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.

Furkan Karabay

Furkan Karabay

Journalist Furkan Karabay, an editor for the news portal Gerçek Gündem, has faced many investigations and court cases over his reporting and his social media posts. As of February 2024, Karabay has been the subject of at least 14 criminal cases and 11 lawsuits, where the accusations stem particularly from Karabay’s reporting and social media posts focusing on claims of corruption in the judiciary.

Karabay was arrested on 29 December 2023 on charges of “marking a person assigned with the fight against terrorism as a target” and “libel” over a report. This made Karabay the second journalist to have ever been arrested on the charge in Article 6/1 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMK), after Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) reporter Fırat Can Arslan. Upon a court accepting the objection to his arrest, Karabay was released from Marmara (former Silivri) Prison on 8 January 2024.

Arrest on TMK 6/1 charge

Karabay was detained on 28 December 2023 at the police station where he had gone to be served with papers. Upon being detained Karabay was taken to the Istanbul Police Department. He was questioned about his report headlined “Mafya davasında rüşvet kavgası tutanaklarda: Polis nereye bıraktıysa oradan aldı, konuşursam çarşı pazar karışır” (“Minutes show bribery fight in mafia case: Police picked it up right where they dropped it off; If I speak I would cause an uproar”), published on 27 December 2023 on Gerçek Gündem and later blocked for access. Karabay was accused for allegedly citing the name of the prosecutor in his report, which was based on minutes of the trial of members of the criminal organization known as the “Sarals.” Karabay was processed on suspicions of “marking a person assigned with the fight against terrorism as a target” and “libel.” Karabay was brought to the courthouse on 29 December 2023, where he gave his statement to the public prosecutor, who referred the journalist to a magistrate, seeking his imprisonment pending trial. The Istanbul 7th Criminal Judgeship of Peace ruled to jail Karabay on the charge of “marking a person assigned with the fight against terrorism as a target.”

Release order

Karabay’s lawyers objected to his arrest on 2 January 2024. The Istanbul 7th Criminal Judgeship of Peace rejected the objection on 4 January 2024. The Istanbul 26th Criminal Court of First Instance, which examined the objection, ordered Karabay’s release under judicial control measures in the form of a weekly signature obligation and a ban on traveling abroad on 8 January 2024.

Indictment

On 18 January 2024, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued an indictment against Karabay on charges of “marking a person assigned with the fight against terrorism as a target” and “insulting a public official.” The indictment listed judge Murat Bircan, Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor Şaban Yılmaz and Supreme Court of Appeals Judge Okan Albayrak, the former president of the Istanbul Justice Commission, as “victims.”

“Insulting the president” case

The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office filed a new indictment against Karabay on the charge of “insulting the president” on 24 January 2024. The indictment was the result of an investigation launched upon a criminal complaint filed on 6 June 2023. The accusation stemmed from three social media posts Karabay shared on 8 February 2023, 19 May 2023 and 28 May 2023. The indictment was accepted by the Istanbul 60th Criminal Court of First Instance. The first hearing of this case will be held on 3 October 2024.

Cases launched over “Antalya Operation” report and two separate sentences

On 24 June 2022, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office began an investigation against Karabay and Gerçek Gündem Responsible Managing Editor Faruk Eren on suspicion of “insulting a public official” over the report headlined “Yargıda ‘Antalya’ operasyonunda ‘Istanbul’ ayrıntısı: Atanan savcılar neyin göstergesi?” (“The ‘Istanbul’ detail in the ‘Antalya’ operation within the judiciary: What do new prosecutors’ appointments indicate?”), which was published on Gerçek Gündem on 22 June 2022. The indictment issued as a result of the investigation was accepted by the Istanbul 30th Criminal Court of First Instance.

