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.

Tunca Öğreten

Tunca Öğreten

Tunca Öğreten, a former news editor for the news portal, was arrested along with five other journalists in the early hours of 25 December 2016, reportedly in connection with the publication of leaked e-mails of former Energy Minister Berat Albayrak. Police searched his home for three hours before arresting Öğreten. The pro-government Sabah newspaper reported that Öğreten and the other journalists were arrested over their links with Redhack, a hacker group which claimed responsibility for leaking Albayrak’s e-mails. It said in addition to the six journalists, arrest warrants were issued for three more people, including Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yücel.

Öğreten and the five journalists were kept in police custody for a record 24 days, following which Öğreten, DİHA editor Ömer Çelik and BirGün staff member Mahir Kanaat were jailed pending trial on the charge of “terrorist group membership.” The remaining three journalists were released pending trial.

According to court documents, Öğreten was accused of "membership of the banned Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army/Front (DHKP/C)."

The indictment against six journalists was issued in July 2017. It accused Öğreten of "Membership of a terrorist organization” under Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), “Hindrance or destruction of a data processing system” (TCK 244/2 and 244/4) and “Committing crimes on behalf of a terrorist organization without being its member” (TCK 220/6). The e-mails on which Öğreten reported were stolen and leaked by a hacker group "affiliated with the DHKP-C armed terrorist group,” the prosecution claimed. The indictment also said that "Öğreten formerly worked for Taraf newspaper," which it described as "a media outlet of the FETÖ/PDY."

The full text of the indictment (in Turkish) can be accessed here.

The first hearing of the "RedHack trial" against six journalists took place on 24 October 2017 at the Istanbul 29th High Criminal Court. The court ruled for Ömer Çelik’s release pending trial and the continuation of Öğreten and Kanaat’s detention. Öğreten and Kanaat were released pending trial at the end of the second hearing, on 6 December 2017.

The 11th hearing of the case was held on 15 December 2020. The court decided to send the case file to the prosecution for the preparation of their final opinion and adjourned the trial. The next hearing is scheduled for 9 July 2021 at the Istanbul 29th High Criminal Court.

Judicial fine for "insulting the president"

Öğreten also stood trial alongside writer Perihan Mağden and Yurt daily editors Mehmet Çağlar Tekin and Orhan Şahin in a separate case, each facing up to more than 4 years in prison for “insulting the president” (TCK 299). The accusation stems from a news report that included comments by Mağden, a former columnist for the shuttered Nokta magazine, about a police raid on the magazine's offices in September 2015. The report first appeared on Diken and was re-printed by Yurt daily. At the end of the 13th hearing of this trial, held on 10 January 2019, the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance convicted Öğreten and Mağden of "insulting the president" and fined each TL 7,000. The court did not defer the sentences. Journalists Şahin and Tekin were acquitted.

European Court of Human Rights judgment

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued its judgment concerning the applications of Tunca Öğreten and BirGün's Mahir Kanaat on 18 May 2021, finding multiple violations, including the right to liberty and security and freedom of expression. In its Chamber judgment, the European Court unanimously ruled that Öğreten and Kanaat’s pre-trial detention for almost a year in 2017 as part of the “RedHack trial” violated their right to liberty and security (Article 5/1 of the European Convention on Human Rights), right to access the investigation file (Article 5/4) and freedom of expression (Article 10).

The ECtHR ruled for a payment of 5,750 euros to Öğreten in respect of pecuniary damages, an additional 14,000 euros to each applicant in respect of non-pecuniary damages, and 2,250 euros each in costs and expenses.