Ozan Kaplanoğlu sentenced for “propaganda”; new arrest warrant issued for Can Dündar; ECtHR rules detention of Ali Bulaç violated right to liberty; prosecutor seeks conviction for Canan Coşkun, Can Uğur and Ali Açar; Sinan Aygül to be sent to prison as appellate court upholds his sentence
Trial of Engin Korkmaz adjourned until December
The fifth hearing of Antalya Körfez local newspaper responsible editor Engin Korkmaz’s trial on the charge of “insulting the president” under Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) over his social media posts was held on 11 June 2021 at the Antalya 19th Criminal Court of First Instance.
After hearing Korkmaz and his lawyer’s defense statements, the court decided to review the file before issuing its judgment and adjourned the trial until 15 December 2021.
Courts to wait for Rüstem Batum’s arrest
Two trials against journalist and former TV talk show host Rüstem Batum resumed this week.
Batum’s trial on the charge of “insulting the president” (TCK 299/1) resumed on 8 June 2021 at the Istanbul 41st Criminal Court of First Instance.
P24 monitored the hearing, which marked the 13th in this trial. Batum, who lives in the US, did not attend. His lawyer Zelal Pelin Doğan was in attendance. Ruling to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant issued for Batum and to issue a rogatory letter for his statement to be taken in the US in case his permanent address is submitted, the court adjourned the trial until 21 October 2021.
Batum’s trial on the charge of “publicly denigrating the state’s security and military forces” (TCK 301/2) resumed on 11 June 2021 at the Istanbul 43rd Criminal Court of First Instance. This was the 14th hearing in the case. The court ruled to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant for Batum so that his statement can be taken and adjourned the trial until 12 November 2021.
Activist Taylan Kulaçoğlu released after one month behind bars
Activist Taylan Kulaçoğlu, who was jailed in May, has been released from pretrial detention, his lawyer Tamer Doğan wrote in a Twitter post he shared on the evening of 10 June 2021.
Kulaçoğlu was taken into custody on 11 May at the Istanbul Police Department, where he was called in to give his signature. The grounds for his arrest was his social media posts. He was jailed pending trial by a criminal judgeship of peace the next day on the charge of “insulting the president” (TCK 299) over a social media post he denied sharing.
Journalist Ozan Kaplanoğlu sentenced for “propaganda”
Ozan Kaplanoğlu, the owner and managing editor of the local news portal BursaMuhalif.com, was sentenced to 1 year, 10 months and 15 days in prison for “terrorism propaganda” in a trial where the accusation stemmed from his coverage of an anti-war statement criticizing Turkey’s 2018 military operation on Syria’s Afrin.
The final hearing of the trial was held on 10 June 2021 at the Bursa 10th High Criminal Court. Kaplanoğlu’s co-defendant, Labor Party (EMEP) Provincial Chair Hasan Özaydın, who was on trial for reading the anti-war statement, was acquitted.
Following the joint statement delivered on 30 January 2018, police arrested Kaplanoğlu on 2 February 2018 and Özaydın on 3 February on the allegation that they made “propaganda for the PKK.” The court they were referred to on 5 February released Kaplanoğlu pending trial while Özaydın was jailed. He was released pending trial by the trial court at the first hearing of the case, held on 10 April 2018.
DHA reporter attacked by relatives of man killed in fight
Demirören News Agency (DHA) reporter Ahmet Atmaca was attacked on 10 June 2021 by the relatives of a man who died in a fight in Gaziantep province. Atmaca was attacked as he was covering the news at the Forensic Medicine Institute. Atmaca, who was rescued by his colleagues and the police, was hospitalized due to the injuries he suffered.
Freelance journalist Ruşen Takva appears in court for his first hearing
Freelance journalist Ruşen Takva appeared before the Van 2nd High Criminal Court on 10 June 2021 for the first hearing of his trial on the charges of “violating the Law on Demonstrations” and “membership in a terrorist organization.”
The charges stem from Takva’s coverage of a demonstration organized in January in Van province. The demonstration was organized by the Democratic Regions Party (DBP) and participants included lawmakers from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
Following Takva and his lawyers’ defense statements, the prosecutor requested a continuance to prepare their final opinion. Granting the prosecutor additional time, the court adjourned the trial until 12 October 2021.
A report on the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Nurcan Yalçın’s trial adjourned until September
The fourth hearing of journalist Nurcan Yalçın’s trial on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” was held on 9 June 2021 at the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court.
The court decided to inquire of the Diyarbakır Police on “whether there is any information stating that the Jin News news agency, which the defendant is allegedly working with, is related to the PKK/KCK armed terrorist organization.” Ruling to send the case file to the prosecutor’s office following the inquiry, the court adjourned the trial until 29 September 2021.