The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched a separate investigation against Karabay and Eren upon a complaint by Antalya Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor Yakup Ali Kahveci over another report by Karabay, headlined “Haklarında ‘FETÖ Borsası’ ve ‘rüşvet’ iddiaları vardı: Erdoğan’ın avukatı Erdoğan’ın avukatları için mahkemeye başvurdu, aynı hakim AYM’yi tanımayan kararlara imza attı” (“They were facing ‘FETÖ stock exchange’ and ‘bribery’ allegations; Erdoğan’s lawyer applied to court for Erdoğan’s other lawyers; The same judge had issued decisions ignoring the Constitutional Court”), published on Gerçek Gündem on 30 June 2022. The investigation resulted in an indictment, issued on 27 September 2022. The public prosecutor who issued the indictment requested that the file be merged with the case overseen by the Istanbul 30th Criminal Court of First Instance should it be accepted. The prosecutor argued in the indictment that expressions in the report and relevant social media posts, such as “past suspicions, claims of bribery and their role in political cases”; “Officials appointed by statutory decrees ruled in favor of government policies in critical cases”; “There were allegations of bribery concerning Kahveci, who was at the center of political operations”; “New officials appointed to the Antalya Courthouse in the upper rank reshuffle were the subject of ‘many past suspicions’” and “They were judicial officials who took part in the political cases of the AKP,” constituted the crime of “insult.” In its request for the merger of the cases, the prosecution listed the date 23 June 2022, on which access to the report subject to the case with the Istanbul 30th Criminal Court of First Instance was blocked, instead of 22 June 2022, which was the date of publication.

The first hearing of the trial was held at the Istanbul 30th Criminal Court of First Instance on 4 October 2022. Presenting their final opinion, the prosecutor argued that Karabay and Eren had committed the alleged crime. The judge granted the defense nine days to prepare their statements against the final opinion and adjourned the case. The Istanbul 30th Criminal Court of First Instance rendered its judgment at the second hearing of the case held on 13 October 2022 and sentenced Karabay and Eren to 2 years and 3 months of imprisonment each on the charge of “insulting a public official.” The sentences were not suspended.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s former lawyers Mustafa Doğan İnal and Ahmet Özel filed separate criminal complaints against Karabay and Eren over the 22 June 2022 report headlined “The ‘Istanbul’ detail in the ‘Antalya’ operation within the judiciary.” The report contained details of an alleged meeting between prosecutors Zafer Koç, Yakup Ali Kahveci and Gürkan Kütük with President Erdoğan’s lawyers Ahmet Özel, Mustafa Doğan İnal and Kürşad Köhle at the Antalya Courthouse. İnal and Özel claimed that the report “was completely fabricated” and was published for the purpose of “defamation.” Concluding the investigation launched upon these complaints against Karabay and Eren, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued an indictment against Karabay on 14 November 2022, charging him with “insult” and “libel,” and dropping the charges against Eren. The indictment did not state which expressions in the news story had formed the elements of the accusations of “insult” and “libel.” The indictment was accepted by the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.

The first hearing of the trial was held on 28 March 2023. Following Karabay’s defense statement, his lawyer stated that Özel’s lawyers had not provided a letter of authorization to the case file and requested that the court dismiss the case for complainant Ahmet Özel. Karabay’s lawyer stated that the expressions held as evidence against Karabay had not been clearly stated in the indictment and added that according to Supreme Court of Appeals criteria, reporting on factually grounded claims fell under the freedom of the press. The court granted Özel’s lawyers time to submit a letter of attorney, rejected Karabay’s lawyer’s requests and adjourned the trial.

The second hearing of the trial was held on 19 September 2023. İnal and Özel’s lawyers requested to join the case as intervening parties. Karabay’s lawyer repeated his request from the first hearing and requested the court to hear Ufuk Cömertoğlu and İbrahim Önügören, whose statements had been stated as the grounds for the refusal of the lawsuit filed by Özel against Alper Cömertoğlu as witnesses. The court rejected the request on grounds that hearing witnesses would not contribute to the trial. The prosecutor presented their final opinion following the interim order. Requesting Karabay’s acquittal of “libel,” the prosecutor argued that the expressions used in the report were “of a nature that could offend the honor, dignity and standing of the complainants” and requested sentencing for Karabay on the charge of “insult.”

