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.

Journalists in State of Emergency – 102

Journalists in State of Emergency – 102

Academic writer Fikret Başkaya detained; 153 journalists behind bars after latest releases

Academic and writer Fikret Başkaya was detained in a police raid on his home early in the morning on November 27. He was released later in the same day.

News reports said 77-year-old Başkaya was detained as part of an “anti-terrorism operation” targeting a number of people. State news agency Anadolu reported that Başkaya was among 13 people detained in Ankara as part of an operation against the PKK. Anadolu said Başkaya was taken into custody over an article and that he was released upon orders from the prosecutor.

Kurdish politician Seydi Fırat was also detained in Ankara. It was not immediately clear if Fırat and Başkaya were detained as part of the same operation.

Court accepts indictment against Çağdaş Erdoğan 

Istanbul 33rd High Criminal Court has accepted an indictment against journalist and photographer Çağdaş Erdoğan.

Erdoğan, who was detained by the police on September 2 allegedly for secretly taking pictures of a National Intelligence Agency (MİT) facility in Istanbul’s Kadıköy district, is charged with “being a member of a PKK/KCK terrorist organization” and “Spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

The 37-page indictment includes a large number of screenshots of the photographer’s posts on his social media accounts and personal website, presenting them as evidence for both charges.

In the indictment, the prosecutor maintains that Erdoğan’s defense that he had not known that the facility in question was an MİT building was “implausible” and claims that Erdoğan was “given orders and assigned by the PKK/KCK” to take pictures “as part of a reconnaissance activity in preparation for terrorist attacks.”

The indictment argues that Erdoğan has “organic and hierarchical links with the PKK/KCK” and that he “acts in line with instructions and calls from the group.”  The prosecutor also maintains that Erdoğan has, in multiple occasions, “spread propaganda for the terrorist organization in his social media and personal website posts.”

It was not immediately clear when the first hearing in Erdoğan’s case will be held.

Journalists Alayumat and Akman face up to 45 years in jail

A court in southern Turkey has accepted an indictment against Erdoğan Alayumat and Nuri Akman, two reporters of the shuttered Dihaber agency. The indictment, accepted by the Hatay 2nd High Criminal Court, seeks up to 45 years in jail for each journalist.

Presenting some news reports and WhatsApp messages as evidence, the indictment charges the two reporters with “acquiring confidential state information for the purpose of political or military espionage” and “membership in a terrorist organization.”

Alayumat and Akman were taken into custody on July 14 in İslahiye district in the southeastern province of Gaziantep on the basis of “reasonable doubt.” The two journalists were then transferred to Hatay, where they spent 13 days in custody. On July 27, a court decided to release Akman while sending Alayumat to prison pending trial on the charge of “espionage.”

First hearing in journalists case on February 13

The trial of 10 journalists, including BirGün editor Burak Ekici, will commence on February 13, 2018.

Erol Önderoğlu, the representative of the Reporters Without Borders (RSF), wrote on his Twitter account that the journalists are charged with “membership in a terrorist organization.”

11 journalists were arrested in police raids on August 10 for allegedly using ByLock, an encrypted chat application that the authorities say were used exclusively by members of the Fethullah Gülen network. In addition to Ekici, following journalists were jailed pending trial as part of the investigation: Muhsin Pilgir (correspondent for Zaman daily and Cihan news agency), Ömer Faruk Aydemir (news editor at İhlas news agency), Sait Gürkan Tuzlu (correspondent for the shuttered Cihan news agency), Cüneyt Seza Özkan (news coordinator at the shuttered Samanyolu TV), Ahmet Feyzullah Özyurt, Mutlu Özay (correspondent for Cihan), Mehmet Ali Ay and sports news presenter Yasir Kaya (Fenerbahçe TV).

Ayşenur Parıldak handed down 7 years and 6 months in prison

On November 21, Ayşenur Parıldak, a court reporter for the shuttered Zaman newspaper, was sentenced to seven years and six months in jail for “being a member of the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ),” which the authorities say is behind the July 15 coup attempt.

Parıldak was convicted at the latest hearing of the trial, held at the Ankara 14th High Criminal Court. Speaking at the hearing, Parıldak denied accusations that she had downloaded the ByLock messaging application and that some of her tweets contained criminal elements. “My only crime was to have worked for Zaman. I wish I had not,” she told the court.

The court initially sentenced Parıldak to nine years in prison but later reduced the sentence to seven years and six months, due to “good conduct.”

Cumhuriyet online editor Oğuz Güven convicted 

On November 21, Oğuz Güven, the editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet’s online edition, was sentenced to three years, one month and two days in jail on separate charges of “spreading propaganda for FETÖ” and “publishing a statement from the PKK terrorist organization.”