A report on the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Prosecutor seeks 5-year sentence for Nurcan Kaya
Lawyer and Artı Gerçek columnist Nurcan Kaya’s trial on the charge of “consecutive terrorism propaganda” over her social media posts resumed on 9 June 2021 at the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court. This was the third hearing.
Submitting their final opinion, the prosecutor demanded a prison sentence of up to 5 years for Kaya over a post she shared in 2014. Granting Kaya and her lawyers additional time to prepare their final defense statements, the court adjourned the trial until 27 September.
Journalist Sabiha Temizkan acquitted
A 15-month prison sentence given to journalist Sabiha Temizkan in October 2020 on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” was reversed by the 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice.
Temizkan stood trial for sharing on social media a news article in 2014. Ruling that the elements of the crime did not occur since the post Temizkan shared was a news article and did not praise, legitimize or encourage the acts of a terrorist organization, the appellate court ruled for Temizkan’s acquittal.
Ahmet Altan’s trial over 2008 article adjourned until November
The fifth hearing of novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan’s trial on the charge of “insulting a public official” (TCK 125) was held on 8 June 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 reopened after a previous sentence Altan was given by the Istanbul 32nd Criminal Court of First Instance for “insulting the president” was upheld in 2018 by a regional court of appeals.
P24 monitored the hearing, where Altan was represented by his lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu. Stating that the Istanbul 32nd Criminal Court of First Instance judgment was still pending before the Supreme Court of Appeals and therefore not finalized, Çalıkuşu said the case should be dismissed.
Issuing an 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 18 November 2021.
ECtHR: Ali Bulaç’s detention violated his right to liberty, freedom of expression
The European Court of Human Rights issued its judgment in former Zaman columnist Ali Bulaç's application on 8 June 2021, ruling that his pre-trial detention for almost two years as part of the “Zaman trial” violated his right to liberty and security (Article 5/1 of the European Convention on Human Rights) and his freedom of expression (Article 10). The Strasbourg Court ordered Turkey to pay Bulaç 12,240 euros in non-pecuniary damages.
Bulaç was arrested on 30 July 2016 as part of an investigation targeting newspaper columnists working with media outlets allegedly affiliated with the Fethullah Gülen movement. He was released pending trial on 11 May 2018. Later that year, he was sentenced to 8 years and 9 months in prison on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.” His retrial, ordered by the Supreme Court of Appeals, which reversed his conviction in September 2020, is ongoing.
Court issues new arrest warrant for Can Dündar
The first hearing of a trial where Cumhuriyet newspaper’s former Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar is charged with “Obtaining confidential information for political or military espionage” (TCK 328) and “Disclosing confidential information for political or military espionage” (TCK 330) was held on 8 June 2021 at the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court.
The charges stem from a video by Dündar that aired on 1 March 2017 on his website Özgürüz, in which he recounted the "MİT trucks" incident. The indictment, which was initially merged with the retrial of the “MİT Trucks case” against Dündar, was separated at the sentencing hearing in December 2020. The prosecution alleges that Dündar's video breached a gag order issued by the Adana Chief Public Prosecutor's Office concerning the 2014 MİT Trucks investigation.
The hearing was closed to the public. The court decided to issue a new arrest warrant and to launch procedures for an Interpol red notice to be issued against Dündar and adjourned the trial until 6 October 2021.
Prosecutor seeks sentence for Coşkun, Uğur and Açar for Berkin Elvan reports
The fourth 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” (TMK 6/1) was held on 8 June 2021 at the Istanbul 34th High Criminal Court. The journalists are accused over two news articles published on 11 March 2016 in Cumhuriyet and BirGün newspapers about the investigation into the murder of Berkin Elvan during 2013’s Gezi Park protests.
P24 monitored the hearing, where Canan Coşkun and her lawyer Abbas Yalçın were in attendance. Ali Açar and Can Uğur did not attend.
Submitting their final opinion during the hearing, the prosecutor argued that all three journalists committed the alleged offense. Coşkun’s lawyer requested a continuance to prepare their statement in response to the prosecutor’s opinion. Granting the defendants additional time, the court adjourned the trial until 7 October 2021.
Trial of MA reporters Eser and Topaloğlu adjourned until September
The fourth hearing of Mezopotamya news agency reporters Sadiye Eser and Sadık Topaloğlu’s trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” (TCK 314/2) was held on 8 June 2021 at the Istanbul 22nd High Criminal Court.
P24 monitored the hearing. Eser and Topaloğlu were represented by their lawyers Ayşe Acinikli and Özcan Kılıç.
Acinikli told the court that it would be more appropriate if the court rendered a judgment before any replacements are made in the court panel. Also submitting a previous statement by Özgür Baran, whom the court is planning on hearing as a witness, Acinikli said: “We do not think that this person's statements are reliable. He made a false statement before. The absence of witness Özgür Baran leads to prolongation of the proceedings and causes grievance.”