At the final hearing of the trial held on 18 January 2024, the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance acquitted Karabay of “insult” but sentenced the journalist to 1 year and 15 days of imprisonment on the charge of “libel.” The court suspended the sentence.

Lawsuits filed by İnal and Özel over the “Antalya Operation” report

İnal filed a compensation case worth TL 100,000 against Karabay on 27 June 2022 over the same report. İnal claimed that a “severe assault against his personality rights” had been committed through the report and relevant social media posts, that he had been “presented as a target” in the news article, which “made unfounded claims and accusations against him.” The Istanbul 33rd Civil Court of First Instance accepted the lawsuit. At the third hearing, held on 14 December 2023, the court ruled to await the finalization of the sentence given to Karabay in his trial over the same article by the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance and adjourned the case until 13 June 2024.

Ahmet Özel also filed a separate compensation case worth TL 100,000 against Karabay on 27 June 2022 over the same report. The Istanbul 8th Civil Court of First Instance, which accepted the case, adjourned the hearing pending the finalization of the sentence Karabay was given by the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance over the same report.

Yakup Ali Kahveci, who was appointed Antalya Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor by the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) in a circular dated 19 June 2022, also filed a lawsuit against Karabay over the same report, claiming an “unjustified attack on his personality rights.” The petition dated 29 July 2022 stated that the report contained expressions that were “untrue, unfounded and constituting elements of crime” and requested TL 150,000 in damages. At the third hearing of this lawsuit held on 14 December 2023, the Istanbul 12th Civil Court of First Instance decided to await the finalization of the sentence given to Karabay by the Istanbul 30th Criminal Court of First Instance and adjourned the proceedings until 24 April 2024.

Cases filed over content about the judge suspended from duty over claims of “bribery in the judiciary”

The Istanbul Anadolu Chief Public Prosecutor İsmail Uçar, in a petition to HSK, had stated that various rulings were being issued at the Anadolu Courthouse in exchange for monetary payments. Karabay shared a number of social media posts on 2 November 2023 regarding the subject of this petition.

Upon Karabay’s posts, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation based on a complaint by Bilal Erdoğan, son of President Erdoğan. The indictment issued on 18 December 2023 as a result of the investigation charged Karabay with “insult through an audio, written or visual message” and “libel through an audio, written or visual message.” The Istanbul 47th Criminal Court of First Instance accepted the indictment and set the date of the first hearing as 26 March 2024.

The indictment listed the following post by Karabay as evidence for the charges: “Istanbul Anadolu Chief Public Prosecutor İsmail Uçar has mentioned that access blocking and release decisions were being issued at the courthouse where he is posted. Regulars at that courthouse are Mustafa Doğan İnal, who has acted as President Erdoğan’s lawyer, Bilal Erdoğan and Metin Güneş. Judge Sidar Demiroğlu, who allegedly sold ‘justice’ in exchange for money, had covered up a bloody incident allegedly concerning İnal and Güneş. Will those who carry out operations against journalists such as Tolga Şardan and Dinçer Gökçe who have been writing about the corruption in the judiciary, those who ‘make people remember FETÖ-supporter judges and prosecutors fondly,’ take action against these figures? Judge Sidar Demiroğlu was someone who never failed a request by Metin Güneş and Mustafa Doğan İnal, who acted as lawyer for President Erdoğan and his son Bilal Erdoğan. İnal, Güneş and Erdoğan had very close connections with the 3rd, 4th and 5th criminal judgeships of peace at the Anadolu Courthouse and could have them issue decisions blocking access to news items concerning them the same day.”

Bilal Erdoğan separately filed a lawsuit against Karabay on grounds that these posts had “unjustly attacked his personality rights.” Bilal Erdoğan’s lawyer Ahmet Özel claimed that the report contained “intentional and untrue expressions aiming to defame” Bilal Erdoğan, that they “went beyond the limits of criticism and commentary” and demanded Karabay to pay TL 250,000 in damages. The petition dated 3 November 2023 was accepted the same day by the Istanbul 45th Civil Court of First Instance. The date of the first hearing has not yet been set.

