11 journalists arrested in Diyarbakır-based investigation, 5 jailed pending trial; journalist Nazan Özcan acquitted; Oktay Candemir faces investigation on “disinformation” allegation; complaint by journalists Sibel Yükler, Yıldız Tar and Deniz Nazlım dismissed
Five of 11 journalists detained as part of Diyarbakır-based investigation jailed pending trial
A total of 128 people, among them journalists, politicians, lawyers, union representatives, artists and human rights defenders, were taken into custody in house raids carried out by the police across 21 provinces on 25 April 2023 as part of an investigation launched by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. Arrest warrants have been issued for a total of 216 people as part of the investigation, sources said. Eleven journalists were taken into custody as part of the investigation.
Journalists detained on 25 April were Mezopotamya News Agency editor Abdurrahman Gök, reporters Ahmet Kanbal and Mehmet Şah Oruç, JinNews reporter Beritan Canözer, Yeni Yaşam newspaper Managing Editor Osman Akın, Xwebûn newspaper concessionaire Kadri Esen and journalists Mehmet Yalçın, Mikail Barut, Salih Keleş and Remzi Akkaya.
Journalist Kadir Bayram was taken into custody as part of the same investigation on 27 April as he was covering a story at a tent city in Adıyaman province.
An arrest warrant was also reportedly issued for Mezopotamya News Agency concessionaire Ferhat Çelik but he was not detained because the police could not find Çelik at his permanent address.
Lawyer Resul Temur, who represents many journalists, was also among those detained. Following a five-hour search of Temur’s office, the public prosecutor conducting the investigation also seized an indictment he had issued against the jailed journalists represented by Temur as criminal evidence.
The interrogation of 128 people detained as per warrants issued by the Diyarbakır 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace began on 26 April. Following their questioning at the police department, journalists Abdurrahman Gök, Beritan Canözer, Mehmet Şah Oruç, Remzi Akkaya and Mikail Barut were referred to the courthouse on 27 April and subsequently jailed pending trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.” Kadri Esen and journalist Mehmet Yalçın were released. As of the evening of 28 April, the proceedings against the remaining four journalists were still underway.
Our more detailed report can be accessed here.
Journalist Nazan Özcan acquitted
The third hearing of bianet news portal’s former Editor-in-Chief Nazan Özcan’s trial on “insult” and “libel” charges was held on 25 April 2023 at the Istanbul 34th Criminal Court of First Instance. Özcan was on trial due to a complaint filed by President Erdoğan’s former lawyer Mustafa Doğan İnal.
P24 monitored the hearing. Özcan and the lawyers representing the journalist and the complainant were in attendance.
Reiterating their final opinion, first submitted during the second hearing held on 22 March, the prosecutor demanded Özcan’s acquittal.
İnal’s lawyer asked the court to sentence Özcan as charged.
Rendering its judgment, the court ruled for Özcan’s acquittal of both charges on the grounds that the alleged offenses had not occurred.
Our report about the hearing can be accessed here.
JinNews editor Gülşen Koçuk briefly taken into custody
JinNews editor Gülşen Koçuk was taken into custody on 22 April 2023 in Van province in connection with two separate investigations. Koçuk gave her statements to public prosecutors in Diyarbakır and Edirne via the judicial videoconferencing network SEGBİS.
Koçuk was questioned in connection with the file against 16 journalists arrested on 8 June 2022 as part of an investigation carried out in Diyarbakır and a news report published about 8 March International Women’s Day. In her statement, Koçuk stated that she was a journalist and that all news reports and programs she produced were within the scope of her journalistic work.
The second investigation against Koçuk was launched upon a complaint filed by academic Bekir Yüksel Hoş. In his complaint filed with the Edirne Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, Hoş alleged that Koçuk had “insulted” him. In her statement, Koçuk explained that her Twitter post was “in response to a social media post by Hoş that contained violence.”
Koçuk was released after her statements were taken.
Complaint by journalists Sibel Yükler, Yıldız Tar and Deniz Nazlım dismissed
A complaint filed by journalists Sibel Yükler, Yıldız Tar and Deniz Nazlım against the police officers who violently detained them during a press statement organized on 5 July 2022 in Ankara to protest fellow journalists’ arrests in Diyarbakır on 16 June 2022, was dismissed.
