TV10’s Kemal Demir sentenced to 3 years and 9 months in prison; retrial of writer Aslı Erdoğan begins; life imprisonment sought for Rojhat Doğru; prosecutor demands sentence for Durket Süren; European Court rules Nazlı Ilıcak's detention violated ECHR
Council of State suspends Press Card Regulation
The Council of State has stopped the execution of the Press Card Regulation. Ruling on the appeal against the amendments introduced on 20 May 2021 to the regulation, the Council of State held that the authority of the Presidential Communications Directorate is limited to issuing press cards only and that it is not authorized to determine to whom the cards will be given, and in which cases a press card should be canceled.
Ruling by a majority, the 10th Chamber of the Council of State held that according to Articles 14 and 26 of the Constitution, the authority to decide on matters such as who will be given a press card and on what grounds the press cards shall be canceled must be given to the Communications Directorate by law.
The Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS) and two other journalism associations had appealed the amendment. TGS announced the Council of State’s ruling on 17 December 2021.
Trial against journalist Namık Koçak gets underway
Journalist Namık Koçak appeared before the Istanbul 22nd High Criminal Court on 17 December 2021 for the first hearing of his trial on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” for several social media posts he had shared between the years 2015 and 2020. Koçak’s lawyer submitted a letter of excuse. The court adjourned the trial until 3 March 2022.
TV10’s Kemal Demir sentenced to 3 years and 9 months
The final hearing of the trial against former TV10 employees Kemal Demir and Kemal Karagöz on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” under Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) was held at the Istanbul 28th High Criminal Court on 16 December 2021.
The prosecutor, who submitted their final opinion to the court before the previous hearing, demanded Karagöz’s acquittal for lack of sufficient and conclusive evidence while asking the court to sentence Demir for “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” under Article 220/7 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). In their final opinion, the prosecutor argued that Demir, “while not being a member of the PKK/KCK-PYD/YPG armed terrorist organization, personally assisted in the procurement of studio equipment for a TV channel to be established on behalf of the organization.”
Issuing its judgment at the end of the hearing, the court sentenced Demir to 3 years and 9 months in prison on the charge of “aiding a terrorist organization” (as per TCK 314/2, pursuant to Articles 314/3 and 220/7). The court also ruled for the continuation of the travel ban imposed on Demir. Karagöz was acquitted of all charges against him.
A report on the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
MA reporter Mehmet Aslan acquitted
Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) reporter Mehmet Aslan appeared before the Istanbul 24th High Criminal Court on 16 December 2021 for the final hearing of his trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” under Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). The charge stemmed from Aslan’s work as a journalist and his phone calls with his sources.
In their final opinion submitted to the court earlier this month, the prosecutor wrote that Aslan’s seized digital equipment, books and magazines and his news reports held as evidence for the accusation did not constitute the alleged offense and requested Aslan’s acquittal due to lack of sufficient evidence.
Issuing its judgment at the end of the hearing, the court ruled for Aslan’s acquittal and lifted the international travel ban imposed on the journalist.
A report on the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Novelist Aslı Erdoğan’s retrial on “propaganda” charge begins
The retrial of novelist and former Özgür Gündem editorial advisory board member Aslı Erdoğan on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” got underway at the Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court on 16 December 2021.
The retrial was ordered by the 27th Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, an appellate court, which reversed the trial court’s decision to drop the “propaganda” charge against Erdoğan in the “Özgür Gündem main trial” on the grounds that the four-month statute of limitations prescribed in Article 26 of Turkey’s Press Law would not be applicable in Erdoğan’s case since the articles she stood trial for have also been published online.
Ruling to inquire about the URLs of Erdoğan’s articles of the cyber-crimes unit under the General Directorate of Security, the court adjourned the trial until 10 February 2022.
A report on the hearing can be accessed here.
Halk TV reporters removed from ministry building
Halk TV reporter Mevsim Altay and cameraman Haydar Öztürk were removed from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security on 16 December 2021 after Altay took a picture of the hall where the minimum wage commission was expected to convene. The two journalists were among a group of press members waiting in front of the hall for the meeting to begin.
Derya Okatan’s trial on “insult” charge postponed
The fifth hearing of journalist Derya Okatan’s trial on “insult” (TCK 125) charge over a report published in May 2016, when she was the responsible managing editor of Etkin news agency (ETHA), was scheduled for 16 December 2021. The Istanbul 39th Criminal Court of First Instance postponed the trial until a later date since the judge overseeing the trial was on leave.
The prosecutor who submitted their final opinion during the previous hearing, demanded Okatan’s acquittal because the news article should be deemed within the scope of press freedom.
RTÜK censors two digital platforms; fines Tele1, Halk TV
The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) decided that the 44th episode of Hasan Can Kaya’s show called “Konuşanlar” be removed from the digital platform Exxen. RTÜK President Ebubekir Şahin announced last week that an investigation had been launched into the show due to “dialogues that are not suitable for the Turkish family structure and moral standards.”
At its weekly meeting on 15 December 2021, the Council also decided through a majority vote to remove the film “Ortaya Karışık İşler,” broadcast on Netflix, on the grounds that the show was “against the moral values of the society,” RTÜK member İlhan Taşçı announced on his Twitter account.
