Freelance reporter and photojournalist Ruşen Takva was arrested as part of an investigation launched by the Van Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office against him on account of his social media posts and news coverage in 2016, when all public gatherings and demonstrations were banned across the province by the governor’s office, and his digital equipment was seized. The photojournalist spent the night in police custody and was released the next day after he gave his statement.
Following the investigation launched in response to an anonymous report, an indictment was drafted against Takva on the charge of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” under Article 7/2 of Anti-Terror Law (TMK). The two-page indictment, dated 21 July 2017, argued that Takva had “made propaganda in a way that justified, praised or encouraged the use of coercive, violent, and threatening methods of the terrorist organization” in his social media posts.
The Van 2nd High Criminal Court accepted the indictment. The first hearing in the case was held on 17 November 2017. In his defense statement, Takva stated that his social media posts were a part of his profession as a journalist and a photographer; that there was no intent to make propaganda for a terrorist organization in any of his posts, and that his photos had won many awards.
Helin Özgökçe, Takva’s lawyer, demanded his acquittal, also noting that the journalist captured the true face of war for the public as a journalist, and that he had no intention of committing a crime.
In the first hearing of the case, the prosecutor presented their final opinion, and demanded that Takva be punished for the alleged crime due to “the opinion that his statement that he was merely reporting for peace was aimed at escaping the crime.”
Announcing its verdict at the end of the second hearing held on 28 November 2017, the court sentenced Takva to 1 year and 8 months in prison on the charge of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.” On account of the remorse that Takva displayed during the trial, the court decided to postpone the sentence.
After the sentence was upheld by an appellate court, Takva’s lawyers lodged an individual application with the Constitutional Court (AYM) on his behalf.
The decision to ban Takva from traveling abroad as part of the punishment he received still stands. As of 2021, Takva’s digital equipment, which was seized during his arrest in 2016, has not been handed to him yet, despite his numerous applications in that regard.
“Press statement” trial
The Van Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation against Takva on the allegation that he had participated in a press statement made by pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party’s (DBP) Van provincial branch and staged a march.
Issued on 3 March 2021, the indictment demanded that Takva be punished on the charges of “participating, unarmed, in unlawful meetings and marches, and refusing to disperse on their own accord despite warning” (Law No. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstration Marches; Articles 28/1 and 32/1) and “membership in a terrorist organization” (Turkish Penal Code; Articles 220/6 and 314/2 by reference of 314/3).
The indictment cited previous decisions of the Supreme Court of Appeals and AYM, as well as the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), asserting that although the right of assembly was considered a part of freedom of expression, it was not “limitless.”
The Van 2nd High Criminal Court accepted the indictment. The first hearing in the case was held on 10 June 2021. In his defense statement, Takva stated that he had covered the march in question as a journalist.
A police officer named A.Ş. testified at the hearing and claimed that Takva was among the group of people who wanted to make a press statement, later saying that he “couldn’t remember it exactly.”
Mahmut Kaçan and Burcu Şeber, Takva’s lawyers, demanded that the journalist be acquitted, noting that the indictment failed to clarify a concrete act that could be deemed a crime. Accepting the prosecutor’s request for additional time to prepare their opinion, the court adjourned the trial until 12 October 2021.