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.

Reyhan Hacıoğlu

Reyhan Hacıoğlu

Three indictments were issued against Reyhan Hacıoğlu, a former editor for Özgür Gündem newspaper, which was closed on 29 October 2016 under a statutory decree issued within the scope of the State of Emergency, declared following the 15 July 2016 coup attempt.


“Propaganda” trial


The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation against Reyhan Hacıoğlu for her articles titled “Mirabellerden Arinlere: Erkek Şiddetine Karşı Özsavunmaya” (“From Mirabel to Arins: Self-Defense Against Male Violence”), and “İnsanlığın Umudu YPJ” (“The Hope of the Humankind the YPJ”) published in Özgür Gündem on 16 November 2015.


Hacıoğlu gave her statement at the prosecutor's office on 21 January 2016 as part of the investigation. Stating that the latter article was not hers, Hacıoğlu denied the accusation. Hacıoğlu noted that she wrote the first article to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.


Completing the investigation, the Terror and Organized Crimes Investigation Bureau of the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office issued an indictment against Hacıoğlu on 11 March 2016 on the charge of "making propaganda for a terrorist organization."


In the indictment, the newspaper’s news and articles dated 16 November 2015 were presented as evidence. Along with Hacıoğlu, the prosecutor’s office demanded conviction for the newspaper's co-editors-in-chief Hüseyin Aykol and Eren Keskin, responsible managing editor Reyhan Çapan and columnists Ayşe Berktay and Nuray Özdoğan. Later the indictment was merged with 15 separate indictments against Eren Keskin, Hüseyin Aykol, Reyhan Çapan, Celalettin Can, Ayşe Berktay, Ayşe Batumlu, Nuray Özdoğan, and Filiz Koçali.


In the merged indictments, newspaper’s managers and columnists were accused of “legitimizing and praising the actions of the terrorist organization PKK/KCK,” “presenting security forces as murderers and the ones who disturb the public order,” and “publicly praising and promoting violence, insurgency against security forces and armed violence and pressure against the people who don’t share the same views” through the articles and news pieces which listed in the indictment as evidence. The indictments claimed that “these contents’ publication cannot be considered within the scope of freedom of expression and freedom of the press.”


The Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court accepted the 16 indictments against Hacıoğlu and others and merged them.


The first hearing of the trial was held on 26 May 2016. Hacıoğlu defended herself in the first hearing and stated that the article which is subjected to the trial is about violence against women, contains no crime, and should be considered within the freedom of expression. Hacıoğlu denied all of the accusations.


The prosecutor explained his final opinion in the seven hearing on 26 October 2017 and asked for Hacıoğlu’s acquittal according to Press Law, and she has no legal responsibility.


The final hearing of the trial was held on 21 May 2019. Hacıoğlu’s lawyer Özcan Kılı. stated that his client “protested the hearing and will not attend.” Explaining its verdict, the court sentenced Hacıoğlu to 1 year and three months in prison for “making propaganda of a terrorist organization through the press.” The announcement of the verdict was deferred.


“Özgür Gündem raid” trial


The Istanbul 8th Criminal Judgeship of Peace ruled to temporarily halt Özgür Gündem on 16 August 2016 on the allegation of "making propaganda for a terrorist organization." The police, who came to the newspaper's office in Istanbul on the same day to implement the temporary closure, searched the building. İMC TV, which was there to report on the newspaper's closure, was on air during the police raid.


During the raid, 22 press members, including Hacıoğlu, were battered and detained with rear-handcuffs. After three days under custody, Hacıoğlu and other journalists arrested were referred to the prosecutor's office. In her statement, Hacıoğlu said she did not resist the police, and they were put on the bus with their hands cuffed behind their back and were beaten by the police. Saying that her photos were taken after she was beaten, Hacıoğlu filed a complaint against the police.


All 22 were released on 18 August 2016 pending trial. An indictment was issued against them on 27 September 2017 on charges of "resisting the police to prevent them from performing their duty” and “insult.”