Taşçı also wrote that the Council fined Tele 1 due to televised remarks by main opposition CHP Group Deputy Chairman Engin Altay about President Erdoğan, and Halk TV due to on-air critical comments about MHP Chairman Devlet Bahçeli and President of Religious Affairs Ali Erbaş. The council voted by a majority, Taşçı wrote.
“Insult” case against Engin Korkmaz postponed until January
The sixth hearing of the trial against Engin Korkmaz, the responsible editor of the local newspaper Antalya Körfez, on the charge of “insulting the president” (TCK 299) for his social media posts was scheduled for 15 December 2021. The Antalya 19th Criminal Court of First Instance adjourned the trial until January since the judge overseeing the trial was on leave.
Evrensel columnist İmrek faces investigation for July 2021 article
Ender İmrek, a columnist for Evrensel daily, is charged with “insulting the president” and “inciting hatred and enmity” in a new investigation launched by Bakırköy Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. The allegations stem from İmrek’s article titled “Türkiye yanıyor, Saray izliyor” (Turkey is burning, the Palace is watching), published on 30 July 2021. İmrek went to Bakırköy Courthouse on 14 December and gave his statement to the prosecutor conducting the investigation.
Musician Ferhat Tunç faces new investigation for Twitter post
Self-exiled musician Ferhat Tunç is facing a new investigation for a Twitter post in which he had commented on the 2017 Istanbul nightclub mass shooting incident. Tunç is charged with “inciting hatred and enmity” in the investigation, launched by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and recently sent to the Büyükçekmece Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. Tunç had claimed in his post that the government’s Islamist policies laid the groundwork for the attack.
ECtHR: Nazlı Ilıcak’s detention violated her right to liberty, freedom of expression
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued its judgment in the case of Nazlı Ilıcak on 14 December 2021, ruling by a majority that her pre-trial detention as part of the “Altans case” violated her right to liberty and security and freedom of expression, safeguarded in Articles 5/1 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Turkish Judge Saadet Yüksel expressed a partly dissenting opinion.
The ECtHR held that there had been no plausible reason to suspect Ilıcak of committing the offences of belonging to a terrorist organization or of attempting to overthrow the government or of hindering its functioning. The Court noted that Ilıcak’s writings on which the charges against her were based concerned matters of public interest relating to facts and events that were already known; that they fell within the scope of Convention freedoms; and they neither supported nor promoted the use of violence in the political domain. Asserting that the media outlet Ilıcak was working for during the time of the coup attempt could not in itself be equated with “membership of a terrorist organization,” the Court concluded that the measures imposed on Ilıcak were based on mere suspicion.
The Court held by six votes to one that Turkey was to pay Illıcak 16,000 euros in non-pecuniary damage.
Our report on the ECtHR judgment can be accessed here.
Prosecutor seeks aggravated life imprisonment for journalist Rojhat Doğru
The 12th hearing in the trial of former Galî Kurdistan TV cameraman Rojhat Doğru on charges of “disrupting the unity of the state” (TCK 302), “attempted murder,” “membership in a terrorist organization” (TCK 314/2) and “terrorism propaganda” (TMK 7/2) was held at the Diyarbakır 8th High Criminal Court on 14 December 2021.
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, which he had covered as a journalist. 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’s lawyer Resul Temur attended the hearing. The court heard Yusuf Bayram as a witness via the judicial video-conferencing network SEGBİS.
Following Bayram’s statement, the prosecutor presented their final opinion. The prosecutor demanded that Doğru be sentenced to life imprisonment for “disrupting the unity and integrity of the state.” The prosecutor also claimed that Doğru had committed the crime of “attempted murder with a firearm” against the complainant R. Özdemir, who was injured during the protests. The prosecutor also demanded that Doğru be sentenced for “terrorism propaganda” based on the music stored on his confiscated phone and for sharing on social media the photos he took in Kandil, where he went for an interview.
Granting Doğru and his lawyer time to prepare their statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion, the court adjourned the case until 6 January 2022.
Sentence sought for two newspaper distributors
The second hearing in the retrial of Ercan Yeltaş and Veysi Altın, two former distributors for the now-defunct Kurdish newspaper Rojeva Medya, was held at the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court on 14 December 2021.
The retrial follows on the heels of a regional court of appeals judgment that overturned the acquittal judgment rendered in the initial trial. Yeltaş and Altın were initially charged with “terrorism propaganda” on account of four issues of the newspaper, which was closed by the government in 2017.
The prosecutor, who submitted their final opinion in between hearings, demanded that the court sentence Yeltaş and Altın for “aiding a terrorist organization without being part of its hierarchical structure” under Articles 220/7 and 314/3 of the Turkish Penal Code. The prosecutor argued that the issues Yeltaş and Altın distributed contained articles that praised PKK and KCK.
Granting the defendants and their lawyers time to prepare their statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion, the court adjourned the case until 22 March 2022.
Prosecutor demands sentence for journalist Durket Süren
The eighth 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 at the Diyarbakır 11th High Criminal Court on 13 December 2021.
Submitting their final opinion during the hearing, the prosecutor asked the court to acquit Süren of “aiding a terrorist organization” and to sentence her for “terrorism propaganda.” The prosecutor argued that a Twitter account allegedly belonging to Süren shared 14 posts that contained “terror propaganda” between 2014 and 2016.
Granting Süren and her lawyer time to prepare their statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion, the court adjourned the case until 21 February 2022.
At least 58 journalists and media workers in prison
As of 18 December 2021, at least 58 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.