Journalist, author and human rights defender Nurcan Baysal mainly focuses on the Kurdish issue and development and poverty issues in her work. Baysal, who is among the founders of Diyarbakır Political and Social Research Institute (DİSA), also serves as a consultant for various international organizations and foundations.
Baysal was among journalists and rights defenders who faced criminal investigations for participating in the “Co-Editor-in-Chief on Duty” campaign organized in 2016 for the purpose of solidarity with the pro-Kurdish Özgür Gündem newspaper before it was closed under a statutory decree.
The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched criminal investigations against 49 journalists and rights defenders who participated in the campaign, accusing them of “terrorism propaganda,” “praising a crime and a criminal,” “printing or publishing statements by terrorist organizations,” “marking public officials who took part in the fight against terrorism as targets” and “provoking a segment of the public to commit crimes.” The file against Baysal was among 11 investigation files that resulted in a decision of non-prosecution.
Arrest and trial due to "Afrin operation" posts
On 22 January 2018, police raided Baysal’s home in Diyarbakır, breaking her apartment’s door and arresting the journalist at around midnight. It was later disclosed that Baysal was taken into custody within the scope of an investigation against people who commented on social media on the Turkish Armed Forces’ (TSK) military operation against Afrin. Baysal was brought to the Diyarbakır Courthouse on 24 January 2018. There, the prosecutor referred Baysal to a criminal judgeship of peace with a request for her imprisonment pending trial on the charge of “terrorism propaganda.” The judgeship released Baysal under judicial control measures.
Following the completion of the investigation, in April 2018, the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued an indictment against Baysal, charging her with “publicly inciting the people to hatred and enmity” (TCK 216). The indictment was accepted by the Diyarbakır 7th Criminal Court of First Instance.
The first hearing of the case was held on 17 May 2018. P24 monitored the hearing, attended by Baysal’s lawyer Reyhan Yalçındağ Baydemir. Stating that her client was abroad, Baydemir requested that the hearing be postponed.
The second hearing of the case was held on 16 October 2018. P24 monitored the hearing. Making her defense statement, Baysal asserted that her social media posts were aimed at establishing peace and at criticizing the foreign policy of the government and rejected the accusation. Baysal’s lawyer Reyhan Yalçındağ Baydemir, who made references to the European Court of Human Rights judgments regarding freedom of expression, presented to the court an acquittal judgment by the Antalya 10th High Criminal Court to consider as a precedent.
The final hearing of the case was held on 21 February 2019. Issuing its judgment, the Diyarbakır 7th Criminal Court of First Instance acquitted Baysal.
Detentions and house raids
Baysal was taken into custody in Diyarbakır on 3 June 2019. Baysal, who was taken to the Police Department, was released after her statement was taken at the Anti-Terror Branch. It was later revealed that Baysal was detained on the allegation of “membership in a terrorist organization” within the scope of an investigation into the Democratic Society Congress (DTK).
In a separate incident, Baysal’s house in Diyarbakır was raided by the police in the early morning hours of 19 October 2019. Baysal, who was abroad at the time, announced the raid on her Twitter account. Stating that around 30-40 police officers came to her house and searched her house on account of her social media posts, Baysal added that she would file a complaint against the officers upon returning to the country.
Investigation over articles on Covid-19 measures
Due to their social media posts, articles and commentary regarding the government’s shortcomings in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, many journalists, academics and social media users faced criminal investigations. Nurcan Baysal was one of them. An investigation was launched against Baysal on the allegation of “inciting the public to hatred and enmity” citing her social media posts and two articles she penned for the news portal Ahval regarding Covid-19 measures. Baysal was called in to give her statement at the Diyarbakır Police Department in the morning hours of 30 March 2020 within the scope of the investigation. Baysal announced that she was not taken into custody due to the pandemic, but was summoned again the next day for her statement to be taken by a public prosecutor. Baysal was released by the judgeship to which she was referred after her statement to the prosecutor on 31 March 2020.
10-month sentence for Cizre article
In February 2018, Baysal was sentenced to 10 months in prison on the charge of “publicly denigrating the security forces of the state” (TCK 301) on account of an article she wrote in 2016 in the aftermath of sweeping police operations during the curfew imposed in the town of Cizre in Şırnak province.
Baysal’s article, headlined “Cizre’deki evlerin içinden: ‘Kızlar biz geldik siz yoktunuz’ yazıları, yerlerde sergilenen kadın çamaşırları” (From inside houses in Cizre: ‘Girls, we came and you were not home’ writings, women’s underwear displayed on the ground), was published on the news portal T24 on 7 March 2016. Access to Baysal’s article was blocked by a decision of the Ankara 6th Criminal Judgeship of Peace.
The fifth and final hearing of Baysal’s trial was held at the Istanbul 54th Criminal Court of First Instance on 20 February 2018. In her defense statement, Baysal said that her article should have been regarded as an official complaint by the prosecutor’s office and an investigation should have been launched. “I worked as a journalist in the region. … I wrote the article within the framework of my constitutional right and people’s right to information,” Baysal said.
Issuing its judgment at the end of the hearing, the Istanbul 54th Criminal Court of First Instance sentenced Baysal to 10 months in prison on the charge of “publicly denigrating the security forces of the state” and deferred the announcement of the sentence.
Constitutional Court judgment and retrial
Baysal and her lawyer filed an application with the Constitutional Court against the trial court’s judgment. Ruling on the application on 29 March 2023, the Constitutional Court held that the deferral of the sentence violated Baysal’s freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and demonstration, and sent the file to the next court of first instance for a retrial.
The first hearing of Baysal’s retrial on the charge of “publicly denigrating the Turkish Nation, the State of the Republic of Turkey, and the organs and institutions of the State” (TCK 301) was held at the Istanbul 55th Criminal Court of First Instance on 25 January 2024. P24 monitored the hearing, attended by Baysal and her lawyer.
The prosecutor, who presented their final opinion, requested Baysal’s acquittal due to lack of convincing, conclusive and substantial evidence that would require punishment. The court acquitted Baysal because the legal elements of the imputed crime were not present.