Tar, Nazlım and Yükler had filed a complaint against the officers on the charges of “torture,” “insult,” “failure to report an offense,” “deprivation of liberty” and “injury by means of excessive use of force.”
Based on a report issued on 25 April 2022 by the Ankara Gazi Mustafa Kemal Occupational and Environmental Diseases Hospital, which held that “the injuries [suffered by] the complainants were of such a nature that could be treated via simple medical procedures and of such an extent that did not require simple medical procedures,” the prosecutor conducting the investigation concluded that there was “no need to press charges” against the police officers, citing a “lack of sufficient evidence proving that they had committed the crimes of intentional injury and torture by exceeding the limit of their authority to use force.”
Journalist Oktay Candemir faces “disinformation” allegation in new investigation
Journalist Oktay Candemir is facing the allegation of “publicly disseminating misleading information” in a new investigation launched after he reported on the monthly salary of the government-appointed trustee running the local İpekyolu Municipality in Van province.
Accompanied by his lawyer, Candemir went to the police station on 27 April to give his statement as part of the investigation. In his statement, Candemir denied the allegation. Asserting that his report was within the context of the right to information, Candemir said the public had the right to know the salaries paid to public servants.
Journalists blocked during news coverage
Gazete Duvar Van Representative Kadir Cesur, Serhat News reporter Sıddık Güler and journalist Ruşen Takva, who were covering an election rally held on 26 April 2023 in Van province, were forcibly removed from the stage by the police on the grounds that they did not hold press cards issued by the Presidency.
The same day, police officers stopped an election convoy organized in Ankara by the Party of Greens and the Left Future (YSP) and detained three people. All three were reportedly subjected to physical violence and at least one of them was injured by the police. The police also reportedly blocked journalists covering the convoy, and accused them of “being terrorists, not journalists.”
File against Metin Cihan separated in “TÜGVA case”
The eighth hearing of a case filed against journalist Metin Cihan, who revealed TÜGVA documents, and his co-defendant Ramazan Aydoğdu on the charge of “unlawfully obtaining or disseminating personal data” was held on 28 April 2023 at the Istanbul 22nd Criminal Court of First Instance.
P24 monitored the hearing. Aydoğdu and lawyers were present in the courtroom.
Addressing the court in connection with the expert report, the lawyer representing TÜGVA argued that the report was proof that the documents had been exposed and requested the court to sentence the defendants.
In his statement regarding the expert report, Aydoğdu said: “I did not share any documents with Metin Cihan. The expert report does not contain even one piece of evidence showing that I had been in contact with Cihan or sent him any documents.”
Cihan’s lawyer Özgür Urfa said, “The expert report to be issued by a police officer is a violation of the right to a fair trial and the principle of impartiality.”
The prosecutor then presented their final opinion, requesting that the court separate the file against Metin Cihan and sentence Aydoğdu as charged.
Ruling to split the file against Cihan, the court sentenced Aydoğdu to 1 year and 8 months in prison for “unlawfully obtaining personal data” and an additional 5 months in prison for “destroying data.” The court deferred both sentences.
Trial against jailed journalist Ceylan Şahinli adjourned until June
The second hearing of a case filed against Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) reporter Ceylan Şahinli on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” on account of three demonstrations she had allegedly participated in in 2017 and three social media posts was held on 24 April 2023 at the Ankara 20th High Criminal Court. Şahinli has been jailed pending trial since 29 October 2022 as part of another case.
P24 monitored the hearing. Şahinli was present in the courtroom, where she was brought by three gendarmerie officers. Şahinli’s lawyer Resul Temur addressed the court from Diyarbakır via the judicial videoconferencing network SEGBİS.
In its interim ruling issued at the end of the 10-minute hearing, the court decided to receive a copy of the indictment for the case in which Şahinli is currently in pre-trial detention and to also inquire of the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office about whether any other investigations have been launched against Şahinli. The court set 12 June 2023 as the date for the next hearing.
Our report about the hearing can be accessed here.
