Hayri Demir, a journalist who worked for the Dicle News Agency (DİHA) and the Mezopotamya news agency (MA), was arrested in a police raid on his home in Ankara on 16 March 2017.
Demir was held for eight days in a gymnasium used as a “custody station” by the Ankara Police Department. In his police interrogation, Demir was asked about his videos and news articles he wrote after visiting northern Syria.
Following his interrogtion, Demir was taken to Ankara Courthouse on 24 March 2017. After his interrogation at the prosecutor’s office, he was referred to the Criminal Judgeship of Peace and released under a travel ban and a signature obligation.
Two years after his arrest, an indictment was issued against Demir on the charges of “membership of a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda.” In the indictment, issued by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, photos and videos uploaded in a memory card previously stolen from Demir's house were listed as evidence. The memory card that was stolen from Demir’s house was later handed over to the police. Along with Demir’s social media posts, his interviews with HDP’s jailed former Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş and relevant news photos were listed as evidence in the indictment. The Ankara 15th High Criminal Court accepted the indictment.
The first hearing of the trial was held on 24 September 2019. Noting that he did not receive the indictment, Demir demanded additional time to prepare his defense statement.
Demir defended himself at the second hearing of the trial, held on 23 October 2019. Stating that he was being accused over his journalistic activities and noting that the case was launched following his stolen memory card was delivered to the police, Demir said that the evidence was collected unlawfully and demanded his acquittal.
Prison sentence on “propaganda” charge
The final hearing of this case was held at the Ankara 15th High Criminal Court on 21 December 2022. The court sentenced Demir to 1 year, 21 months and 22 days in prison on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” for a song and a documentary he had shared on his social media account. The court acquitted Demir of “membership in a terrorist organization” due to lack of sufficient and conclusive evidence and lifted his international travel ban.
Trial court’s judgment overturned
On 14 March 2023, the 22nd Criminal Chamber of the Ankara Regional Court of Justice overturned the acquittal judgment for Demir of “membership in a terrorist organization.” The appellate court held that an investigation launched against Demir by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on the allegation of “membership in the PKK/KCK/YPG/YDG-H terrorist organization” should be merged with the present case file. The appellate court also ruled that the prison sentence given to Demir on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” should be increased by half because the offense had been “committed systematically” and remanded the case to the trial court for a retrial.
The first hearing of Demir’s retrial was held at Ankara 15th High Criminal Court on 5 July 2023. P24 monitored the hearing. The court unanimously decided to comply with the appellate court’s judgment, however, the judges stated that the “reasons in the reversal judgment are not absolute reasons for reversal and therefore are not in accordance with procedural and substantive law, but trial courts are not allowed to resist remand orders issued by appellate courts.”
The prosecutor requested that Demir’s statement be heard in the presence of his lawyer at the next hearing, and that the court inquire of the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office about the outcome of the investigation launched against Demir on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.” The court accepted the prosecutor’s requests and postponed the retrial until 25 October 2023.
The second hearing was held on 25 October 2023. The court decided to ask the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office to conclude the ongoing investigation and send the file to the court, and to hear the secret witness who had testified against Demir and adjourned the retrial until 24 January 2024.
On 24 January 2024, the court heard two witnesses, who both said that they knew that Demir was covering the news in Syria as a journalist. The court decided to wait for the response regarding the investigation carried out by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and postponed the retrial until 21 February 2024.
In between courtroom hearings, the investigation launched against Demir by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on the allegation of “membership in a terrorist organization” was concluded and merged with his ongoing retrial, overseen by the Ankara 15th High Criminal Court.
Trial over social media posts on Afrin
Hayri Demir was arrested in a police raid on his home in Ankara on 22 January 2018, allegedly on account of his social media posts about Turkey’s military operation "Zeytin Dalı" (olive branch) on Afrin in northern Syria.
Sibel Hürtaş, the Ankara representative of Artı TV, was among 10 people who were detained along with Demir within the scope of the investigation, which was initiated by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office against social media posts about Turkey's military operation, which began on 20 January 2018.
After spending four days in custody, Demir was brought to the Ankara Courthouse on 26 January 2018. The prosecutor referred Demir to a Criminal Judgeship of Peace, requesting his imprisonment pending trial. The court released Demir under an international travel ban.
The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office issued an indictment against Demir, Hürtaş and nine others on 9 April 2018, accusing them of “inciting hatred and enmity” and “terrorism propaganda.” Demir’s social media posts shared before the Afrin operation on 19 January 2018 were presented as evidence in the indictment. An interview Demir conducted with the former Co-Chair of Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Figen Yüksekdağ via letters from the prison was also listed as evidence in the indictment.
The Ankara 15th High Criminal Court accepted the indictment.
The first hearing of the trial was held on 6 September 2018.
Demir defended himself at the first hearing and reminded that the social media posts subject to the accusations were shared before Turkey launched the Afrin operation. Noting that his posts were excerpts from a news report, Demir said that journalism was put on trial. Demir presented to the court reports by 18 different media outlets similar to his social media posts held as evidence for the charges.
Request for prosecution under TCK 301
During the fourth hearing of the case, held on 27 March 2019, the prosecutor requested that an investigation be launched against seven defendants, including Demir, on the allegation of “publicly denigrating the Turkish nation, the Republic of Turkey, the Parliament, the Government and the judicial institutions of the state” under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).
The court decided to seek permission from the Ministry of Justice to file for an investigation.
During the 10th hearing of the case, held on 4 March 2021, the Ankara 15th High Criminal Court held that "the acts of all 11 defendants tried in the case could constitute the offense in TCK 301/1" and decided to request permission to prosecute from the Ministry of Justice and decided to suspend the proceedings.
1.5-year sentence for 5 social media posts
Demir was charged with "terrorism propaganda" in a separate case for posting a newspaper advertisement on his Facebook account to commemorate journalists killed in the 1990s.
The indictment issued by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor's Office cited five social media posts by Demir as evidence for the accusation.
The first hearing of the trial was held at the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court on 15 March 2018.
At the second hearing of the trial, held on 29 May 2018, the court sentenced Demir to 1 year, 6 months and 22 days in prison on the charge of "terrorism propaganda." The announcement of the sentence was deferred.
A lawsuit was filed against Hayri Demir on account of his news report headlined “AKP’nin ‘propaganda grubu’nun yöneticisi rektör çıktı” (Rector turns out to be AKP’s ‘propaganda group’ admin), published on Gazete Pencere news portal on 3 April 2023.
The lawsuit was filed by Maltepe University Rector Edibe Sözen, who also had access to Demir’s report blocked and its content removed by a decision of the Istanbul 8th Criminal Judgeship of Peace on 7 April 2023.
The petition submitted to the civil court by Sözen’s lawyer claimed that Demir’s coverage was “untrue and baseless.”
The TL 20,000 lawsuit was accepted by the Istanbul 8th Civil Court of First Instance.
The first hearing of the case was held on 13 February 2024. P24 monitored the hearing, which was attended by the lawyers representing the parties. Demir’s lawyers requested that the court dismiss the lawsuit. The court decided to investigate Demir’s economic and social circumstances and postponed the case until 9 May 2024.