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 - 320

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 320

Trial of Charlie Hebdo executives and cartoonist begins; Mezopotamya news agency reporter Emrullah Acar taken into custody; Jin News reporter Hikmet Tunç’s house raided by police; appellate court reverses acquittal of Selda Manduz

 

Journalists Sezgin, Dolar to appear in court for covering protest

 

Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporter Muhammed Enes Sezgin and Jin News reporter Sena Dolar are among 40 defendants charged with “violating the Law on Assemblies and Demonstrations” in a new trial set to get underway at the Büyükçekmece 10th Criminal Court of First Instance on 31 March 2022.


Sezgin and Dolar were detained together with demonstrators during a police intervention to a public demonstration in Istanbul’s Avcılar district on 27 April 2021. Kızılbayrak reporter Kardelen Yoğungan was also among those detained. All 33 people who were taken into custody, including the journalists, were released on the same day after giving their statements.

 

The court decided that the case should be heard in a courtroom near the Silivri Open Prison since its courtroom does not have the capacity to accommodate 40 defendants.

 

Mezopotamya news agency reporter Emrullah Acar in custody

 

Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporter Emrullah Acar was detained in a police raid on his house in Şanlıurfa province on 19 November 2021. The raid was carried out as part of an investigation conducted by the Malatya Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for alleged “membership in a terrorist organization.” During the raid, Acar's computer and the memory card for his camera were also seized. Acar was taken to the Malatya province the same day after procedures at the Police Department.

 

Prosecutor to submit final opinion in Engin Eren’s trial

 

A trial in which Engin Eren, a former reporter for the shuttered Dicle news agency (DİHA), is among 76 defendants charged with “membership in a terrorist organization,” “violating Law no. 2565” and “violating Law no. 2911,” resumed on 19 November 2021 at the Batman 2nd High Criminal Court. This was the 26th hearing of the trial. Eren is on trial for covering a “human shield” demonstration organized in Batman province in 2015.

 

Ruling to send the case file to the prosecutor's office for the preparation of their final opinion, the court adjourned the case until 21 January 2022.

 

Jin News reporter Hikmet Tunç’s house raided by police and gendarmerie

 

Jin News reporter Hikmet Tunç's house in Van province was raided by police and gendarmerie teams on the grounds of “bomb threat” on the night of 18 November 2021. The police and gendarmerie surrounded the house with armored vehicles. No female police officers were brought to the search. The police and the gendarmerie left the house after searching the premises. Nothing was confiscated during the search.

 

Retrial of Eren Keskin and Reyhan Çapan to continue in December

 

A trial in which Eren Keskin, the former co-editor-in-chief of Özgür Gündem newspaper, and Reyhan Çapan, the newspaper’s former responsible managing editor, are charged with “revealing the identity of the perpetrator or victim of a crime who is under the age of 18” (under Article 21/c of the Press Law) resumed at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 18 November 2021.

 

This was the second hearing of Keskin and Çapan’s retrial. The accusation stems from five articles Özgür Gündem published in 2013 and 2014 on Berkin Elvan, a teenage boy who died in 2014 after remaining in coma for months after being hit on the head by a gas canister fired by the police during 2013’s Gezi Park protests.

 

During this week’s hearing, which the lawyers did not attend, the court decided to wait for the submission of the requested documents and adjourned the trial until 23 December 2021.

 

For further information see our report.

 

Ahmet Altan’s trial over 2008 article adjourned until April

 

The sixth hearing of novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan’s trial on the charge of “insulting a public official” (TCK 125) was held at Istanbul’s Anadolu 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 18 November 2021.

 

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. Under the judicial reform package, the judgment by the Istanbul 32nd Criminal Court of First Instance judgment is pending review by the Supreme Court of Appeals.

 

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 19 April 2022.

 

Six journalists prevented from covering protest in Ankara

 

Six journalists were prevented by the police from covering a protest staged by the Ankara branch of the Chamber of Architects in Kurtuluş Park in Ankara on 18 November 2021.

 

“Bloomberg trial” adjourned until February

 

A trial in which Bloomberg journalists Fercan Yalınkılıç and Kerim Karakaya and 36 other people, including journalists Sedef Kabaş, Merdan Yanardağ, Orhan Kalkan and Mustafa Sönmez, are charged with "violating the Capital Market Law" over a report on Turkey’s 2018 currency crisis, resumed at the Istanbul 3rd Criminal Court of First Instance on 18 November 2021. This was the seventh hearing of the trial.

 

The investigation against Yalınkılıç and Karakaya was billed by the prosecution as “the financial coup attempt investigation.” All 36 defendants in the case face up to five years in prison as per Article 107/2 of Turkey’s Capital Market Law, if convicted.

 

The judge recently appointed to the case informed those in attendance that the court has received the additional expert report containing an assessment on the material elements of the charge against Yalınkılıç and Karakaya.

