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 - 144

Journalists in State of Emergency - 144

Former Samanyolu executive Hidayet Karaca given aggravated life sentence, DİHA editor fined, new arrest warrant issued against journalist Selman Keleş 


Hidayet Karaca, the chief executive of the shuttered Samanyolu TV, and Alaaddin Kaya were given aggravated life sentences by an Ankara court on 8 June. 

Karaca and Kaya, along with two other co-defendants, were convicted of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” in the “FETÖ” trial heard by the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court. Authorities accuse the Fethullah Gülen network, now referred to as the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), of orchestrating the 15 July 2016 coup attempt. 

Karaca and Kaya were among the 75 defendants of the case, including former editor-in-chief of the shuttered Zaman newspaper, Ekrem Dumanlı. The case files of Dumanlı and other defendants who could not be brought before the court before they had fled Turkey, were separated.

No releases in Zaman trial

Eleven former columnists and editors of the shuttered Zaman daily appeared before the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court on 7-8 June for the fifth hearing of their case, where they face coup and terrorism related charges.

In its interim ruling at the end of the two-day hearing, the court ordered the continuation of the detention of four of the defendants -- columnists Ahmet Turan Alkan, Mümtazer Türköne, editor İbrahim Karayeğen and former Ankara representative Mustafa Ünal -- with one of the judges on the panel giving a dissenting opinion. The court also set July 5 and 6 as the dates for the next hearing in the case.

A detailed report on the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here. 

Journalist Ece Sevim Öztürk detained

Ece Sevim Öztürk, editor-in-chief of the Çağdaş Ses website, was detained overnight by the police on 8 June. A post on Öztürk’s Twitter account said she was detained at 2:30 a.m. and taken to the Istanbul Police Directorate headquarters. Another post later said that her family and lawyers were not allowed to see her.

Several news reports said Öztürk was detained for “sharing posts on social media in support of FETÖ.”

Publisher Emin Şakir released after 7 months in prison

Publisher Emin Şakir was released on 7 June after seven months in pre-trial detention. Şakir, who was the editor of the website that contains a digital archive of all leftist publications in Turkey, was imprisoned pending trial by a criminal judicature of peace on 28 November 2017. He was reportedly charged with “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

Şakir was released by a decision of the Istanbul 33rd High Criminal Court upon accepting an indictment prepared by the prosecutor against him. Details about charges in the indictment were not immediately available.

DİHA editor fined

On June 7, a court in Diyarbakır sentenced Dicle Müftüoğlu, the responsible managing editor of the shuttered Dicle News Agency (DİHA), to a judicial fine of 1,041 days. Co-defendant Zekeriya Güzüpek, who was the DİHA Executive Board chairman, was acquitted.

Müftüoğlu and Güzüpek were on trial on the charge of “terrorist group membership,” carrying up to 15 years in jail, based on the content of 20 wire reports distributed by the agency in 2015. 

During the final hearing of the trial at the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court, the prosecutor requested the acquittal of Güzüpek, saying there was not sufficient evidence conclusively indicating that he committed the crime of “membership in a terrorist organization.” The prosecutor also amended the charge for Müftüoğlu and requested her conviction of the lesser charge of “legitimizing methods of a terrorist organization that include the use of force and violence through publications” under Article 6 of the Anti-Terror Law.

The court concurred and ruled to defer sentencing of Müftüoğlu given that she did not have a prior conviction. Müftüoğlu will be required to pay the fine if she is convicted again in the next five years.

Trial of Cumhuriyet journalist adjourned

First hearing in the trial of Cumhuriyet court reporter Canan Coşkun was held on 6 June at the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court. Coşkun faces up to three years in jail under Article 6 of the Anti-Terror Law for a September 2017 report on the arrest of several lawyers. She is charged with “jeopardizing the trial, exposing the witness in the case and his family and turning them into targets of terrorist organizations” for mentioning the prosecutor and the witness in the case against the lawyers by their names. 

During the hearing monitored by P24, Coşkun presented her defense statement, saying the name of the witness was openly written in the court documents and there was no indication that he was a secret witness. Coşkun also said there was not a single photograph of the witness or any member of his family in the report to justify the prosecutor’s claim that the report exposed the witness and his family. “Let alone pictures, there is not a single word about family of the witness,” she said.

Coşkun’s lawyer Bülent Utku objected to the prosecutor’s claim that the investigation was put at risk by Coşkun’s report. He emphasized that the witness mentioned by name in the story was not a secret lawyer and added that Coşkun only acted as a journalist. 

The court ruled to relay the case file to the prosecutor so that he could prepare his final opinion on the case and adjourned the trial until 10 July.

FOX TV anchorman faces investigation

FOX TV anchorman Fatih Portakal and the network’s responsible manager İbrahim Onur Kumbaracıbaşı were charged with “denigrating state organs,” “insult” and “libel” in a criminal investigation that was launched upon a complaint from the Health Ministry.

The Ministry filed its complaint over a series of reports aired on FOX TV on a Mersin hospital.

Özgür Toplum journal employee released 

Özgür Toplum journal employee Mevlüt Gür, who was jailed pending trial in the southern province of Adana in February, was released at the end of his first hearing held on 6 June. 

