Journalist and author Zekine Türkeri convicted; Constitutional Court rules against advertising ban; police file complaint against Şebnem Korur Fincancı for attending YouTube show; Metin Cihan faces court case for publishing TÜGVA documents
Zekine Türkeri sentenced to more than 1.5 years in prison
Journalist and author Zekine Türkeri was sentenced to 1 year 6 months and 22 days in prison at the end of the second hearing of her trial, held on 15 March 2022. The Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court convicted Türkeri of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” on account of her social media posts. The court refused to defer the announcement of the verdict, saying Türkeri showed no sign of regret.
Constitutional Court rules against BİK’s public ad ban decision
The Constitutional Court has condemned a 2013 decision of the Press Advertising Agency (BİK) to ban Cumhuriyet newspaper from publishing public ads for three days, ruling that it violated the right to freedom of expression and the press.
According to a report published by Deutsche Welle on 15 March, Cumhuriyet was fined due to a 2013 article by late columnist Cüneyt Arcayürek, in which he criticized the government’s handling of the Kurdish peace initiative and used, apparently in reference to then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a slang word that was used by Erdoğan himself in an exchange before the cameras with a protesting farmer in 2006. BİK said in its decision that the fact that Erdoğan had faced no legal repercussion for using the word in 2006 did not mean other persons using the same word against him would not be held to account as well.
Cumhuriyet took the BİK decision to the Constitutional Court in 2016 after its appeal at a lower court was rejected.
ECtHR to conclude application against Wikipedia ban next week
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will announce its judgment in an application filed against a nearly-three-year ban on Wikipedia in Turkey on 24 March. The application was filed by the San Francisco-based Wikimedia Foundation against Turkey after its appeal against the ban was rejected by a Turkish court, claiming violation of Article 6, 10 and 15 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The access ban on Wikipedia was imposed on 29 April 2017 on the grounds that some of the pages of the online encyclopedia contained phrases that “frame Turkey as being on par with terrorist organizations.” The ban was lifted after a Constitutional Court judgment condemning it was published in the Official Gazette in January 2020.
Journalist faces up to 6 years in jail for publishing TÜGVA papers
Citizen journalist Metin Cihan faces up to six years in prison on the charge of “illegally obtaining or disseminating personal data” for publishing documents that point to widespread nepotism in appointments to state jobs through a foundation close to the government, according to a new indictment.
According to media reports published on 18 March, another suspect, a public employee identified as Ramazan Aydoğdu who was imprisoned as part of the investigation since November 2021, is accused of obtaining the documents that Cihan published on his Twitter account from the computers of the Turkish Youth Foundation (TÜGVA), whose executives include President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son, Bilal Erdoğan. Aydoğdu faces up to 10 years and 6 months in prison on charges of “corrupting data or rendering it inaccessible or inserting data in an information system” and “illegally obtaining or disseminating personal data.”
Nurcan Yalçın to stand trial on charge of “aiding terrorist organization”
Journalist Nurcan Yalçın, who was arrested during a police raid on her home in Diyarbakır in February as part of an investigation, now faces a court case where she stands trial on the charge of “aiding a terrorist organization,” punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Yalçın, who was arrested on 4 February and was released on 7 February, is charged on account of her interviews conducted during military operations in Diyarbakır’s Sur district. First hearing of Yalçın’s trial will be held at the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court on 17 May 2022.
Police Directorate files complaint against rights defender Şebnem Korur Fincancı
The Anti-Terror Department (TEM) of the Police Directorate filed a criminal complaint against Şebnem Korur Fincancı, the head of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) and a prominent human rights defender, for joining as a guest a YouTube broadcast hosted by an exiled journalist.
The TEM said in a Twitter post on 15 March that it had filed a complaint with the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office against Korur Fincancı because she appeared on the program hosted by Erkam Tufan Aytav, “a fugitive FETÖ member with a number of standing arrest warrants issued against him,” on 15 March.
In a statement responding to the complaint, the TTB said it was aimed at “undermining the TTB in the eyes of the public and [pressuring it] to act timidly while exercising its duties and authorities.” The statement said: “While the [TEM statement] notes that there are arrest warrants against the person whom Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı spoke to, it does not say anything about what Şebnem Korur Fincancı has done.”
Journalist Ertürk Yılmaz acquitted
Etkin News Agency (ETHA) reporter Ertürk Yılmaz has been acquitted in a trial overseen by the İzmir 15th High Criminal Court, where he was charged with “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization.”
Yılmaz, along with six other people, were arrested as part of an investigation on 22 December 2021 and was released later in the same day after giving his statement to the authorities.
Prosecutor seeks 4.5 years in prison for attackers of journalist Levent Gültekin
The prosecutor in the trial of two defendants accused of attacking journalist Levent Gültekin in Istanbul a year ago has asked the court to sentence them to 4 years and 6 months in prison each on the charge of “aggravated assault involving bodily injury.”
The prosecutor submitted his final opinion to the court at the latest hearing of the ongoing trial, held at the Bakırköy 47th Criminal Court of First Instance in Istanbul on 15 March 2022. The trial was adjourned to a future date to allow the defendants to prepare their final defense statements.
Gültekin sustained injuries after he was attacked by a large group as he was on his way to attend a TV show in Istanbul’s Bakırköy district on 8 March 2021. Only two people were identified and charged following the attack with the prosecution saying that no CCTV footage of the incident was available.