Trial against Ferhat Çelik and İdris Yayla to continue next week
The third hearing of the trial against Mezopotamya News Agency Concessionaire and Responsible Managing Editor Ferhat Çelik and Jiyan Haber Concessionaire İdris Yayla on the charge of “marking persons assigned with the fight against terrorism as a target” was held on 25 April 2023 at the Van 2nd High Criminal Court.
Çelik and Yayla, who are exempt from personally appearing in court, did not attend. The journalists’ lawyers submitted letters of excuse, saying they would make their defense statements following the submission of the prosecutor’s final opinion.
Presenting their final opinion in the absence of the defendants and their lawyers, the prosecutor argued that the journalists had committed the alleged offense and asked the court to sentence them as charged.
Accepting the lawyers’ letters of excuse and granting the journalists and their lawyers time to prepare their statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion, the court set 4 May 2023 as the date for the next hearing.
Journalist İsmail Arı’s trial on “insult” charge gets underway
The first hearing of BirGün reporter İsmail Arı’s trial on the charge of “insulting a public official” was held on 26 April 2023 at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. The case was filed upon a complaint by Minister of Industry and Technology Mustafa Varank.
Arı and his lawyer did not attend the hearing. The court adjourned the case until 11 July 2023.
The indictment issued on 22 December 2022 accuses the journalist over his report published in the newspaper on 18 November 2022 and headlined “Deniz manzaralı araziyi Varank’ın ‘kuzeni’ kaptı!” (Varank’s “cousin” gets plot with sea view).
Journalist Eylül Deniz Yaşar appears before court
Journalist Eylül Deniz Yaşar appeared before the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court on 25 April 2023 for the first hearing of her trial on the charge of “terrorism propaganda.”
P24 monitored the hearing. Yaşar and her lawyer were in attendance.
In her defense statement, Yaşar denied the accusation and asserted that the social media posts for which she is accused did not belong to her. Requesting to be acquitted, Yaşar concluded her statement saying, “Please do not put journalism on trial like this.”
Yaşar’s lawyer addressed the court next, requesting the journalist’s acquittal on the grounds that the elements of the alleged offense had not taken place.
The court adjourned the case until 22 June 2023.
Our report about the hearing can be accessed here.
Trial against Elif Akgül and Haluk Kalafat gets underway
A case filed against journalists Haluk Kalafat and Elif Akgül on the charge of “publicly denigrating the Turkish nation” got underway on 27 April 2023 at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.
Both journalists and their lawyers submitted letters of excuse. The court adjourned the case until 19 October 2023.
The investigation against Akgül and Kalafat was launched following a complaint filed with the Presidency’s Communication Center (CİMER) alleging “Armenian Genocide propaganda” and after the Ministry of Justice granted permission for the investigation on 24 June 2021.
In the resulting indictment issued on 9 December 2022, the journalists are accused on account of six articles published in 2015, 2018 and 2019 on the news portal bianet, their former employer.
Lawsuit against journalist Cana Kaya adjourned until July
The fourth hearing of a lawsuit filed by Demirören Media Group against Medya Koridoru Editor-in-Chief Canan Kaya, alleging “a violation of their personal rights” and “damage to the company’s reputation,” was held on 27 April 2023 at the Istanbul 39th Civil Court.
P24 monitored the hearing. Kaya did not attend. Lawyers representing both sides were present in the courtroom.
Kaya’s lawyer told the court that the non-prosecution decision issued by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in connection with a complaint filed by the plaintiff alleging “unfair competition” had been finalized.
Requesting a continuance to prepare their statement regarding the non-prosecution decision, the plaintiff’s lawyer argued that Kaya’s report was baseless and not compatible with press freedom. “The Turkish Press Council also held that the report by the defendant was untrue,” the lawyer said.
Granting the plaintiff’s lawyer a continuance to prepare their final statement, the court adjourned the lawsuit until 18 July 2023.
At least 69 journalists and media workers in prison
Following the imprisonment of journalists Abdurrahman Gök, Beritan Canözer, Mikail Barut, Mehmet Şah Oruç and Remzi Akkaya on Thursday, as of 28 April 2023 there are at least 69 journalists and media workers in prison in Turkey, either in pre-trial detention or serving a sentence.
The full list can be accessed here.