Mustafa Doğan İnal has also filed a lawsuit against Karabay based on his posts dated 2 November 2023, claiming an “unjustified attack on [his] personality rights.” İnal’s lawyers have requested Karabay to pay TL 250,000 in damages. The petition dated 3 November 2023 was accepted the same day by the Istanbul 32nd Civil Court of First Instance. The date of the first hearing has not yet been set.

Cases filed upon Bekir Altun’s complaint, detention during investigation

The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation against Karabay due to his social media posts dated 1 December 2023, which contained the expressions: “While no action has been taken against Bekir Altun, president of the Justice Commission, who was reported to the HSK by Chief Public Prosecutor İsmail Uçar for bribery, facilitation and irregularities, judge Sidar Demiroğlu has been suspended from duty. It is claimed that Altun, who has faced no repercussions despite emerging voice recordings, is being protected by the Istanbul Group.” Karabay faced the allegations of “insulting a public official due to his/her duties” and “libel” in the investigation, launched upon a complaint by Bekir Altun.

Karabay was arrested at his home by police officers on 7 December 2023 and was taken to the Istanbul Courthouse to give a statement as part of the investigation. After giving his statement to the prosecutor, Karabay was referred to the Istanbul 1st Criminal Judgeship of Peace with a request to be placed under judicial control measures. The court ruled to release Karabay under judicial control measures as requested by the prosecutor.

As a result of the investigation, an indictment was filed against Karabay on 19 December 20223 on charges of “publicly insulting a public official due to his/her duty” and “libel.” The prosecutor who issued the indictment argued that the social media posts Karabay shared on 1 December 2023 were held as evidence for the charges but did not include the posts in the document. The Istanbul 51st Criminal Court of First Instance, which accepted the indictment, ruled to proceed in accordance the “simple trial procedure” in the preliminary proceedings report it issued on 15 January 2024 and allowed parties 15 days to provide written statements. The court lifted the signature obligation imposed on Karabay but ruled for the continuation of his travel ban.

Based on the same posts, Altun also filed a lawsuit worth TL 50,000 against Karabay. Altun’s lawyers, who filed the petition for the lawsuit on 14 December 2023, claimed that the posts “did not reflect the truth” and that Karabay “had acted as though he was conveying information but used wordplay to repeatedly target the dignity, honor and standing of [their] client.” The Istanbul 27th Civil Court of First Instance issued a preliminary proceedings report on 15 December 2023 and ruled to conduct a preliminary examination of the case.

Altun filed a separate lawsuit against Karabay over social media posts the journalist shared on 21 December 2023. Karabay’s posts, which referred to the Judicial and Administrative Jurisdiction Decree of 21 December 2023, contained the following expressions: “Once more, no action has been taken against Justice Commission President Bekir Altun, who was reported to the HSK by Chief Public Prosecutor İsmail Uçar for allegations of bribery, facilitation and irregularities! The HSK’s Decree did not make any mention of Altun, for whom Uçar said, ‘he makes people remember FETÖ supporter judges and prosecutors fondly.’ Altun will continue to remain in office in Çağlayan as though nothing has happened!”

Altun’s lawyers, who claimed that Karabay’s posts did not reflect the truth, filed their petition for the lawsuit worth TL 20,000 on 2 February 2024. Altun’s lawyers stated that although access to Karabay’s posts dated 14 December 2023 had been blocked by a decision of the Istanbul 6th Criminal Judgeship of Peace on the same day, the journalist still quoted these posts that are subject to a lawsuit worth TL 50,000. Altun’s lawyers also claimed that Karabay was a “politician” and that the “balance between the freedom of expression and the protection of the reputation of persons” had been violated to the detriment of Altun as a member of the judiciary.

Cases filed over news and posts about the “Pelican Group,” “FETÖ Stock Exchange” and “tempering with the judiciary”

On 22 February 2023, Karabay wrote the following on his social media account: “There is a group within the judiciary that is known as the ‘Pelican Group.’ Prosecutor Yakup Ali Kahveci, who set traps for selfless journalists admired by the public, Erdoğan’s lawyer Mustafa Doğan İnal and prosecutor for the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks case and Constitutional Court Judge İrfan Fidan want hundreds of thousands of liras in damages and our imprisonment for years.