 

The lawyer representing the intervening party Banking Regulation and Supervision Board (BDDK) told the court they objected to the expert report, which found that Yalınkılıç and Karakaya did not acquire any financial profits due to their report or their social media posts. Claiming that the journalists’ report, “prepared despite a press statement by the BDDK,” was “unfounded,” the lawyer asked the court to sentence the defendants. The lawyer representing the other intervening party, the Capital Markets Board (SPK), requested a continuance to examine the expert report.

 

Granting the SPK lawyer additional time and ruling to wait for the execution of the arrest warrants issued for five defendants, the court adjourned the case until 22 February 2022.

 

“Insult” case against Charlie Hebdo editors, cartoonist begins

 

The first hearing of a case in which three executives of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, Julien Serignac, Gérard Biard and Laurent Sourisseau, and cartoonist Alice Petit are charged with “insulting the president” (TCK 299) was held at the Ankara 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 18 November 2021.

 

The accusation stems from a caricature depicting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that was published on the front cover of the weekly’s 28 October 2020 issue.

 

Erdoğan's lawyer Sami Kabadayı, who was in attendance, requested to join the case. Considering the possibility of being harmed by the alleged offense, the court decided that Erdoğan should join the case. Ruling to wait for the response to letters rogatory issued by the Justice Ministry, the court adjourned the case until 1 June 2022.

 

Trial against Sadiye Eser and Sadık Topaloğlu adjourned until January

 

The sixth hearing of the trial against Mezopotamya news agency reporter Sadık Topaloğlu and journalist Sadiye Eser on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” (TCK 314/2) was held at the Istanbul 22nd High Criminal Court on 18 November 2021.

 

P24 monitored the hearing, in which Sadiye Eser and lawyers representing the journalists were in attendance. Sadık Topaloğlu did not attend.

 

Eser asked the court to lift her travel ban. Lawyer Özcan Kılıç asked the court to lift the ban on both journalists. The lawyers representing the journalists also requested that the court revoke its previous decision to hear the witness who has been refusing to appear in court.

 

In its interim ruling, the court rejected the requests to revoke its decision to hear witness Özgür Baran. Ruling for the continuation of the travel ban issued for Eser and Topaloğlu, the court adjourned the case until 11 January 2022.

 

Oktay Candemir acquitted in “propaganda” case

 

The third and final hearing of a trial in which journalist Oktay Candemir was charged with “terrorism propaganda” for his social media posts was held at the Van 5th High Criminal Court on 18 November 2021. Candemir was represented in court by his lawyers Erhan Çiftçiler and Ebru Demirtepe. The prosecutor requested Candemir’s acquittal in his final opinion. Ruling in line with the prosecutor’s final opinion, the court acquitted Candemir.

 

Journalist Yakup Önal acquitted

 

A trial in which Tekirdağ-based local journalist Yakup Önal, the chief editor of Şarköy’ün Sesi newspaper, was charged with “illegally obtaining or disseminating personal data” (TCK 136) was held at the Şarköy Criminal Court of First Instance on 18 November 2021. Önal and his lawyer Olgun Mızrak attended the hearing.

 

Önal was on trial for reporting on the paving work in front of the housing complex where Şarköy Deputy Mayor Adnan Sevim’s residence is located.

 

Claiming in their final opinion that Sevim’s house was seen in the video Önal shared on social media, the prosecutor requested that the journalist be sentenced. Announcing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court acquitted Önal.

 

Appellate court reverses acquittal judgment for journalist Selda Manduz

 

The 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Erzurum Regional Court of Justice has reversed an acquittal judgment rendered in journalist Selda Manduz’s trial overseen by the Kars 2nd High Criminal Court.

 

The appellate court, ruling on the prosecutor’s objection to the acquittal judgment, decided that the trial court should have sentenced Manduz and ordered a retrial. The appellate court cited a report by Gazete Karınca, which Manduz shared on her social media account on 24 January 2017, as a crime element.

 

The first hearing of Manduz’s retrial is scheduled for 8 February 2022.

 

Dindar Karataş acquitted after remaining in detention for 2.5 months

 

The final hearing of Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) reporter Dindar Karataş’s trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” under Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) was held at the Erzurum 3rd High Criminal Court on 17 November 2021.

 

Karataş was arrested in November 2020 as part of an investigation conducted by the Erzurum Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and was released at his first hearing held on 9 February 2021 after spending two-and-a-half months in pre-trial detention. The news reports penned by Karataş and his phone calls with his sources were held as evidence against the journalist in the indictment.

 

Issuing its judgment after hearing Karataş and his lawyers’ statements, the court acquitted Karataş on the grounds that the elements of the crime did not occur.

 

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

 

“Boğaziçi exhibition trial” adjourned until February

 

The third hearing of the trial in which seven university students are charged with “inciting hatred and hostility” under Article 216/1 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) for taking part in protests against Boğaziçi University’s former rector who was appointed by President Erdoğan, was held at the Istanbul 21st Criminal Court of First Instance on 17 November 2021.

