Deputy minister files three lawsuits against BirGün, Evrensel and Cumhuriyet; five journalists sentenced in Antalya; investigation launched against MA Editor Ferhat Çelik; journalist Yelda Çiçek sentenced for covering demonstration
Officer who assaulted Beyza Kural granted exemption from attending hearings
The trial of three police officers who violently detained former Bianet reporter Beyza Kural in 2015 as she was covering a demonstration in Istanbul resumed on 24 September 2021 at the Istanbul 35th Criminal Court of First Instance.
The officers are charged with “Violation of the freedom to work or labor by using force, threats or by any other unlawful act” under Article 117/1 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which carries a penalty of imprisonment for a term of 6 months to 2 years, or a judicial fine.
In its interim ruling, the court decided to grant officer Y.Ş. exemption from attending courtroom hearings and to hear N.D., the third officer on trial, via the judicial video-conferencing network SEGBİS at the next hearing and adjourned the trial until 10 December 2021.
A report on the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Access to Mezopotamya News Agency and Jin News blocked by courts
Access to the website of the Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) was blocked by a decision of the Diyarbakır 2nd Criminal Judgeship of Peace, issued on 24 September 2021.
Access to the website of JinNews was blocked three times in a row in a week under two decisions issued by the Diyarbakır 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace on 23 September 2021 and another issued by the Diyarbakır 1st Criminal Judgeship of Peace on 24 September 2021.
Journalist Süleyman Gençel briefly detained in Izmir
A3 Haber Editor-in-Chief Süleyman Gençel was taken into custody in Izmir on the morning of 23 September 2021. Announcing his arrest on his Twitter account, Gençel said he was not informed on the grounds for the arrest order.
Gençel was taken to the Izmir Courthouse the same day to give his statement to a prosecutor, who referred him to court, seeking his imprisonment. The judgeship released Gençel pending trial.
Media reported that Gençel was arrested in connection with a Twitter post he shared on 14 September.
Deputy minister files lawsuit against BirGün, Evrensel and Cumhuriyet newspapers
Deputy Minister of Health Sabahattin Aydın filed three separate lawsuits against BirGün, Evrensel and Cumhuriyet newspapers, seeking TL 100,000 from each publication for their coverage of allegations concerning his wife's company receiving a tender from the Ministry of Health.
All three newspapers reported on the allegations on 19 June 2021. All three stories were based on a parliamentary question submitted by main opposition CHP Ankara MP Murat Emir.
The case against BirGün’s publisher İbrahim Aydın and reporter Mustafa Bildircin was accepted on 9 August by the Istanbul 16th Civil Court, BirGün reported this week.
In August, Cumhuriyet reported that Aydın had filed a lawsuit against the newspaper’s Responsible Managing Editor Olcay Büyüktaş Akça and reporter Erdem Sevgi with the Istanbul 17th Civil Court.
Investigation launched against MA Managing Editor Ferhat Çelik
The Van Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation against Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) Managing Editor Ferhat Çelik on the allegation of “marking those involved in the fight against terrorism as a target.” Çelik gave his statement within the scope of the investigation at the Feriköy Police Station on 23 September 2021.
MA reported that the investigation against Çelik was launched due to the agency’s report dispatched on 8 October 2020 about the arrest of four journalists who covered allegations that two locals in Van had been tortured by soldiers.
Trial against Cengiz Çandar and Kemal Işıktaş to continue in February
The third hearing of the trial against journalist Cengiz Çandar and activist Kemal Işıktaş on the charge of “praising a criminal offense or and offender” under Article 215 of the Turkish Penal code (TCK) was held on 23 September 2021 at the Istanbul 30th Criminal Court of First Instance. Çandar and Işıktaş are on trial for two social media posts they shared in May 2017.
P24 monitored the hearing. Çandar’s lawyer Erselan Aktan and Işıktaş were in attendance. Çandar, who lives abroad, did not attend. Çandar’s lawyer requested that the court wait for the submission of the letter rogatory issued for his client. Accepting the request, the court adjourned the trial until 8 February 2022.
Compensation case against Çiğdem Toker adjourned until February
The sixth hearing of a lawsuit filed against Sözcü columnist Çiğdem Toker by the T3 Foundation over her article published on 28 January 2019 was held on 23 September 2021. The T3 Foundation is seeking TL 80,000 in non-pecuniary damages in the lawsuit.
The case was previously being overseen by the Küçükçekmece 3rd Civil Court. Due to the recent appointment of a new judge, the case has been transferred to the Küçükçekmece 10th Civil Court. The court decided to hear a witness and adjourned the lawsuit until 1 February 2022.
Trial against Oktay Candemir to continue in November
The second hearing of a trial in which journalist Oktay Candemir is charged with “terrorism propaganda” over his social media posts was held at the Van 5th High Criminal Court on 23 September 2021.
