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.

Lawyer and columnist Nurcan Kaya sentenced for social media post

Lawyer and columnist Nurcan Kaya sentenced for social media post

Kaya handed down 15-month sentence on charge of “terrorism propaganda” for her 2014 Twitter post about the fight against ISIS in Kobani




The fourth and final hearing of lawyer and columnist Nurcan Kaya’s trial on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMK) was held on 27 September 2021 in Diyarbakır. The accusation stemmed from a number of social media posts Kaya shared in 2014.


P24 monitored the final hearing of the trial, overseen by the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court. Kaya and her lawyers Veysel Ok, Diyarbakır Bar Association President Nahit Eren and Mehmet Emin Aktar were in attendance. Citing the three-lawyer per defendant limit, the presiding judge decided that other lawyers who were also in attendance in an act of solidarity with Kaya should watch the hearing as spectators.


The police took intense security measures both inside and outside the courtroom and let journalists and others who wanted to observe the hearing in the courtroom after a body search. Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) Board Member Lawyer Barış Yavuz, TİHV Diyarbakır Representative Murat Aba, Human Rights Association (İHD) Diyarbakır Branch President Atty. Abdullah Zeytun and Diyarbakir Bar Association executive board members were among spectators observing the hearing.


Kaya: This is harassment through the judiciary


During the previous hearing, the prosecutor submitted their final opinion, asking the court to sentence Kaya for “terrorsim propaganda” for one Twitter post she had shared in October 2014 about the resistance against ISIS in the Syrian town of Kobani. At Monday’s hearing, the prosecutor reiterated their final opinion, arguing that Kaya “made terrorism propaganda” in her Twitter post.


Addressing the court for her final defense statement, Nurcan Kaya pointed out that the trial against her was launched after she shared an article criticizing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement which claimed that Turkey’s military operation carried out under the name of "Barış Pınarı" in northern Syria was in compliance with the UN Charter and other relevant regulations of the UN.


Asserting that her post was within the scope of freedom of expression, Kaya said, “After this post, an investigation was launched against me and I was detained at the airport even though my permanent address is known. Two separate investigations launched against me under Articles 216 and 301 of the Turkish Penal Code [TCK] have been dismissed. Then came this indictment on the charge of 'making propaganda for a terrorist organization.’ Various articles of the Turkish Penal Code have been tried in sequence for about two years so that I will be punished. This is harassment through the judiciary. This creates the impression that [the judiciary has been given] an instruction to stop me from criticizing the government’s certain policies and to keep me quiet.”


I cannot take a stand according to Turkey's position


Noting that she is a human rights activist who is against war, Kaya said she does not believe that political disputes can be resolved through the use of weapons. Kaya stated that various reports issued by Amnesty International, UN Human Rights Commissioner and other human rights institutions documented that Turkey-backed armed groups committed serious human rights violations in Syria. Stating that ISIS, which attacked the Kurdish town of Kobani, was a barbaric organization, and that a UN investigation team has concluded that ISIS had carried out genocide in Shengal, Kaya said that it was not a crime to call for support to Kobani, which was attacked by ISIS. Kaya also reminded that at that time, Turkey made statements of support for Kobani and that the PYD leader was hosted in Ankara. Kaya presented copies of the reports and articles she mentioned in her statement to the court.


Stating that it cannot be a crime to share on Twitter a quote from a speech delivered during a meeting she attended, Kaya said that as an independent human rights defender she will not adopt a stance according to Turkey’s political position and will continue to defend peace against war.


Kaya said: “As a human rights defender, I have been subjected to judicial harassment because of my articles. They want me to stop writing. The Court’s judgment in this case will show whether the government and the citizens are subject to different laws in this country. It will show whether one can be punished in this country for continuing to defend what the political authority once used to say. Your judgment will show whether defending human rights and peace and seeking solutions to conflicts through dialogue can be considered propaganda and whether freedom of expression can be completely ignored. Your judgment will show whether the motive behind this trial is to determine whether my act was propaganda or not, or to silence a rights defender, a peace activist.”


Indictment prepared through “cyber patrol”


Lawyers representing Kaya then delivered their statements. Pointing out that the “cyber patrol” carried out by the police on the Internet and social media was a procedure that has no legal justification, lawyer Veysel Ok stated that the ex officio investigation launched against his client and the indictment issued were based on the “cyber patrol” work, and were aimed at punishing his client.


Ok asserted that it was an inexplicable argument to claim through just one tweet that a person “incited violence and supported a terrorist organization.”


Reminding that at the time when Kaya posted her Tweet, ISIS was on the list of terrorist organizations all over the world, Ok said it was impossible to understand how a social media post that disapproves of ISIS could be deemed “terrorism propaganda.”


Noting that Kaya is a columnist besides being a lawyer, Ok requested the acquittal of his client, who has exercised her right to freedom of expression in line with the case law of the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).


Rendering its judgment at the end of the hearing, the court sentenced Kaya to 1 year and 3 months in prison for “terrorism propaganda.” The court deferred the sentence. Accordingly, Kaya will be subject to probation for the next five years.


Commenting on the sentence she was given following the hearing, Kaya said neither the trial nor the judgment was lawful. Noting that she was particularly sentenced for a specific Twitter post in which she had quoted a speech from a meeting, Kaya said the court’s judgment was a shame for the judiciary. Adding that the motive behind these trials was to silence rights defenders, Kaya said, “Nonetheless we will continue to defend human rights and peace the way we used to.”