Güven was on trial due to a tweet shared on Cumhuriyet's Twitter account in May about the death of a state prosecutor, who indicted suspected members of the Fethullah Gülen group on terrorism charges, in a road accident. Güven told the court that the wording of the tweet was erroneous and that the tweet was deleted 55 seconds after it was posted.

Güven already spent 32 days in pre-trial detention as part of the investigation into the tweet. If the verdict is upheld by the appeals court, Güven will have to spend another one year and three months in jail.

Dihaber reporter released pending trial

Dihaber correspondent Selman Keleş, who was in pre-trial detention since March, was released at the first hearing of his trial held at the Van 5th High Criminal Court on November 21.

Keleş was taken into custody along with Arif Aslan, an employee of the İpekyolu Municipality in the eastern province of Van. Both were imprisoned pending trial on March 30 on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.”

Aslan was also released at the same hearing.

TRT cameraman Binali Erdoğan released from prison

Binali Erdoğan, a former cameraman for the state broadcaster TRT and an executive of the Haber Sentrade union, was released pending trial on November 20.

Erdoğan was imprisoned pending trial on October 20 on the charge of “insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.” He was released after the court accepted an objection filed by Haber Sen lawyers.

Following the release of Erdoğan and Keleş, the number of journalists imprisoned in Turkey is now at least 153. The full list can be viewed here.

Amnesty’s Taner Kılıç remains behind bars after hearing

The second hearing of a trial where 10 human rights defenders and the Chair of Amnesty Turkey Taner Kılıç face terrorism charges was held at the Istanbul 35th High Criminal Court on November 22.

The rights defenders were arrested during a meeting held in Istanbul’s Büyükada on July 5 while Kılıç was arrested a month before as part of a separate investigation. The trials were subsequently merged.

At the end of the hearing, followed at the courtroom by P24, the court decided to keep Kılıç in pre-trial detention. The court also ruled to lift judicial control measures on all other defendants and set January 31, 2018 as the date of the next hearing.

Eight human rights defenders, who were in pre-trial detention, were released at the end of the first hearing, held on October 25. All of the rights defenders, except Peter Steudtner and Ali Gharawi, attended the hearing. Steudtner and Gharawi had left Turkey after they were released at the first hearing.

Kılıç, who presented his defense statement at the hearing, denied claims that he had downloaded the ByLock application on his phone. Kılıç, who presented his defense statement through video conferencing system SEGBİS, said he was charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” based on allegations that he had downloaded ByLock and that deposited money in the now defunct Bank Asya, but insisted that the allegations were proven to be unfounded, as indicated by documents and reports that are now included in the case file.

“There are reports indicating that I have never downloaded ByLock on my phone or erased it. The allegation that I deposited money in Bank Asya is not accurate. I did not deposit money in Bank Asya; I withdrew all my money in the bank and closed my account in 2014,” Kılıç told the court.

Commenting on the meeting in Büyükada, Kılıç said such meetings are organized by civil society organizations frequently and that the fact that a meeting is not open to public does not make it illegal. “I believe that this indictment did not take into account the legal regulations on associations,” he said.

Kılıç also said that the allegation that İdil Eser, the Amnesty Turkey director, attended the meeting because at that time he was incarcerated did not reflect the truth, Kılıç said unfounded allegations that serve criminalizing the gathering were being fed to the public.

Before concluding his defense statement, Kılıç said he was kept in a cell big enough for eight people together with 24 other people. “I want my unjust suffering to end,” he said.

Taştan: We are on trial for fighting for rights

After Kılıç, Nejat Taştan and Şeyhmus Özbekli, who were arrested but then released pending trial in earlier stages of the investigation, presented their defense statements.

Taştan criticized the prosecutor for not including evidence in favor of the defendants and said information that was not made available to the defendants or their lawyers were published in the media. “We are on trial because we are fighting for rights,” Taştan told the court.

Taştan also responded to allegations stemming from the fact that the Büyükada meeting was not open to public, saying a public meeting on digital data security cannot be open to public. “All rights groups working with victims of abuses must first ensure data security,” he said.

Özbekli, for his part, started with pointing out that he was a 24-year-old lawyer actively practicing his profession for only three months.

“My only purpose is to defend the human rights, just like all my other friends here,” he said. Responding to an accusation in the indictment that the Büyükada meeting discussed ways to foment a second wave of Gezi-like protests, Özbekli said he did not even know where the Gezi Park, the ground zero for the 2013 protests, was.

Expert: No trace of ByLock on Kılıç’s phone

Following the defense statements, digital forensics expert Koray Peksayar testified at the court. Peksayar said an examination of Kılıç’s phone revealed no trace of ByLock.

Peksayar also said it was found out that some applications automatically establish an IP connection with the ByLock server, without users realizing it.

For a full list of all the imprisoned journalists in Turkey, visit this spreadsheet. Lists of all of the foundations and associations as well as media outlets shut down can also be found at the same link, although on different tabs of the same spreadsheet.