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.

Journalist Ayça Söylemez acquitted

Journalist Ayça Söylemez acquitted

Söylemez’s lawyer says that Akın Gürlek, who was listed as a victim in the indictment, had not filed a complaint or petition of grievance against his client


The second hearing in the trial of journalist Ayça Söylemez on the charge of “marking those assigned with the fight against terrorism as targets” over her article “Yetenekli Hakim Bey” (“The Talented His Honor the Judge”) which was published in the 18 February 2020 edition of the BirGün newspaper was held at the İstanbul 29th High Criminal Court on 19 March 2023.

Söylemez and her lawyer Güçlü Sevimli were present at the hearing, which P24 monitored.

The prosecutor repeated their final opinion presented at the previous hearing and requested sentencing for Söylemez for the impugned crime.

“Akın Gürlek has not filed a complaint or petition of grievance”

Delivering her defense statement against the prosecutor’s opinion, Söylemez spoke as follows: “As you know, there is no element of crime in the piece subject to the indictment according to our law. All the information in the piece came from publicly held court case and it is a simple, informative article. Beyond coming under the freedom of the press, it was written as a journalistic duty and activity.”

Lawyer Sevimli said that the case had been filed after the lapse of the four-month statute of limitations stated in the Law on the Press and requested its dismissal.

Sevimli said, “My client’s piece subject to the charge is covered under the freedom of the press. Akın Gürlek, who is listed as a victim in the indictment, has not filed a complaint or petition of grievance against my client. The file shows that the case was filed through the overreach of law enforcement. From the first sentence to the end, the piece contains not a word that can be interpreted as marking someone as a target to an illegal organization. Elements of the impugned crime have not formed.” Gürlek requested the acquittal of his client.

Asked for her final statement, Söylemez requested her acquittal.

The court ruled to acquit Söylemez on the grounds that elements of the impugned crime had not formed.

Background of the case

In her article titled “Yetenekli Hakim Bey,” (“The Talented His Honor the Judge”) which was published in the 18 February 2020 edition of the BirGün newspaper, Söylemez wrote that then presiding judge at a high criminal court and current Deputy Minister of Justice Akın Gürlek had presided over the trial of many opposition figures. These included former Republican People’s Party (CHP) İstanbul Province Office Chair Canan Kaftancıoğlu, then Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (now called DEM Party) former Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş, Turkish Medical Association (TTB) President Şebnem Korur Fincancı, lawyers who are members of the Progressive Lawyers Association (ÇHD), academics who signed the peace declaration and managers, contributors and employees of the Sözcü newspaper.

An investigation was launched against Söylemez over this piece in June 2023. Following the investigation, the Terrorism and Organized Crime Investigations Office of the İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office filed an indictment against Söylemez in July 2023.

The indictment claimed that Söylemez had “mentioned [Gürlek, who was the presiding judge at a high penal court at the time] by name, exposed the cases he had overseen as part of his duties and that the article in question constituted the crime of ‘marking the officials as targets to the illegal organizations’ defined in article 6 of the Law 3713” and called for her sentencing.

Söylemez’s trial had started on 22 November 2023.