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 - 301

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 301

Hakkı Boltan handed down 2-year sentence; Sinan Aygül sent to prison; İsmail Çoban sentenced to 4.5 years in retrial; local journalist İrfan Aydın taken into custody


Singer Güvenç Dağüstün taken into custody on “insult” charge


Singer and BirGün columnist Güvenç Dağüstün was taken into custody on 2 July 2021 at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen Airport. Dağüstün wrote on Twitter that he was detained on the charge of “insult.” Dağüstün was taken to the Anadolu Courthouse shortly, where he gave his statement to a prosecutor in relation to a Twitter post he shared on 3 January 2021, in which he allegedly “insulted” pro-AKP TV commentator Selman Öğüt. Dağüstün was released after his statement was taken.


Access to ETHA website blocked twice in a week


Access to the website of the Etkin news agency (ETHA) was blocked by a decision of the Diyarbakır 5th Criminal Judgeship of Peace issued on 1 July 2021, only six days after the latest court decision blocking access to the news agency’s website.


Trial of five journalists who reported on torture allegations to continue in October


The second hearing of the trial against Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporters Adnan Bilen, Cemil Uğur and Zeynep Durgut, Jin News reporter Şehriban Abi and freelance journalist Nazan Sala on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” (TCK 314/2) was held on 2 July 2021 at the Van 5th High Criminal Court.


News reports penned by the journalists are held as evidence for the accusation in the indictment, which alleges that the media outlets the journalists work for have been “publishing provocative content against the state.” Sala is additionally charged with “terrorism propaganda” for her social media posts.


Bilen, Uğur, Abi and Sala were jailed pending trial in October 2020 after reporting on allegations that soldiers tortured two locals in Van. They remained in pre-trial detention for six months as part of the case before being released at their first hearing in April.


The hearing was overseen by the court’s substitute panel. In an interim ruling, the court reduced the signature obligation imposed on Zeynep Durgut to once a month and ordered the continuation of the judicial control measures imposed on her four co-defendants. The court adjourned the trial until 21 October.


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


Local journalist İrfan Aydın taken into custody


İrfan Aydın, the owner of the local news portal 3rd Göz, was detained in Bursa province on the allegation that he “insulted” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu in his comments on the latest videos by the mob boss Sedat Peker.


Aydın, who spent one night in custody, was released the next day after his statement was taken at the courthouse. Making a statement on social media after his release, Aydın said, “I was detained because I sued Süleyman Soylu, not for insulting the president, as Anadolu news agency claimed.”


Aydın was injured in 2019 in an assault in front of his house after making statements targeting Sedat Peker.


Top court: Gergerlioğlu’s imprisonment violated multiple rights


On 1 July 2021, the Constitutional Court rendered its judgment concerning the individual application of former HDP MP Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, who was imprisoned after being stripped of his parliamentary status due to a previous sentence on “propaganda” charge that was upheld earlier this year. The Constitutional Court ruled that Gergerlioğlu’s right to be elected and to engage in political activities as well as his right to liberty and security had been violated.


The high court sent the judgment to the Kocaeli 2nd High Criminal Court for the elimination of the violation and Gergerlioğlu’s release. However, as of 2 July, the local court had “yet to receive the judgment.”


Journalist Sinan Aygül sent to prison to serve 5-month sentence


Sinan Aygül, the president of the Bitlis Journalists Association and the editor-in-chief of the local newspaper Bitlis News, was sent to prison on 30 June 2021 to serve a 5-month sentence he was given over his coverage of a sexual abuse case. Aygül was released the same day under probation.


Aygül was sentenced in December 2019 to 10 months in prison for “violating the confidentiality of an investigation” (TCK 285/1) over his July 2019 report. His sentence was upheld last month by the 1st Criminal Chamber of the Van Regional Court of Justice, which reduced Aygül’s sentence to 5 months and amended the charge against him, 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”).


Aygül has filed an individual application with the Constitutional Court against the prison sentence.


Hayri Demir’s trial adjourned until October


The trial of journalist Hayri Demir on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” based on news footage stored on memory cards handed over to the police after being stolen from his home in 2016 resumed on 30 June 2021 at the Ankara 15th High Criminal Court. This was the eighth hearing in the case.


Ruling to wait for a response from the property and evidence unit of the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office concerning Demir's memory cards, the court adjourned the trial until 12 October.


