ETHA reporter Ali Sönmez Kayar jailed while former Zaman editor İbrahim Balta released in “FETÖ media trial”
Etkin News Agency (ETHA) reporter Ali Sönmez Kayar was sent to prison by an Istanbul court on February 6, 2018.
Kayar was taken into custody by anti-terror police in Istanbul on February 1 as he was leaving work. He was then taken to the Vatan Police Department. The grounds for his detention were not disclosed at the time of his arrest, but reports said he was imprisoned on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.”
Former Zaman journalist released on health grounds
The seventh hearing in the “FETÖ media trial,” in which 29 journalists including Murat Aksoy, Hanım Büşra Erdal and Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu stand accused of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “coup” charges, was held on February 6, 2018 at the 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
P24 followed the hearing in the courtroom. At the end of the hearing, the court ruled to release former Zaman reporter Halil İbrahim Balta on account of his health issues. The court also adjourned the trial until February 22, where it will issue its final verdict on the case.
A detailed report on the hearing can be accessed here.
Following Kayar’s imprisonment and Balta’s release, the number of journalists serving a conviction or held in pre-trial detention has become 156. The full list can be accessed here.
449 people detained for social media posts on Afrin
A total of 449 people have been taken into custody over their social media posts about Turkey’s ongoing military operation on the Syrian town of Afrin since the operation’s launch on January 20 for “spreading terrorism propaganda,” the Interior Ministry said in a press statement issued on February 5.
The statement added that 124 others who took part in various protests against the operation since January 20 have also been detained.
The statement did not provide any information as to the number of persons who have been jailed pending trial as part of the investigations, if any. The statement said those who were detained were charged with “conducting terrorism propaganda on social media.”
Seyri Sokak reporter Sibel Tekin, writer Emek Erez released
Seyri Sokak reporter and documentary maker Sibel Tekin, and Emek Erez, a writer who also contributes to the online news outlet Gazete Duvar, were released from custody on judicial control terms on February 6, 2018.
Both Erez and Tekin were among more than a dozen people who were detained during separate police raids in Ankara on February 2 on grounds of their social media posts. They were arrested for sharing the Turkish Medical Association’s (TTB) January 24 statement concerning Turkey’s ongoing military operation on Afrin. The statement itself has become the subject of an investigation.
Journalist Ümit Kartal released on judicial control
Ümit Kartal, the editor in chief of the Izmir-based local newspaper İz, was released from custody on February 5, 2018, four days after he was detained during a police raid on the office of the newspaper over reports the newspaper had run concerning Turkey’s military operation on Afrin.
Lawyers have said a restriction of access order was issued concerning Kartal’s case file during the time of his detention.
All TTB Central Committee members released from custody
All 11 members of the Turkish Medical Association’s (TTB) Central Committee who were taken into custody on January 30, 2018, have been released as of February 5.
Following the February 2 release of three members of the committee on judicial control terms by the Ankara 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace, the remaining eight doctors from the committee, including its president Professor Raşit Tükel, were also released on judicial control terms on February 5.
The doctors were detained as part of an investigation into the committee after the TTB issued a declaration titled “War is a public health problem” concerning the Turkish military’s ongoing “Operation Olive Branch” on the Syrian town of Afrin.
BTK bans access to websites of 3 news outlets
Access to the website 1HaberVar, founded by a group of former employees of TV and radio stations shuttered under emergency decrees, was banned by the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK) on February 5, 2018.
On February 6, the BTK also banned access to the websites of the Mesopotamia news agency (MA) and the online news portal Direnisteyiz.org.
Özgürlükçü Demokrasi employees detained
Pınar Tarlak, an employee of the Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper, was taken into custody on February 7, 2018 alongside 30 others during an operation in Istanbul targeting executives of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and Peoples’ Democratic Congress (HDK). The grounds for the detentions were not disclosed.
Meanwhile, on February 6, Mizgin Fendik, another employee for the pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, was briefly detained in Yüksekova, a district of the southeastern province of Hakkâri, as she was distributing the copies of the newspaper to subscribers. Fendik was briefly detained on January 19 as well. She was released on judicial control terms.
Azadiya Welat distributors appear in first hearing
Twelve former distributors of the shuttered Kurdish-language newspaper Azadiya Welat appeared in the first hearing of the trial against them on February 2, 2018 at the 10th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır.
The twelve were among 24 newspaper distributors who were taken into custody during a police raid on the head office of the newspaper on August 28, 2016. The paper was later shut down by a statutory decree in October 2016.
The 12 newspaper distributors each face up to 15 years of jail time for distributing the paper to subscribers on the charge of “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization.”
The distributors made their defense statements during the hearing, in which they said Azadiya Welat was a legitimate newspaper at the time, and requested their acquittal. The court adjourned the trial to March 28, 2018 for the prosecutor to prepare his final opinion.
Top court gives priority status to new applications for journalists
The Constitutional Court decided to give priority status to two new applications filed on January 30 on behalf of imprisoned journalists Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay after lower courts refused to implement the top court’s earlier ruling, which found that Altan and Alpay’s pre-trial detentions amounted to rights violations. In a decision communicated to lawyers representing Altan and Alpay on February 2, the Constitutional Court also rejected requests to issue interim measures to order the release of Altan and Alpay from pre-trial detention.
In another development, the European Court of Human Rights judge Işıl Karakaş of Turkey was recused from the cases of Altan and Alpay. M. Ergin Ergül will replace Karakaş to judge these cases on an ad hoc basis.
Alayumat, Akman appear at first hearing of “espionage” case
Erdoğan Alayumat and Nuri Akman, two reporters for the shuttered Dicle Media News Agency (Dihaber), on February 2, 2018 appeared in the first hearing of the trial in which both are facing up to 45 years in prison on charges of “Procuring information that must remain confidential for political or military espionage purposes” and “Membership in a terrorist organization.”
The 2nd High Criminal Court of Hatay ruled for continued detention for Alayumat, and the continuation of judicial control terms imposed on Akman. The trial was adjourned to April 25.
A detailed report on the hearing, followed by P24 in the courtroom, can be found here.
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.