President Erdoğan’s former lawyer İnal filed a compensation case worth TL 100,000 against Karabay the same day, claiming an “unjustified attack on [his] personality rights.” The Istanbul 1st Civil Court of First Instance ruled to dismiss the case at the end of the first hearing held on 19 October 2023.

The Antalya Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation against Karabay over the same post and upon a criminal complaint filed by the Antalya Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor Yakup Ali Kahveci on 24 February 2023. An indictment that was half a page long on the charge of “insulting a public official due to his/her duty” was filed against Karabay on 5 June 2023 as a result of the investigation. The indictment claimed that Karabay had “exceeded the limits of criticism” in his post. The Antalya 3rd Criminal Court of First Instance held the first hearing of the trial on 28 September 2023. Submitting letters of excuse, Karabay and his lawyer did not attend the hearing. The case was adjourned to a future date.

Cases filed over reporting on Muhammed Yakut

President Erdoğan’s former lawyer İnal filed a criminal complaint against Karabay on 20 April 2023 over a report published on Gerçek Gündem on 19 April 2023. İnal claimed that he had been insulted and defamed with the report headlined “Muhammed Yakut, Erdoğan’ın avukatı Mustafa Doğan İnal’ı neden tehdit etti? FETÖ Borsası iddialarının olduğu silahlı saldırıda iddianame çıktı” (“Why did Muhammed Yakut threaten Erdoğan’s lawyer Mustafa Doğan İnal? Indictment filed in the armed attack claimed to be connected to the FETÖ Stock Exchange”). The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, which launched an investigation upon the criminal complaint, issued an indictment against Karabay on 14 June 2023 on charges of “repeated and public insult” and “repeated libel by means of the press.” The indictment was accepted by the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.

The first hearing of the trial was held on 16 November 2023. The judge ruled to accept İnal’s request to join as an intervening party “on grounds of the possibility of his being harmed by the crime.” During the hearing held on 29 February 2024, the prosecutor submitted their final opinion on the case and asked the court to sentence Karabay as charged. Granting Karabay’s lawyer time to prepare their statement in response to the prosecutor’s opinion, the court adjourned the trial until 6 June 2024.

İnal separately filed a lawsuit worth TL 100,000 against Karabay over the same report. The Istanbul 21st Civil Court of First Instance, which decided to move onto the inquiry stage, held the first hearing on 14 December 2023. Ruling to obtain information on the content provider for the Gerçek Gündem website, the court adjourned the case until 7 March 2024. Rendering its judgment at the end of the hearing held on 7 March 2024, the court dismissed the lawsuit.

Trial for allegedly “insulting Yılmaz, Gürlek and Fidan”

Karabay shared a series of social media posts following the publication of a circular concerning the appointment of deputy ministers in the Official Gazette on 22 June 2023. In the thread made up of 27 posts, which also included a news article published on Gerçek Gündem, Karabay reminded readers of allegations concerning Deputy Ministers of Justice Hasan Yılmaz and Akın Gürlek and Constitutional Court Judge İrfan Fidan. The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued an indictment against Karabay on 7 August 2023 on the charge of “insulting a public official due to his/her duty,” listing the 27 posts by Karabay as evidence for the charge, and Yılmaz, Gürlek and Fidan as victims. The indictment was accepted by the Ankara 16th Criminal Court of First Instance.

The first hearing of the trial was held on 17 January 2024. The court accepted Yılmaz, Gürlek and Fidan’s request to join the case as intervening parties on grounds of the “possibility of them suffering harm from the crime” and accepted Karabay’s lawyer’s request to obtain the documentation for the investigation against Sezgin Baran Korkmaz and Mübarez Mansimov Gurbanoğlu, who were mentioned in the posts subject to the charge, from the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. The next hearing of the trial is scheduled for 3 April 2024.