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


Two trials against Deniz Yücel held in one week


The first hearing of a new trial against Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yücel on charges of “publicly denigrating the Turkish nation and the Republic of Turkey” (TCK 301/1) and “insulting the president” (TCK 299) was set to be held on 1 July 2021 at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. The hearing was postponed until 25 November 2021 because the judge overseeing the trial was on leave. Yücel is on trial for his remarks in three articles published on 26 and 27 October and 6 November 2016.


Another trial against Yücel, in which he is charged with “insulting” Deputy Justice Minister Hasan Yılmaz, resumed on 28 June 2021 at the Istanbul 24th Criminal Court of First Instance. Yücel, who submitted his defense to the court in writing, argued that his remarks did not constitute insult and reiterated the statement for which he is on trial.


Yücel, who remained in pre-trial detention in Turkey for a year between 2017 and 2018, is accused over his remarks about Yılmaz, the then Istanbul Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor, in a public statement he delivered following his release from pre-trial detention.


Prosecutor demands sentence for 22 journalists arrested in Özgür Gündem raid


A trial in which 22 journalists and media workers violently detained during an August 2016 police raid on Özgür Gündem newspaper’s Istanbul office are charged with “preventing police officers from performing their duty” (TCK 265/1) and “insulting a public official” (TCK 125/1, 125/3-a) was held on 1 July 2021 at the Istanbul 5th Criminal Court of First Instance.


Submitting their final opinion during the hearing, the prosecutor demanded that the court convict all 22 journalists as charged.


The judge rejected the defense lawyers’ requests for a re-examination of the footage from the raid. Granting the lawyers time to prepare their statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion, the court adjourned the trial until 23 November 2021.


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


Caner Taşpınar’s “insult” trial adjourned until October


The second hearing of Odatv editor Caner Taşpınar’s trial on “insult” charge over his 2020 book “Damat: Fethullahçıların AKP'li Kayınpederleri” (The groom: The AKP-member fathers-in-law of Fethullahists) was held on 1 July 2021 at the Istanbul 11th Criminal Court of First Instance.


P24 monitored the hearing. Taşpınar and his lawyers were in attendance. Granting the newly appointed prosecutor additional time to examine the file and prepare their final opinion, the court adjourned the trial until 27 October 2021.


The case was launched based on a complaint by Former Speaker of the Parliament İsmail Kahraman and AKP Deputy Ali İhsan Arslan.


Trial of journalist Abdullah Kaya postponed


The trial of former Dicle news agency (DİHA) reporter Abdullah Kaya on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” was set to resume on 1 July 2021 at the Ağrı 2nd High Criminal Court. The hearing was postponed until a later date because the judges overseeing the trial recently tested positive for Covid-19.


Kaya is on trial over his social media posts and news footage he recorded during a festival held in September 2014 on Mount Ararat.


Journalists Erkan Acar and Cuma Ulus released from prison


Journalists Erkan Acar and Cuma Ulus, who were jailed pending trial in July 2016 on alleged ties with the Fethullah Gülen network and who were sentenced in 2018 to 7.5 years in prison for “membership in a terrorist organization” as part of the case publicly known as the “FETÖ media trial,” were released from Silivri Prison in Istanbul on 30 June 2021 after completing the execution of their respective sentences.


The sentences given to journalists Abdullah Kılıç, Bayram Kaya, Bünyamin Köseli, Cihan Acar, Cuma Ulus, Habip Güler, İbrahim Balta, Büşra Erdal, Hüseyin Aydın, Muhammed Sait Kuloğlu, Murat Aksoy, Erkan Acar, Mutlu Çölgeçen, Oğuz Usluer, Seyid Kılıç, Ufuk Şanlı and teacher Davut Aydın were upheld on 16 March 2020 by the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals.


Appellate court upholds acquittals of seven journalists in “Musa Çitil case”


The 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Diyarbakır Regional Court of Justice upheld the acquittals of seven journalists who stood trial for allegedly marking Deputy Commander of the Gendarmerie Lieutenant General Musa Çitil “as a target for terrorist organizations.” The hearing at the appellate court was held on 30 June 2021.


Journalists Ömer Çelik, A. Vahap Taş, Çağdaş Kaplan, Selman Çiçek, Hamza Gündüz, İnan Kızılkaya and Özgür Gündem’s former publisher Kemal Sancılı were charged with TMK 6/1 for sharing a report about Çitil, dispatched by the shuttered Dicle News Agency (DİHA), on social media. All seven were acquitted at the final hearing of their trial, overseen by the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court in December 2019.


İsmail Çoban sentenced to 4.5 years in his retrial


The final hearing of the retrial of İsmail Çoban, the former responsible editor of the Kurdish newspaper Azadiya Welat, which was closed through a statutory decree in 2016, was held on 29 June 2021 at the Diyarbakır 7th High Criminal Court.