Local journalist attacked in Mersin
Journalist Zeynel Boğan, the publisher of local newspapers Birebir Haber and Mersin Kara Haber, was attacked by unidentified people on 14 March. According to local media reports, Boğan was confronted by four people as he was headed to his office in the Akdeniz district of the southern province of Mersin. Following an argument, the four people attacked Boğan, beating him with brass knuckles. Boğan was hospitalized with injuries, with initial reports stating that his nose was broken in the attack.
Prosecutor seeks prison term for BirGün editor on “insult” charges
The third hearing in the trial of Mehmet Emin Kurnaz, the political news editor of BirGün newspaper, on charges of “insulting the president” and “insulting a public official” was held on 17 March 2022 at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. During the hearing, the prosecutor submitted his final opinion on the case, asking the court to convict Kurnaz on both charges.
Kurnaz is on trial in connection with an article published in BirGün’s weekend supplement on 25 May 2021, entitled “Çetelerin İktidarı” (the Government of Gangs). The article was published along with a collage photo of President Erdoğan, government ally Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli and two organized crime bosses, Sedat Peker and Alaattin Çakıcı. The prosecutor argued that the word “gang” used to refer to the president and Bahçeli, a member of the Parliament, “offended the honor and reputation of the victims, who represent official institutions of the state.” The court adjourned the trial until 8 September 2022 so the defense could prepare their defense statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion.
Journalist Çetin Kurşun’s “terrorism” trials merged
The first hearing in the trial of Çetin Kurşun, an employee of the now-defunct Kurdish newspaper Azadiye Welat, on the charge of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” was held on 17 March 2022 at the Mardin 2nd High Criminal Court.
The trial was initiated after a court verdict convicting Kurşun of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” over his alleged connection with a website called Ciwannews was overturned by a regional appeals court, which said that Kurşun should have stood trial on the more serious charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.” At the first hearing of the re-trial that was held on 27 January, the Mardin 2nd High Criminal Court ruled to file a separate criminal complaint against Kurşun for “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” in connection with the content of some articles published in Ciwannews. The court case got under way after an indictment prepared on the basis of the Mardin court’s criminal complaint was accepted by the same court.
In his defense statement to the court, Kurşun denied any link with the Ciwannews website, recounting that he was arrested on 6 February 2018 and was held in police custody for 14 days where he was threatened but not informed about the charges he faced. He said the e-mail address and the phone number associated with the website did not belong to him.
Rendering its interim verdict at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to merge the case with the other case that it oversees, where Kurşun stands trial for “membership in a terrorist organization.”
Dutch journalists appear before court in Edirne
Two journalists of the Dutch RTL Nieuws, Olaf Koens and Pepjin Nagtzaam, appeared before a court in the northwestern province of Edirne on 17 March at the first hearing of a trial, where they are charged with “violating the Law no. 2565 on Military Forbidden and Security Zones.”
The two journalists are on trial in connection with their coverage in September 2021 of Greece’s pushback of migrants, during which they were stopped by Turkish troops for allegedly having driven into a military forbidden zone. They told the court that there were no visible signs indicating that the area was a forbidden zone and that they had stopped immediately after they were warned by the troops and showed them their press credentials. The Edirne 5th Criminal Court of First Instance adjourned the trial until 12 May in its interim decision.
Writer Gökhan Yavuzel’s trial adjourned
The second hearing in the trial of writer and poem Gökhan Yavuzel, a PEN member, on the charge of “inciting the public to hatred and animosity” on the basis of an article he has penned was held at the Ankara 7th Criminal Court of First Instance on 17 March 2022.
Yavuzel, who lives abroad, did not attend the hearing, at the end of which the court adjourned the trial to 28 June 2022.
Trial of musician and rights defender Ferhat Tunç postponed
The trial of musician and human rights activist Ferhat Tunç on the charge of “insulting a public official” was due to resume on 17 March 2022 at Istanbul’s Büyükçekmece 16th Criminal Court of First Instance, but it was postponed to a future date without a hearing as the court judge was on leave of absence.
Tunç is on trial due to a social media post regarding former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım.
Journalist Reyhan Çapan’s trial adjourned to September
The 21st hearing in the trial of former responsible editor of the now-defunct Özgür Gündem newspaper, Reyhan Çapan, on charges of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “publishing or printing statements of terrorist organizations” was held at the Istanbul 2nd High Criminal Court on 16 March 2022.
Çapan is on trial on account of the content of several articles published in Özgür Gündem that was deemed illegal by the prosecution. Çapan and her lawyers did not attend the hearing. The court adjourned the trial until 27 September 2022.
Ayşenur Parıldak released, at least 56 journalists and media workers still in prison
Journalist Ayşenur Parıldak, a former reporter for the now-defunct Zaman newspaper, was released on 18 March 2022 after serving her full sentence. Imprisoned since August 2016, she was sentenced to 7 years and 6 months on the charge of "membership in a terrorist organization." Although she became eligible to apply for early release under probation as of March 2021, her lawyer's applications to that effect since then were rejected twice by the prison administration. Detailed information on her case can be found here.
Following Parıldak's release, at least 56 journalists and media workers remain in prison in Turkey as of 18 March 2022, either in pre-trial detention or serving a sentence.
The full list can be accessed here.