Candemir, who did not attend the hearing, was represented in the court by his lawyer Erhan Çiftçiler. Citing the Covid-19 pandemic, the court did not allow spectators in the courtroom. Ruling to inquire of the Police Department about the content of news reports featured in the social media posts, the court adjourned the trial until 18 November.
Court rejects compensation case filed against Prof. Yaman Akdeniz
The first hearing of a lawsuit filed by Turkuvaz Media CEO Serhat Albayrak against Professor Yaman Akdeniz, an expert in IT law, was held at the Istanbul 7th Civil Court on 23 September 2021. Albayrak was seeking TL 100,000 in compensation from Akdeniz.
Albayrak's lawyer claimed that despite access blocking orders issued by criminal judgeships of peace regarding news reports about his client, Akdeniz “violated Albayrak’s personal rights” by sharing the contents of the court decisions regarding the blocking with the public.
Prof. Akdeniz asked the court to reject the lawsuit: “The aim [behind the posts] is to convey the facts. … I have already filed an individual application with the Constitutional Court. The file is pending. The tweets that are the subject of the lawsuit have nothing to do with personal rights.”
Issuing its verdict after hearing the statements, the court rejected the compensation case.
Prosecutor seeks sentence for Kurdish musician Kadir Çat
Kurdish musician Kadir Çat appeared before the Mersin 7th High Criminal Court on 23 September 2021 for the first hearing of his trial on “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” charges. The accusations stem from photos Çat took during his visit to Syria’s Kobani and his social media posts.
Çat and his lawyer Sabahat Gençtarih were present in the courtroom. Making his defense statement, Çat rejected the accusations. Explaining that his social media posts were meant to depict the ugliness of war, Çat added that his visit to Kobani was also under permission from the state. Çat demanded to be acquitted.
Following Çat and his lawyer’s statements, the prosecutor submitted their final opinion, asking the court to acquit Çat of “membership in a terrorist organization” but to sentence him for “terrorism propaganda.”
The court set 1 October 2021 as the date for the next hearing.
Court rules for continuation of arrest warrant for Ferhat Tunç
The 10th hearing of self-exiled musician Ferhat Tunç’s trial on the charge of “inciting hatred and enmity” (TCK 216) was held on 22 September 2021 at the Büyükçekmece 4th Criminal Court of First Instance.
Tunç’s lawyer Fatma Hopikoğlu presented to the court her client’s statement in writing. In his statement, Tunç explained that the social media posts for which he is being accused were within the scope of freedom of expression. “I used the word democracy in my Twitter post. I think it is quite a stretch to arrive at hatred and enmity from a message that contains the word democracy. … I believe [the court] should admit that someone who spent years singing songs of peace will not incite the people to hatred and enmity.”
After submitting Tunç’s statement, Hopikoğlu asked the court to issue its judgment. The prosecutor requested the continuation of the arrest warrant issued for Tunç.
Rejecting Tunç’s lawyer’s request, the court kept the arrest warrant for Tunç in place and adjourned the trial until 2 February 2022.
Journalist Yelda Çiçek handed down 20-month sentence
Journalist Yelda Çiçek, who was detained while covering the police intervention in a protest against the appointment of a trustee to Diyarbakır Metropolitan Municipality, was handed down a prison sentence of 1 year and 8 months on the charge of “violating the Law on Assemblies and Demonstrations.”
The final hearing of Çiçek’s trial was held on 22 September 2021 at the Diyarbakır 4th Criminal Court of First Instance. Çiçek did not attend the hearing. She was represented by her lawyer Burhan Arta. Addressing the court for Çiçek’s final defense statement, Arta said his client was a journalist and was at the scene to cover the demonstration, requesting her acquittal.
Issuing its judgment at the end of the hearing, the court sentenced Çiçek to 1 year and 8 months in prison. The court deferred the sentence.
Trial against Sadiye Eser and Sadık Topaloğlu adjourned
The fifth 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 21 September 2021 at the Istanbul 22nd High Criminal Court.
P24 monitored the hearing. Eser and her lawyers were in attendance while Topaloğlu was not present. The court heard a witness during the hearing, who told the court that he did not know the journalists. Topaloğlu’s lawyer Mahmut Eroğlu asked the court to decide to not hear witness Özgür Baran since his failure to show up has been prolonging the proceedings. Lawyer Sercan Korkmaz asked the court to lift the international travel ban imposed on the journalists.
In its interim ruling, the court decided to issue a new subpoena for witness Özgür Baran to testify in court and ordered the continuation of the travel ban imposed on Eser and Topaloğlu. The court set 18 November 2021 as the date for the next hearing.
Trial of Fatih Gönül to continue in November
The third hearing of the trial against journalist Fatih Gönül on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” was held on 21 September 2021 at the Ankara 25th High Criminal Court. Gönül and his lawyer both submitted letters of excuse. The court set 9 November 2021 as the date for the next hearing.
Five journalists in Antalya sentenced to a total of 25 years
The 10th and final hearing of the “Antalya ‘FETÖ’ media trial” was held on 21 September 2021 at the Antalya 2nd High Criminal Court.
