An investigation was launched against İshak Yasul, the former managing editor of Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper, due to the news and articles published in the newspaper between 22 October 2016 and 2 November 2016.
The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office accused Yasul of "publicly insulting the Turkish nation, the Republic of Turkey, the Grand National Assembly of the Republic of Turkey, the Government and the judiciary body of Turkey" and “publicly insulting military and police of the state” under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). Following the Ministry of Justice's permission to investigate under Article 301 on 12 December 2016, Yasul, Ersin Çaksu and reporters of Dicle News Agency were also included in the investigation.
The Press Office of the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office completed the indictment against Yasul and five other journalists on 12 April 2017. The indictment alleged that the journalists "acted with the intention of humiliating" in the news and articles published between 22 October 2016 and 2 November 2016 in Özgürlükçü Demokrasi. The Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance accepted the indictment.
Yasul, who defended himself at the first hearing held on 21 September 2017, said: “The mentioned news was received from various agencies by our editors. Due to the principle of editorial independence, I do not find it ethical to interfere with this news. Moreover, there is no crime element or any situation that constitutes a crime in the news.”
5-month sentence under TCK 301
At the 10th hearing on 28 November 2018, the court sentenced Yasul to 6 months in prison for “insulting the Turkish nation, the Republic of Turkey, the Grand National Assembly of the Republic of Turkey, and the Government and judiciary bodies.” The court reduced the sentence to 5 months and deferred the sentence. The same punishment was given to journalists Kenan Kırkaya, Selman Keleş, and Özgür Paksoy, who were tried along with Yasul. The files of Ersin Çaksu and Aziz Oruç, who had an arrest warrant, were separated.
10-month sentence for “publishing statements by terrorist organizations”
An investigation was launched against Yasul and Editor-in-Chief Yılmaz Yıldız on the allegation of “publishing declarations by a terrorist organization” over a news article titled “Efrin darbeyi tetikler” (Afrin will trigger a coup) published in Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper on 14 December 2017.
As part of the investigation launched by the Press Crimes Investigation Bureau of the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, Yasul and Yıldız were summoned to the prosecutor's office to give a statement. Yasul noted that the author of the news is known, and therefore he has no criminal liability. The prosecutor's office also launched an investigation against Fırat Benli, the author of the news report. The investigation against Benli was terminated with a decision of non-prosecution. The prosecutor's office, which decided not to prosecute the news report’s author, issued an indictment against Yasul and Yıldız. In the two-page indictment completed on 25 January 2018, Yasul and Yıldız were asked to be punished for "printing and publishing the leaflets and declarations of the terrorist organization.” The Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court accepted the indictment.
The first hearing of the trial was held on 28 February 2018. In his defense, Yasul stated that he didn’t write the news article and the article itself did not constitute a crime.
The prosecutor explained his final opinion at the 10th hearing on 15 October 2020 and demanded Yasul to be punished as charged and Yıldız’s file to be separated.
The court sentenced Yasul to 10 months in prison for “printing and publishing declarations by a terrorist organization” and separated Yıldız’s file.
Özgürlükçü Demokrasi trial
Police teams raided the Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper in Istanbul on 28 March 2018. Within the scope of the investigation launched by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, arrest warrants for 21 newspaper and printing house employees were issued. Seven people were detained during the operation. Yasul was detained at the Istanbul Police Department, where he went to give his statement on 30 March 2018. Due to a restriction order, the lawyers could not learn about the charges against their clients.
After eight days under custody, Yasul was taken to the Istanbul Courthouse on 6 April 2018. Following his statement at the prosecutor’s office, he was referred to the Criminal Judgeship of Peace with a request of imprisonment. The judgeship jailed Yasul pending trial for allegedly “being a member of a terrorist organization” and sent him to the Silivri Prison.
The indictment against 14 newspaper employees, including Yasul, was completed on 22 May 2018. The 52-page section of the 67-page indictment comprised the headlines and short content of the stories published in Özgürlükçü Demokrasi between 20 January and 27 March 2018. The prosecutor who issued the indictment stated that "the military action is considered occupation” in the news related to Turkey's military operation targeting the northern Syrian city of Afrin on 21 January 2018. Alleging the report was "fake news in favor of the organization and against the state,” the prosecutor claimed that the newspaper made "propaganda for a terrorist organization.”
Claiming that Yasul, the managing editor, was "responsible for the design and preparation of the so-called news,” the prosecutor asked Yasul’s conviction for "being a member of an armed terrorist organization,” "making propaganda for a terrorist organization" and "publishing declarations by a terrorist organization successively." The Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court accepted the indictment.
The first hearing of the trial was held on 12 September 2018. Defending himself at the first hearing, Yasul denied all accusations.
Explaining his opinion on the merits at the hearing held on 10 April 2019, the prosecutor requested sentence for Yasul for "making propaganda for a terrorist organization successively" and "publishing declarations by a terrorist organization.” At the end of the hearing, the court released Yasul under judicial control measures.
At the hearing on 28 June 2019, the court sentenced Yasul to 3 years 1 month and 15 days in prison for “aiding an armed terrorist organization wihtout being its member" and 1 year and 6 months for “systematic terrorism propaganda." The court acquitted Yasul of "praising an offense and an offender," "inciting hatred and hostility" and "publishing declarations by terrorist organizations” and imposed on him an international travel ban.