Gül, who was released under judicial control measures, is charged with “membership in a terrorist organization.” The next hearing in the trial will be held on 11 October.

Arrest warrant against Selman Keleş

The fourth hearing in a trial where the shuttered Dicle Medya News Agency (Dihaber) reporter Selman Keleş and journalist Arif Aslan are charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” was held on 5 June in the eastern province of Van. 

The hearing at the Van 5th High Criminal Court was attended by Aslan and the journalists lawyers. Aslan rejected the accusations and requested that the court lift judicial control measures imposed on him. The court rejected Aslan’s request and issued an arrest warrant against Keleş due to a separate criminal investigation launched in the district of Hınıs in the eastern province of Erzurum. The trial was adjourned until 15 November. 

Keleş and Aslan were jailed pending trial in Van and released at the end of their first hearing on 21 November 2017, after eight months in prison.

İdris Yılmaz and Erhan Akbaş acquitted in “libel” case

İdris Yılmaz and Erhan Akbaş, editors of the Van-based Gazete Yaşam, were acquitted on 5 June in a trial where they were charged with “libel and insult” for a report on alleged sexual abuses in three public schools in Erciş district. 

Yılmaz, who has been in pre-trial detention as part of a separate trial since January, addressed the court hearing via judicial video-conferencing system SEGBİS from Elazığ No. 1 High Security Prison. Erciş District National Education Director Erol Şimşek, who filed the complaint against the two journalists, did not attend.

The Erciş 1st Criminal Court of First Instance ruled for the acquittal of the two journalists at the end of the hearing.

Özgür Gündem trial adjourned until October

Latest hearing in trial of members of the shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper’s editorial consultation board was held on 4 June at the Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court. 

The defendants, novelist Aslı Erdoğan, linguist Necmiye Alpay, journalists Filiz Koçali, Ragıp Zarakolu, Bilge Contepe, Özgür Gündem Editor-in-Chief Bilir Kaya, publisher Kemal Sancılı and lawyer Eren Keskin, are charged with “disrupting the integrity of the state and the unity of the nation,” “membership in a terrorist organization,” and “terrorism propaganda.”

The hearing, monitored by P24, was attended by Kızılkaya, Alpay and Keskin while Sancılı, who is in prison, addressed the session via video-conferencing system from İpsala Prison. 

Keskin said at the hearing that she was on trial in 143 cases for showing solidarity with Özgür Gündem. “I voluntarily put my name as a co-editor-in-chief because Özgür Gündem is one of the most heavily oppressed newspapers in this country. Now I am being tried in 143 cases because of articles whose content I don’t know about. This is against freedom of expression and norms of international conventions and the European Convention on Human Rights,” she said. 

Lawyer Özcan Kılıç requested the court to order the release of Sancılı and lift travel ban for Keskin, saying she was nominated for awards abroad. The court ruled to lift an arrest warrant against Zarakolu because his address abroad was known to the court but rejected requests for release of Sancılı and the lifting of the travel ban on Keskin. 

The court also decided to give the case file to the prosecutor for preparation of the final opinion and adjourned the trial until 10 October 2018.

Other free expression cases of the past week 

* Twenty-two students from Istanbul’s Boğaziçi University, indicted for allegedly protesting another group of students celebrating Turkey’s military operation on Syria’s Afrin, appeared before the Istanbul 32nd High Criminal Court on 6 June for the first hearing of their trial. The court ruled to release all 14 students who were jailed pending trial as part of the case under judicial control measures at the end of the first hearing. The students had been in prison for 2.5 months. 

A detailed report on the hearing, monitored by P24, can be found here. 

* The seventh hearing in trial of documentary maker Kazım Kızıl and others for “insulting the president” was held on 4 June at the İzmir 33rd High Criminal Court. Kızıl and his lawyer were not present at the hearing, which was monitored by P24. The court adjourned the trial until 1 October 2018.  

* Cartoonist Nuri Kurtcebe was arrested on 4 June due to an earlier conviction that was recently upheld by an appeals court. Kurtcebe was released a day later on probation. The Fethiye 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance had sentenced Kurtcebe to 1 year 2 months and 15 days in jail for a series of cartoons published in 2015.

* Two more academics who signed the Academics for Peace petition were convicted of “terrorism propaganda.” The Istanbul 32nd High Criminal Court sentenced retired Professor Büşra Ersanlı and Sezen Çilengir of Istanbul University to 15 months in prison each in separate trials held on 5 June. The court deferred the sentence for Çilengir but not for Ersanlı. 

* Two youths arrested for painting a “kettle” and writing HDP, the initials of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, on a wall in Istanbul’s Gazi neighborhood, were jailed pending trial by a criminal judicature of peace on 5 June. The youths, Sadettin Köse and Birol Tutuş, were charged with “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization.” 

* On 8 June, police in the southern province of Adana arrested 15 people who were accused of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “insulting the president” in their social media posts. News reports said 25 HDP members were also arrested in police raids in the eastern province of Elazığ on the same day.

Journalists in prison

There are at least 178 journalists and media workers in prison in Turkey as of 8 June 2018, according to open source information compiled by P24. The full list can be accessed here.