At the end of the initial trial, Çoban was sentenced to 5 years in prison. An appellate court had reversed the sentence, citing another case filed against Çoban.


Çoban, who is currently jailed pending trial as part of a separate case, is charged with “terrorism propaganda” based on 15 articles published in Azadiya Welat in 2013 in his retrial.


The court did not allow journalists to observe the final hearing.


Reiterating their final opinion, the prosecutor demanded that the court convict Çoban as charged.


Addressing the court via the judicial video-conferencing network SEGBİS, Çoban demanded his acquittal, saying the articles for which he is on trial were not aimed as propaganda in his defense statement delivered in Kurdish.


Çoban’s lawyer asserted that the court was violating the principle of openness of proceedings, leading to a restriction on the right to defense. Also stating that the prosecutor's final opinion was unclear, Tamur pointed out that the opinion did not clarify the news articles for which punishment is sought. Stressing that Çoban is being held responsible for articles published when he was not the responsible editor of the newspaper, Tamur demanded that the court return the final opinion to the prosecutor.


The court went on to issue its judgment at the end of the hearing, sentencing Çoban to 4 years and 6 months in prison for “systematically making terrorism propaganda.”


Hakkı Boltan handed down combined 2-year sentence for “insult”


The final hearing of journalist Hakkı Boltan’s trial on “insulting a public official” and “insulting the president” charges was held on 29 June 2021.


Boltan, the former spokesperson of the Free Journalists Initiative (ÖGİ), was on trial over a statement he made concerning the death of Rohat Aktaş, the former managing editor of Azadiya Welat newspaper, who was killed in the basement of a building where he took shelter in Cizre district during the curfews imposed in 2016.


Arguing that Boltan insulted President Erdoğan and former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in his statement, the prosecutor asked the court to sentence Boltan as charged.

Boltan's lawyer, Resul Tamur, said that his client was the spokesperson of the Free Journalists Initiative at the time and that many professional organizations made similar statements regarding the same matter due to the intense pressure faced by journalists at that time. “The purpose behind his statement was to remind state officials their duties rather than insulting them,” Tamur said, demanding Boltan's acquittal.


Issuing its judgment at the end of the hearing, the Diyarbakır 12th Criminal Court of First Instance sentenced Boltan to 1 year, 2 months and 17 days in prison for “insulting the president” (TCK 299) and to another 10 months for “insulting a public official due to the performance of their duty” (TCK 125).


File against Engin Eren sent to prosecutor


The 24th hearing of Engin Eren, a former reporter for Dicle News Agency (DİHA), on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” was held on 29 June 2021 at the Batman 2nd High Criminal Court. Eren was detained while covering a “human shield” demonstration organized in Batman province in 2015.


Ruling to send the case file over to the prosecutor for the preparation of their final opinion, the court adjourned the trial until 8 October 2021.


Journalist Muhammed Emin Güleç assaulted by police


Muhammed Emin Güleç, a reporter for the local newspaper Konya Hakimiyet, was assaulted by police officers during an identity check after warning the officers for not wearing face masks and maintaining social distance. Güleç was filming the officers on his phone, which was also damaged during the assault. The journalist has filed a criminal complaint against the officers.


Trial of Hatice Şahin adjourned until October


The fifth hearing of the trial against Yeni Yaşam newspaper reporter Hatice Şahin on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” was held on 28 June 2021 at the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court.


Şahin was released after being arrested on 18 October 2018 as part of an investigation against the Democratic Society Congress (DTK). Şahin is accused based on statements by secret witnesses, phone calls she made with her colleagues and her flight tickets.


Şahin and her lawyer Resul Tamur were present at the hearing. The presiding judge announced that the Diyarbakır Police Department has responded to the court’s request for an inquiry into the files against people mentioned by the secret witnesses at the previous hearing.


The prosecutor requested that the court ask the Diyarbakır Police Department if any procedures have been launched against journalist Kibriye Evren and Derya Aslan, mentioned in the testimonies of the two secret witnesses.


Tamur told the court that a trial against Evren is pending before the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court and that these two people had nothing to do with the current case against Şahin. Tamur requested that the court reject the prosecutor’s demand since it would prolong the trial.


Ruling to inquire of the Diyarbakır Police Department about whether an investigation had been launched against Evren and Aslan based on the secret witness statements, the court adjourned the trial until 11 October.


At least 65 journalists and media workers in prison


Following the release of Erkan Acar and Cuma Ulus, as of 2 July 2021, at least 65 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.