After hearing the statements of all defendants and their lawyers, the court issued its judgment.
Former Cihan News Agency staffers Cihat Ünal and Ömer Özdemir were sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison for “membership in a terrorist organization” (TCK 314/2); former Zaman staffer Serhat Şeftali was sentenced to 6 years and 10 months on the same charge. Bizim Antalya newspaper Editor-in-Chief Olgun Matur and Zaman staffer Osman Yakut were sentenced to 3 years, 1 month and 15 days for “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” (TCK 220/7). Kenan Baş, Ali Orhan, Hasan Yavaşlar, Özkan Mayda and Onur Fazıl Soydal were acquitted of all charges.
A report on the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Trial of Rüstem Batum to continue in January
Journalist and former TV talk show host Rüstem Batum’s trial on charges of “insulting the president” (TCK 299/1) and “inciting hatred and enmity” (TCK 216) was scheduled to resume on 21 September 2021 at the Istanbul 5th Criminal Court of First Instance. Accepting the letters of excuse submitted by Batum’s lawyers, the court adjourned the trial until 20 January 2022.
Trial against Rojhat Doğru adjourned until December
The trial of former Gelî Kurdistan TV cameraman Rojhat Doğru on charges of “disrupting the unity of the state,” “attempted murder,” “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” resumed on 21 September 2021 at the Diyarbakır 8th High Criminal Court.
The accusations stem from Doğru’s social media posts, the statements of a witness who testified against him, and the allegation that he participated in the 6-8 October 2014 Kobani protests. Another case file in which Doğru is accused because he deposited cash to the account of Yusuf Bayram, who is in prison, has also been merged with the case.
Doğru and his lawyer Resul Temur attended the hearing. The court was expected to hear Yusuf Bayram as a witness but SEGBİS connection with the Tekirdağ No. 2 F Type Closed Prison could not be established because the prison administration did not respond.
Although the judicial control measure imposed on Doğru in the form of giving his signature to the police station once a month was lifted on 13 October 2020, the Diyarbakır Probation Office reported to the court that the journalist violated the provisions of judicial control. The report was recorded in the minutes of the hearing.
Ruling to issue a new request to the prison where Yusuf Bayram is detained in order to hear his statement via SEGBİS at the next hearing, the court adjourned the trial until 14 December 2021.
Trial of journalist Durket Süren to continue in December
The seventh hearing of the trial against journalist Durket Süren on charges of “aiding a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” for allegedly selling banned issues of Azadiya Welat and Özgür Gündem newspapers and for her social media posts was held on 20 September 2021.
Süren, who did not attend the hearing, was represented in the courtroom by her lawyers Resul Temur and Yusuf Erdoğan. The prosecutor demanded that the court wait for the submission of requested documents.
In its interim ruling, the Diyarbakır 11th High Criminal Court decided to wait for the submission of a report to be issued by the Diyarbakır Police Department concerning Süren’s seized digital equipment and adjourned the trial until 13 December 2021.
Prosecutor seeks sentence for singer Hozan Cane
The retrial of Kurdish-German singer Hozan Cane on the charge of “aiding a terrorist organization without being a member” (TCK 220/7) resumed on 20 September 2021.
According to information provided by Hozan Cane’s lawyer, the prosecutor submitted their final opinion during the hearing, asking the court to convict the singer as charged. The Edirne 3rd High Criminal Court is expected to issue its judgment at the next hearing, scheduled for 18 October 2021.
Top court: Deferral of sentence violated freedom of expression
The Constitutional Court ruled that the decision to “defer the announcement of the sentence” in a judgment rendered by a court of first instance on 18 October 2016 in the case against journalist Şaban Sevinç violated freedom of expression. The judgment was published this month on the Constitutional Court’s official website.
Sevinç was handed down an 11-month and 20-day prison sentence in 2016 for “insulting the president” due to his comments in a TV show broadcast on 22 September 2015. The Ankara 36th Criminal Court of First Instance deferred the sentence.
Sevinç lodged his application with the Constitutional Court on 19 December 2016. Ruling on the application on 26 May 2021, the top court held by a majority that the trial court’s decision violated Article 26 of the Constitution and ruled to send a copy of its judgment to the trial court for a retrial.
Emre Soncan and Fethi Altun released from prison
Emre Soncan, a former defense reporter for Zaman newspaper, which was closed in 2016 under a statutory decree, was released from Silivri Prison on 2 September 2021 upon completing a 7.5-year sentence he was given in 2018 on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.” Soncan was arrested in July 2016.
Fethi Altun, former Şanlıurfa correspondent for Cihan news agency, which was also closed in 2016 under a statutory decree, was released from prison on 26 July 2021 upon completing his sentence. Altun was jailed pending trial in 2016. He was later sentenced by the trial court to 7.5 years in prison for “membership in a terrorist organization.”
At least 59 journalists and media workers in prison
Following the recent releases of Emre Soncan and Fethi Altun, as of 24 September 2021, at least 59 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.