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 Sibel Hürtaş appears in court for "resisting" detention

Journalist Sibel Hürtaş appears in court for

The case, launched upon a complaint by four police officers who violently detained Hürtaş as she was covering a protest in Ankara in July 2020, will continue in April




Journalist Sibel Hürtaş appeared before the Ankara 37th Criminal Court of First Instance on 9 November 2021 for the first hearing of a case in which she is charged with “resisting police officers to prevent them from performing their duty” under Article 265 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).


The case was filed upon a complaint by four police officers who violently detained the journalist as she was covering a protest in Ankara on 3 July 2020 by the heads of bar associations from across Turkey against the government’s draft law for the establishment of multiple bar associations.


Hürtaş, who received a medical report from the hospital proving the violence she suffered during her detention, subsequently filed a criminal complaint against the officers, however, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office dismissed her complaint and instead pressed charges against the journalist.


P24 monitored the hearing, in which Hürtaş and her lawyers were present. Lawyers from the Ankara Bar Association, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) MP Utku Çakırözer and Progresive Journalists Association (ÇGD) President Can Güleryüzlü were also among spectators who came to the courthouse to observe the hearing.


Only one male police officer, who is one of the four complainants in the case file, was present at the hearing.


Hürtaş addressed the court first. Recounting the incident in detail in her defense statement, Hürtaş said: “I was a reporter for Artı TV at the time of the incident. I followed the protests for a month. I was in front of the Parliament until 02:00 a.m. the night before the bill was introduced in the Parliament. There was no obstruction by the police until the morning of the incident. I was not the only journalist prevented. There was a police barrier in front of us so I could not see whether any other journalists were [detained]. I'm a journalist and I was there to report on the protest. This is evident in the indictment. The incident took place in the Parliament’s garden, which is a public space. I was subjected to arbitrary practice by the police. The indictment has the names of the accused and the complainants wrong -- I was the one prevented from performing their duty. The police blocked me from performing my public duty as a journalist. … My press card was hanging around my neck, which is visible in the footage. The cops I had argued with in front of the gate did not let me go. They formed a circle around me. Meanwhile, a scuffle occurred between the bar association members and the police. The police took this opportunity and tried to arrest me. I was battered. The intervening lawmakers and lawyers were also battered.”


Recounting how a female police officer who sat next to her in the detention vehicle tried to smother her, Hürtaş continued: “I told her I couldn't breathe, and she said to me, ‘Die, I want you to die!’ I was taken from the Parliament’s garden to the Kavaklıdere Police Station. There, I filed a complaint against the female officer, stating that she was a torturer. I was then taken to the hospital, where I received a medical report proving the violence I had suffered. While I was talking to my lawyers on the phone at the hospital, the police seized my phone. When we returned to the police station later, my lawyers were there. The chief of police said I was not in custody. I was given an administrative fine for ‘breaching Covid-19 measures.’ The prosecutor makes this allegation in the indictment. But I objected to the fine with a Criminal Judgeship of Peace and the fine was vacated. It is against the law to still make this allegation in the indictment despite a court decision proving that I did not violate the pandemic rules. It was written in the indictment for the sole purpose of justifying the police intervention. However, the intervention was not because of the pandemic, but to prevent my work as a journalist. This case is part of the systematic criminalization of journalism. Journalism is not a crime.”


Hürtaş added: “The police officers will be prosecuted for torturing me, for preventing my work. Even though the criminal complaint I made resulted in non-prosecution, they will stand trial one day. I demand to be acquitted.”


The presiding judge then read out transcripts of the footage showing the moment of Hürtaş’s detention. The judge stated that the fact that Hürtaş had been forced into the detention vehicle by five police officers was included in the transcript.


The complainant officer addressed the court next, stating that he did not want to join the case.


Hürtaş’s lawyer Sercan Aran then asked the court to hear the Security Branch Manager S.Ç. as a witness. The lawyer also inquired whether the police officer whom the court heard was the same officer who made the transcript. The officer responded that he did not transcribe the video.


Aran continued: “We are of the opinion that the indictment is biased. It makes it look as though my client had injured the police officers. It also includes the expression ‘the head of the dissenting bar association.’ One cannot make such a definition or distinction -- the president of a bar association is the president of a bar association. The indictment is therefore inherently biased. The allegations of ‘deliberate injury’ and ‘exceeding the limits of the authority to use force’ have been separated. We demand to learn about the outcome of those allegations. The indictment creates a perception that the client resisted the officers without justification. However, journalists in Ankara are constantly being blocked by the police. Hürtaş was yet another example.”


Lawyer Doğan Erkan addressed the court next. Noting that Hürtaş carried out a public duty by reporting on the protest staged by the bar associations, Erkan said: “The Covid-19 pandemic was used as an excuse to curb the protests. But the same excuse did not apply in the ruling party’s provincial congresses [organized around the same time as the bar associations’ protests]. If the law enforcement uses force and exceeds the legal limit, this justifies resistance. No one can be detained for breaching the pandemic measures. … The police officers were supposed to make sure the journalists could safely cover the protests. But they act with political motives. We believe the police officers committed a crime.”


Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court decided to hear the Security Branch Manager S.Ç. as a witness; to have the three complainant police officers brought to court for the next hearing; to grant Hürtaş’s lawyers time to submit their defense statements in writing; to inquire about the rest of the investigation files; and to receive a copy of the court decision canceling the administrative fine given to Hürtaş for allegedly “breaching pandemic measures.” Also deciding to hear the defense’s witnesses, the judge adjourned the trial until 12 April 2022.