Lawsuit filed by İrfan Fidan

Constitutional Court Judge İrfan Fidan filed a compensation case worth TL 100,000 over Karabay’s report headlined “İŞİD’e silah göndermekten yargılanan gizli tanığın iddiası: ‘İrfan Fidan’ın talimatlarıyla hareket ettim’” (“Claim by secret witness on trial for sending arms to ISIS: ‘I was following directions from İrfan Fidan’”), published on Gerçek Gündem on 20 December 2022. The petition for the lawsuit dated 31 January 2023 emphasized that access to the said report had been blocked by a decision of the Ankara 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace dated 11 January 2023. The Istanbul 3rd Civil Court of First Instance held the first hearing on 14 December 2023. The judge ruled that the competent court was Istanbul Anadolu Civil Court of First Instance and dismissed the lawsuit on grounds of procedure.

Criminal cases filed upon complaints by İrfan Fidan

Constitutional Court Judge İrfan Fidan filed a criminal complaint against Furkan Karabay and Faruk Eren on allegations of “libel,” “insulting a public official” and “marking a person assigned with the fight against terrorism as a target” over the report headlined “AYM’ye günler önce şikayet edildi: Başkan adayı İrfan Fidan’ın ‘adalet’ sicili” (“Court president candidate İrfan Fidan’s ‘justice’ record: Complaint filed with the court just days ago”), which was published on Gerçek Gündem on 31 January 2023. Fidan claimed that the report on his alleged meetings with Nuri Gökhan Bozkır, suspect in the murder of Assoc. Prof. Dr. Necip Hablemitoğlu, while he was the Istanbul Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor, had marked him as a target to terrorist organizations he had investigated as Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor.

Concluding the investigation launched upon Fidan’s complaint, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued an indictment against Karabay and Eren on the charge of “marking a person assigned with the fight against terrorism as a target” (TMK 6/1) on 8 August 2023. The indictment listed Karabay’s report dated 31 January 2023 and social media posts as elements of crime. The Ankara 22nd High Criminal Court, which accepted the indictment, imposed a ban on traveling abroad on Eren in its preliminary proceedings report.

The first hearing of the trial was held on 7 November 2023. While Eren was present in the courtroom, Karabay attended from Istanbul through the judicial video-conferencing network SEGBİS.

The court decided to consider in between hearings whether to merge the case with another case against Karabay filed with the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court on 30 July 2023 in connection with the same report and social media posts upon a complaint by İrfan Fidan. The court further ruled to inquire of Gerçek Gündem about which duties Eren and Karabay had assumed at the media outlet and when. The court adjourned the trial until 5 March 2024.

The case filed against Karabay and Eren on the charge of “marking a person assigned with the fight against terrorism as a target” upon İrfan Fidan’s complaint got underway at the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court on 23 January 2024. The prosecutor presented their final opinion at the hearing and requested sentencing for Karabay for the alleged crime on grounds that his defense “could not be credited” and his posts “exceeded the limits of the freedom of communication.” The prosecutor also requested sentencing for Eren and argued that it was not possible for Eren to have not been aware of the posts as he was a manager of the website. The court ruled to uphold the judicial control measures on Karabay and Eren and adjourned the trial until 5 March 2024.

During the hearing held on 5 March 2024, the prosecutor reiterated their final opinion, asking the court to sentence both journalists as charged. P24 monitored the hearing, attended by Karabay. Eren was represented by his lawyer.

After hearing the final defense statements, the court ruled for Eren and Karabay’s acquittal.