 

The indictment, issued on 24 February 2021, accuses all seven students over a depiction of the Kaaba in an exhibition put together on 29 January 2021 on the Boğaziçi campus as part of protests against the appointment of former Rector Melih Bulu.

 

Doğu Demirtaş, one of the accused students, and defense lawyers attended the hearing, during which the court heard two witnesses, Mehmet Velat İnci and İlayda Altıok. Doğuşcan Aydın Aygün, one of the defendants’ lawyers, requested that the identity of the security guard in the video be determined by an expert.

 

The court rejected the request and adjourned the trial until 9 February 2022.

 

Yeni Yaşam newspaper removed from Parliament’s online app

 

Yeni Yaşam newspaper has been removed from the Turkish Parliament’s online daily newspaper library for MPs and personnel. Yeni Yaşam has not been included in the app since 1 October 2021, when the Parliament reopened after summer recess. The newspaper was removed based on a decision by the Parliamentary Culture and Arts Editorial Board, which has not provided the grounds for its decision.

 

Former Özgür Gündem editors’ trial adjourned until March

 

The 20th hearing of a trial in which the former chief editors of Özgür Gündem newspaper, Hüseyin Aykol and Zana Kaya, former responsible managing editor İnan Kızılkaya, and Kurdish politician Hatip Dicle are charged with “publicly denigrating the Turkish nation, the Republic of Turkey, the government and the judicial bodies of the state” and publicly denigrating the state’s security and military forces” (TCK 301/1 and 301/2) was held at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 16 November 2021.

 

The accusations stem from news articles published in 2016 in the now-defunct Özgür Gündem newspaper.

 

The judge overseeing the trial was recently appointed to another court. Lawyer Sercan Korkmaz submitted a letter of excuse. The court decided to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant for Dicle and set 3 March 2022 as the date for the next hearing.

 

Fatih Tezcan handed down 1.5-year sentence

 

The final hearing of a trial in which pro-government columnist Fatih Tezcan was charged with “publicly insulting the memory of Atatürk” (under Article 1/1 of Law no. 5816 on Crimes Committed against Atatürk) was held on 16 November 2021. The Büyükçekmece 10th Criminal Court of First Instance sentenced Tezcan to 1 year and 6 months in prison for a social media post he shared on 14 July 2016.

 

Case filed by journalist Adnan Bilen rejected

 

A case filed by Adnan Bilen citing the rights violations he encountered during his detention on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” after reporting on allegations that two villagers had been tortured by soldiers in Van, has been rejected.

 

In his petition, Bilen complained that “the objections to his detention were put on hold so that their review coincided with the day the judge on duty who ruled for his arrest would be on leave”; “audio recordings that were supposed to be destroyed were unlawfully reintroduced in the file”; and that his “access to documents and information not covered by the confidentiality order had been restricted.” The hearing was held at the Van 7th High Criminal Court on 15 November 2021. Bilen and his lawyer Murat Timur attended the hearing.

 

In their final opinion, the prosecutor demanded that the court reject the case, arguing that the legal conditions requiring a case were not present and that the request for an assessment on whether a violation had taken place can only be made after the conclusion of the case overseen by the Van 5th High Criminal Court.

 

The court ruled that the legal conditions for the case were not present and rejected the case.

 

Israeli journalist Ali Mograbi detained during live broadcast

 

Israeli journalist Ali Mograbi was briefly detained by the police in Istanbul during a live broadcast on 15 November 2021. Mograbi was reporting on the recent arrest of an Israeli couple for allegedly taking pictures of President Erdoğan’s residence in Istanbul’s Üsküdar district for “espionage purposes.” Mograbi was released after all photos on his device were deleted by the police, who also asked the journalist not to leave his hotel. Mograbi was reported to have said that the police had been following him all day.

 

Journalist Burak Şefkat held in police station without arrest warrant

 

Journalist Burak Şefkat’s home in Mersin was raided by the police at around 7 p.m. on 13 November 2021, one hour before the journalist was scheduled to broadcast live on YouTube. Calling Şefkat on the phone, the police told the journalist to go to the nearest police station. Şefkat, who was in Adana, went to a local police station, where he was kept waiting for three hours before he was told that there were no arrest warrants or detention orders against him and that he should go to a police station in Tarsus, Mersin.

 

The next day, Şefkat reported to the police station in Tarsus district, where he was once again told that there were no arrest warrants or detention orders against him. After being held in the police station for several hours, Şefkat was taken to the Tarsus District Police Department, where an officer took his statement.

 

Şefkat, who has recently been speaking on allegations about a planned 2.5 billion US dollar pier construction by Tosyalı Holding in İskenderun on his YouTube broadcasts, said upon being released that the authorities used this method since there was no reason justifying a detention.

 

At least 59 journalists and media workers in prison

 

As of 19 November 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.

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