The indictment alleged that the defendants “threatened the police” and “when İMC TV broadcast was asked to be stopped, there were physical attacks on the police officers.” In the indictment, which alleged that Hacıoğlu and other defendants "resisted" not to let the Istanbul Police Department officials search the workplace and not detain the newspaper’s editor-in-chief. Three police officers from anti-terror branch were listed as complainants in the indictment.


The Istanbul 5th Criminal Court of First Instance accepted the indictment.


The first hearing of the trial was held on 9 February 2018. In her statement, Hacıoğlu said the police "physically attacked them instead of doing their duty.” Hacıoğlu noted that a police officer pulled her hair and said, “Take this one too,” that she was battered by three female police officers, two of them from the riot police, and subjected to sexist and racist words and curses in the detention vehicle, and the police officer pointed her and said, “This is the real terrorist.” Denying all the accusations, Hacıoğlu filed a complaint against the police officers who battered her and asked for her acquittal.


The trial is still ongoing. The next hearing is scheduled for 22 April 2021.


Özgürlükçü Demokrasi trial


Hacıoğlu started working for Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, a newspaper launched following the closure of Özgür Gündem, on 23 August 2016.


On 28 March 2018, police raided the Istanbul bureau of the newspaper within the scope of an investigation launched by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, arresting 27 employees of the newspaper and the printing house. Based on a ruling by the Istanbul 7th Criminal Judgeship of Peace, the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) appointed a trustee to the newspaper on 3 April 2018. An arrest warrant was issued against 19 employees and managers of the newspaper. Hacıoğlu was arrested in a police raid on her house in the middle of the night.


After spending seven days under custody, Hacıoğlu and others were sent to the Istanbul Courthouse on 10 April 2018. Hacıoğlu was referred to the Istanbul 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace with an imprisonment request, without appeared before the prosecutor. The judgeship jailed Hacıoğlu with the accusation of “being a member of an armed terrorist organization” and sent her to the Bakırköy Women’s Closed Prison.


The indictment against 14 employees and managers, including Hacıoğlu, was completed on 22 May 2018. The 67-page indictment’s 52 pages were filled with the titles and short contents of the news stories published in the newspaper’s issues dated between 20 January-27 March 2018. The prosecutor who issued the indictment claimed that the Afrin military operation “was described as occupation” in the news articles, and they were “terrorist propaganda in favor of the organization and against the State.”


In the indictment, Hacıoğlu was mentioned as “the suspect who worked as a reporter for a shut-down newspaper, also worked as an editor for the Özgürlükçü Demokrasi as a continuation of the organic connection with the organization’s media branch which aimed to make propaganda and agitation purposes of the separatist terrorist organization.”


In the indictment, one of the Hacıoğlu’s interviews with a European leftist parliamentary was subjected to a crime and claimed that the interview “consisted of statements which aim to legitimize the terrorist organization.”


In the indictment, it was alleged that the gas mask seized in the raid on Hacıoğlu's house was also used "by those who participated in illegal meetings and demonstrations." The prosecutor said Hacıoğlu's profession was "to spread the divisive and violent ideology and frightening power of the terrorist organization; to legitimize and justify the organization and create international public opinion in favor of it.” In the indictment, Hacıoğlu was demanded to be prosecuted and punished for the crimes of "being a member of an armed organization,” "making propaganda for a terrorist organization," and "publishing or broadcasting the publications of terrorist organizations." The Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court accepted the indictment.


The first hearing of the trial was held on 12 September 2018, in which Hacığolu was brought by gendarmerie from the prison where she was kept. In her defense, Hacıoğlu stated that the profession of journalism is being tried.


The prosecutor explained his final opinion on 10 April 2019 and demanded conviction of Hacıoğlu for “being a member of a terrorist organization,” “publishing or broadcasting the publications of terrorist organizations successively,” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization successively.”


The court reached a verdict in the fifth hearing on 28 June 2019. It sentenced Hacıoğlu to 3 years one month and 15 days in prison for “aiding and abetting an organization knowingly and willingly, although she does not belong to the structure of that organization” and acquitted her for the allegations of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization,” and “publishing or broadcasting the publications of terrorist organizations.” Hacıoğlu was released.


The case is still pending appeal.