Lawsuit over social media post

President Erdoğan’s former lawyer İnal filed a compensation case worth TL 100,000 against Karabay on 12 August 2022 over social media posts the journalist shared on 11 August 2022. In the posts, which did not explicitly mention İnal, Karabay shared the photo of a file with the initials “M.D.İ” on it and wrote the following: “In court judgments, the judge begins speaking by saying ‘On behalf of the Turkish nation.’ Because this is a ‘state of ‘law.’’ Lawyers, prosecutors and judges who wear the robe are aware of this. However, there are those among them who try to cover up dirt with dirt because their hands are dirty. Whatever they do is dirty. One of those dirty people is a regular at Çağlayan [Courthouse]. They come in for tea and coffee. They ask prosecutors to bring them an ashtray. Every case they file is concluded quickly. They act by giving names of state officials. Their complaints are processed the same day. Every blocking of access decision is imposed the very day. The moment they set foot there, all other business stops. They pay them homage. This is such a person that whatever they touch becomes covered in dirt. Fingerprints cannot be identified because of the dirt. So much so that even their name has been washed in the dirt (!) It has become impossible to use their name. But their business comes first so their name is initialed on files. ‘Don’t touch it,’ they will say. It is dirty even if you don’t write it, try to stay clean by initialing it.”

During the preliminary proceedings hearing held on 16 February 2023, the Istanbul 44th Civil Court of First Instance ruled to proceed to the inquiry stage due to there being no possibility of settlement between the parties. The judge also ruled to request the file for the investigation started upon İnal’s criminal complaint against Karabay. The first hearing of the lawsuit was held on 4 May 2023. The judge rejected Karabay’s lawyer’s objection regarding jurisdiction. The second hearing of the trial was held on 25 May 2023. The judge ruled to partially accept the lawsuit and ordered Karabay to pay İnal TL 20,000 in damages.

“Insulting a public official” and “libel” cases over İnal’s complaint

Social media posts by Karabay dated 11 August 2022, 27 April 2023 and 2 November 2023 were held as evidence for the charges of “insulting a public official due to his/her duty” and “libel” in an indictment the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued as a result of an investigation it had launched upon a complaint by President Erdoğan’s former lawyer İnal. Although the introduction part of the indictment stated 3 November 2023 as the date of the alleged crime, no reports or social media posts from this date were listed in the indictment. The indictment claimed that Karabay had “posted tweets alluding to İnal” and had “repeatedly committed the crime of libel by imputing unlawful actions with the aim of ensuring the investigation, prosecution or administrative sanctioning of the complainant.” The indictment did not mention that there were two criminal investigations that later became court cases and one lawsuit regarding the posts on 2 November 2023; one criminal investigation that later became a court case, and one lawsuit regarding the posts on 27 April 2023; and one lawsuit regarding the post on 11 August 2022.

The indictment was accepted by the Istanbul 5th Criminal Court of First Instance. On 26 December 2023, the court issued a preliminary proceedings report and set 18 April 2024 as the date for the first hearing.

“Insult” case over report published in Cumhuriyet

Abdulahat Arvas, a Justice and Development Party (AKP) MP for Van, filed a criminal complaint over a news story headlined “Van’da ‘Arvas saltanatı’” (“The ‘Arvas reign’ in Van”), penned by reporter İlayda Kaya and published in Cumhuriyet newspaper on 13 November 2021. Following the complaint by Arvas, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation against Cumhuriyet reporter Kaya, Furkan Karabay, who was then the responsible managing editor of the newspaper’s online edition, and the newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief Aykut Küçükkaya. The investigation file was sent to the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, as the newspaper’s registered address was in Şişli, Istanbul. The Press Crimes Investigation Office of the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office decided on 16 May 2022 that there were no grounds to prosecute Karabay, Küçükkaya and Kaya for “insult” and “libel.” On the same date, the prosecutor’s office issued an indictment against Karabay and Kaya on the charge of “insulting a public official due to his/her duty.”

Listing the report about claims that Arvas’s relatives held managerial positions in many public institutions, especially educational institutions, as evidence for the charge, the indictment argued that “the report was far from the truth and was intended to harm the reputation of the complainant.” The indictment was accepted by the Istanbul 53rd Criminal Court of First Instance.

The first hearing of the trial was held on 15 December 2022. The prosecution presented their final opinion following defense statements and requested the acquittal of Karabay and Kara because the elements of the alleged crime did not exist. Ruling that the elements of the alleged crime were not present, the court acquitted both journalists.

 

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