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 Hayri Demir given prison term for "terrorism propaganda"

Journalist Hayri Demir given prison term for

The court sentences Demir to 1 year 21 months and 22 days of imprisonment for “terrorism propaganda” over his social media posts. Demir was acquitted of “membership in a terrorist organization and his international travel ban was lifted

ALTAN SANCAR, ANKARA

The 15th hearing in the trial of journalist Hayri Demir on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” over his journalistic activities in northern Syria was held at the Ankara 15th High Criminal Court on 21 December 2022.

Demir’s lawyer Nuray Özdoğan attended the hearing, which P24 monitored. The hearing, which Demir did not attend, was observed by many people, including representatives of the Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS), DİSK Basın-İş labour union and Amnesty International.

During the hearing which began two hours later than the scheduled time, police officers prevented journalists from taking notes using their smartphones. Although the prosecutor was not present at the start of the hearing, the presiding judge said “[The prosecutor] repeats their opinion, [the prosecutor] will be here shortly.” The prosecutor only took their place in the courtroom after the hearing had started.

Demir’s lawyer Özdoğan’s defense against the accusations was interrupted twice by the presiding judge, who said “Give a summary” and “Let’s hear the conclusion.”

Lawyer Özdoğan pointed out that Demir was on trial due to his journalistic activities and said that the case contained repetition by reminding the court of previously filed and concluded court cases against her defendant.

Stating that the indictment rested on digital evidence handed over to the police after they were stolen from Demir’s residence, Özdoğan reminded the court that this did not constitute legal evidence: “The prosecution has surpassed the indictment in the opinion. In the opinion, my defendant being an employee of the Dicle News Agency (DİHA) was considered an element of crime, yet Demir did not work at DİHA after it was shut down. The book seized at the home raid is a first edition that was published before it was banned. It is clear it was not being kept for propaganda purposes. The evidence for the charges here is a 16 GB memory card. The footage, video recordings and photographs he took in Syria. Much of this reporting was used by the Hürriyet newspaper. There is a video among them which shows journalists joking among themselves. This is a video from an area from which the ISIS had withdrawn. This may disturb any of us here, but it cannot be a subject of legal accusation. In war you may only report from one side of the fighting. Reporting was carried out in regions held by the Syrian Democratic Forces, because it was risky to report from areas where ISIS were present. NTV reported from the same areas at the time, does that make them guilty too? There is no concrete evidence of my client’s membership of an organisation. The verdict sought for propaganda was the subject of a separate trial in 2015. Therefore this charge is a repetition.”

Özdoğan requested her client to be acquitted of both charges. The court withdrew for approximately 30 minutes before announcing its verdict. Demir was sentenced to imprisonment of 1 year 21 months and 22 days for “terrorism propaganda” over a song and a documentary he had shared on his social media account.

The court ruled to acquit Demir of “membership in a terrorist organization” due to the lack of adequate and credible evidence and lifted the international travel ban imposed on him.

Background of the case

Demir was detained on 16 March 2017 and released eight days later as part of the case, and the indictment concerning him was concluded in May 2019. The charges brought against Demir were based on the images and photographs on memory cards that were recovered at the police station after being stolen from his home in February 2016 and his social media posts, which are mainly news items and photographs.

Among the news items and photographs the indictment lists as evidence of the charges are a photograph of Demir live on air from Akçakale, Şanlıurfa; images stated to have been acquired in Kobane, photos Demir took on Newroz day in Diyarbakır in 2015 and photos of the general congress of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) held on 7 September 2014.

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