officials involved in the fight against terrorism as a target” (TMK 6/1).

 

Demirtaş was on trial because of his defense statement he read out during the 7 January 2020 hearing of his main trial, overseen by the Ankara 19th High Criminal Court.

 

Journalists prevented from covering arrest of university student

 

Citing last month’s controversial General Directorate of Security circular, police prevented journalists Derya Saadet and Fatoş Erdoğan from filming the arrest of a university student who took part in a demonstration in Istanbul on 27 May 2021. The student was arrested on the grounds of a banner he was carrying during the demonstration protesting Israeli attacks on Palestine.

 

Istanbul Mayor İmamoğlu charged with “insult” in new indictment

 

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu is charged with “insulting a group of public officials serving as a board due to the performance of their duty” under Article 125/5 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) in a new indictment.

 

Issued by the Anadolu Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office based on a complaint filed by the Supreme Election Council (YSK), the indictment accuses İmamoğlu due to a public statement he delivered on 4 November 2019 concerning the cancellation of the local elections held on 31 March 2019. İmamoğlu will stand trial if the indictment is accepted by a court.

 

Musician Ferhat Tunç’s trial adjourned until October

 

The third hearing of a trial where exiled musician Ferhat Tunç is charged with “insulting” (TCK 125) former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım on social media was held on 27 May 2021 at the Büyükçekmece 16th Criminal Court of First Instance.

 

Tunç's lawyer, Damla Koç, demanded the acquittal of her client, stating that the post was shared in response to a statement by the complainant, Binali Yıldırım, and that there was no intent to insult in the post. Deciding to examine the file to render a judgment, the court adjourned the trial until 21 October 2021.

 

Journalist Roza Metina appears in court

 

Journalist and Kurdish Pen executive Roza Metina on 27 May 2021 appeared before the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court for the first hearing of her trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” (TCK 314/2).

 

Metina was arrested on 20 November 2020 in Diyarbakır as part of an investigation targeting the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) and remained in custody for three days before being released under judicial control measures.

 

Addressing the court for her defense statement, Metina said she is a journalist and a member of the Kurdish PEN and explained that the books confiscated during the raid on her house were there because she was working on them for research. Metina denied the accusation against her, stating that was not part of the DTK. Her lawyer Resul Tamur also stated that his client could not be prosecuted because of the documents seized during the searches conducted in the DTK building and emphasized that the books could not be shown as a crime element.

 

Ruling to send the case file to the prosecutor for the preparation of their final opinion, the court adjourned the trial until 14 September.

 

MA reporter Dindar Karataş appears in court for second hearing

 

The second hearing of Mezopotamya news agency reporter Dindar Karataş, who was arrested on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” (TCK 314/2) after being taken into custody on 24 November 2020 in Van and released at his first hearing in February, was held on 27 May 2021 at the Erzurum 3rd High Criminal Court.

 

Addressing the court via the judicial video-conferencing network SEGBİS from the Van 4th High Criminal Court, Karataş stated that he was a journalist and that the news reports in the file against him were concrete and based on facts. Karataş said: “My reports actually stand as criminal complaints. You had to take action regarding allegations of torture and battering. Everything in the news stories is based on facts and documented. Therefore, my reports are not a crime.”

 

Lawyer İrfan Sarı requested additional time to submit the requested documents in the file. Ruling to keep Karataş’s international travel ban in place, the court adjourned the trial until 7 September 2021.

 

MA reporter Mehmet Aslan released pending trial

 

The first hearing of the trial of journalist Mehmet Aslan, who was arrested on 9 January 2021 on charges stemming from the reports he wrote for the Mezopotamya news agency (MA), was held on 26 May 2021 at the Istanbul 24th High Criminal Court.

 

Aslan, who is charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” under Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), addressed the court via the judicial video-conferencing network SEGBİS from the Antalya L Type Prison.

 

The prosecutor demanded that Aslan be released under judicial control measures taking into account the time he spent in detention. In its interim ruling, the court released Aslan under a ban on traveling abroad and set 14 October 2021 as the date for the second hearing.

 

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

 

Gökhan Biçici faces arrest warrant, gives statement concerning March 2019 report

 

Dokuz8Haber Editor-in-Chief Gökhan Biçici gave his statement to a public prosecutor in Istanbul on 26 May 2021 upon finding out that an arrest warrant had been issued for him. The warrant was issued following a criminal complaint filed by an individual named Necmettin Kesgin, who made various allegations about Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavaş during his candidacy. Kesgin’s complaint was about a news report Dokuz8Haber shared on Twitter on 27 March 2019 about Kesgin.

 

İsminaz Temel and Havva Cuştan’s trial adjourned until October

 

The 13th hearing of a trial where Etkin News Agency (ETHA) editor İsminaz Temel and reporter Havva Cuştan are among 23 defendants facing “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” charges was held on 25 May 2021 at the Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court.

 

P24 monitored the hearing, where Temel and Cuştan were not present. They were represented by their lawyers. In its interim ruling, the court decided to lift the house arrest of lawyer Özlem Gümüştaş, who is among the defendants in the case, and adjourned the trial until 12 October.

 

MA reporter Lezgin Tekay detained by “intelligence officials” in Ankara

 

Lezgin Tekay, a reporter for Mezopotamya news agency (MA), was detained by five people who introduced themselves as “intelligence officers” while boarding a city bus at the Ankara Bus Terminal on 25 May 2021. Tekay, who came to Ankara for a family visit, informed fellow journalists that he was being “taken into custody” during his detention. Tekay, who was detained for about two hours, was released without any official custody procedures.

 

Following his release, Tekay told MA that he was detained by five people who made him climb into a white pickup vehicle that did not have a license plate and who asked him about several names and told him to “work with” them. Tekay stated that he was released in the Dikmen neighborhood in Çankaya after being driven around the city for two hours.

 

Retrial of journalist Ramazan Akoğul adjourned until October

 

The eighth hearing in the retrial of former Dicle News Agency reporter Ramazan Akoğul on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” was held on 25 May 2021 at the Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court. Ruling to wait for the response to a warrant written to the Dicle Chief Public Prosecutor's Office regarding the outcome of an investigation filed against Akoğul, the court adjourned the trial until 26 October.

 

Interior Minister calls BBC Turkish a “disinformation channel”

 

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu targeted the BBC’s Turkish service during a live appearance earlier this week on HaberTürk TV regarding the allegations made against him on social media by crime boss Sedat Peker. Soylu called the BBC Turkish service, which has also been reporting on the allegations against the minister, “a disinformation channel.” Soylu said: “There is sustainable disinformation. BBC Turkish is both an economic and political disinformation channel.”

 

Mustafa Sönmez wins lawsuit against Directorate of Communications

 

Economist and journalist Mustafa Sönmez won a lawsuit he filed against the Presidential Directorate of Communications, seeking the renewal of his press card. In its 31 March 2021 ruling, the 12th Administrative Court of Ankara held that the Directorate of Communications should immediately hand over the journalist his press card. Sönmez, who has been a permanent press card holder for 32 years, filed for the renewal of his card in November 2019 after losing his card. However, numerous applications by Sönmez remained inconclusive.

 

At least 67 journalists and media workers in prison

 

Following journalist Mehmet Aslan’s release pending trial this week, as of 28 May 2021, at least 67 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.

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