Kılıç also requested the court to render its judgment and acquit his clients. He added: “It is meaningless to hear the witness Özgür Baran at this point in the trial. His statements are of no value as evidence anyway.”
Issuing an interim ruling, the court decided to once again issue a summons for Özgür Baran to testify in court as a witness and adjourned the trial until 21 September 2021.
Journalist Ruken Demir’s trial to continue in October
The seventh hearing of journalist Ruken Demir’s trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” over her phone calls with her sources and her reports was held at the Izmir 19th High Criminal Court on 8 June 2021.
Demir and his lawyer Zafer İncin were present at the hearing. The court adjourned the trial until 5 October 2021 to examine the digital forensics report.
Demir, a reporter for Mezopotamya news agency, was jailed pending trial on 26 November 2019 and was released four months later.
Jin News reporter Melike Aydın acquitted at her third hearing
Jin News reporter Melike Aydın, who was jailed on 16 November 2019 as part of an investigation carried out by the Izmir Chief Public Prosecutor's Office and released pending trial on 30 January 2020, was acquitted of “membership in a terrorist organization” charge at the third hearing of her trial.
The hearing was held on 8 June 2021 at the Izmir 2nd High Criminal Court. The court heard two secret witnesses code-named “Karayel” and “Şimal,” who stated that they did not know Aydın. After the witness statements, Aydın’s lawyers said there was no need to hear the other two secret witnesses code-named “Poyraz” and “Doğan.” The court accepted the request.
The prosecutor presented their final opinion next, demanding Aydın’s acquittal citing a lack of evidence. Ruling in line with the prosecutor’s final opinion, the court ruled for Aydın’s acquittal. The journalist’s coverage of the 2018 hunger strikes in prisons, the environmental protests against mining activities on Kaz Mountains (Mount Ida), and femicides in Turkey were cited among the grounds for the accusation against her.
NGO executive to stand trial over social media post
Rojbin Bor, one of the founders of the Van-based Star Women’s Association, is charged with “inciting hatred and hostility” (TCK 216) in a new indictment. The accusation stems from a social media post by Bor, in which she questioned the release of Musa Orhan, a sergeant who is charged with sexual assault. Bor wrote: “Will you continue protecting your ‘Musa Orhans’? In your all-out war against the Kurds, is this your new special concept?” The indictment was recently accepted by the Van 7th Criminal Court of First Instance. The first hearing is set for 14 September 2021.
MA reported this week that 28 investigations have been opened against Bor in the last 16 months based on the protests she attended, her social media posts and the statements she made during interviews.
KRT TV fires reporter Çağdaş Ulus
Journalist Çağdaş Ulus announced that he was dismissed by his employer KRT TV after he tweeted about allegations concerning two local municipalities in Istanbul run by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Ulus claimed in his posts that the Maltepe and Ataşehir municipalities allocated their vehicles to pro-government journalists Hadi, Süleyman and Baki Özışık, and made regular payments to the Özışık brothers, billed as “advertisement.”
Crime boss Sedat Peker has claimed in his recent videos that Hadi and Süleyman Özışık, who own the website internethaber.com, acted as a mediator between him and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu.
Journalist Sinan Aygül to be sent to prison as appellate court upholds his sentence
A prison sentence given in 2019 to journalist Sinan Aygül was upheld last week by the 1st Criminal Chamber of the Van Regional Court of Justice, an appellate court. The sentence, which was not suspended or deferred by the trial court, thus became finalized. Aygül, the editor-in-chief of the local newspaper Bitlis News and the president of the Bitlis Journalists Association, will be sent to prison soon to serve his sentence.
Aygül was accused of “violating the confidentiality of an investigation” (TCK 285/1) for reporting in July 2019 on a sexual abuse case in Tatvan district. At the first hearing of his trial, held in December 2019, the Tatvan 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance sentenced the journalist to 10 months in prison.
Rejecting Aygül’s appeal request, the appellate court corrected the trial court’s judgment by removing the phrase “sentenced to 10 months in prison” and replacing it with “sentenced to 5 months in prison.” The appellate court also amended the charge against Aygül, replacing TCK 285/1 with TCK 285/5 (“Broadcasting images of a person at the investigation or prosecution stage in a way that causes them to be perceived as guilty.”)
With the sentence against Aygül becoming final, two other sentences he was previously handed down will also become final. The time Aygül will have to spend behind bars will be determined by the local court, which will calculate Aygül’s sentence by adding up the previous sentences.
Rapper Şehinşah taken into custody for “insulting the president” in his lyrics
Rapper Ufuk Yıkılmaz, a.k.a. Şehinşah, was taken into custody on 5 June 2021 on the allegation that he “insulted the president.” Şehinşah, who was brought to the courthouse the next day, gave his statement in two separate investigations where the accusations stem from the lyrics of his songs. He was subsequently released.
At least 67 journalists and media workers in prison
As of 11 June 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.