Konya – Danish journalist Sultan Çoban’s first hearing regarding the charges of “terrorist propaganda” was held at Konya 8th High Criminal Court today. The court handed down a suspended 1 year 3 month prison sentence to Sultan Çoban for reposting photos on Facebook about civilians liberated from ISIS rule.
Journalist Sultan Çoban, Media and Law Studies Association Co-Director and Çoban’s lawyer Veysel Ok, Reporters without Borders (RSF) Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu, two representatives from the Danish Embassy, Martin Selsoe Sorensen from Danish TV2, as well as Çoban’s friends and family were present at the Konya Courthouse for the hearing.
The Presiding Judge asked Sultan Çoban whether the concerned Facebook account was indeed hers and she confirmed. The judge then read the attributed offenses and the concerned Facebook post out loud and asked for Çoban’s defense statement in response to the indictment.
“My post is actually a re-post of other other people who have shared these photos. They were taken by journalists working for international news agencies. They were symbolic photos about the liberation of civilians in a region previously under ISIS rule. Comments and other captions regarding the photo do not concern me. I shared these photos with the caption that says ‘powerful images’ in Danish. Comments and captions of others who have posted the photo before me and the phrase I used were probably translated via Google Translate before being included in the report,” Çoban said in her defense.
Adding that she was not notified of the investigation in any way, Çoban said: “I was taken in police custody as I was entering Turkey at Istanbul Airport and was informed of the investigation only then.”
The court asked journalist Sultan Çoban about her statements from the initial interrogation and inquired which media outlets she is working for. In relation to her initial interrogation, Çoban said, “I didn’t know the specific posts that were included in the investigation at that point and I had to defend myself in general terms.” Çoban stated that she works primarily for TV2, adding that she works for other Danish media outlets from time to time.
Lawyer Veysel Ok noted that his client’s posts were automatically translated from Danish into Turkish via Google Translate. Ok referred to a recent Constitutional Court judgement and stated that social media accounts cannot be identified without a court order, adding that this evidence is against the law and constitutes a violation of privacy. Ok demanded this police report to be excluded from the file.
Prosecutor: The police report is legal
Prosecutor presented their final opinion as to the accusations and demanded journalist Sultan Çoban’s punishment for “terrorist propaganda” charges under Article 7 of the Turkish Anti-Terror Law. The prosecutor added that the police report was drafted with open source intelligence and must be considered legal before the court.
In response to the prosecutor, “My posts must be considered as journalistic activities, I post for informing and archiving purposes, I didn’t spread any propaganda” Çoban stated.
Court hands down sentence despite the judicial reform package
Lawyer Veysel Ok repeated that the police officers exceeded their authority, exercised the authority of prosecution and added:
“This post does not constitute any elements of propaganda. Sharing photos is also within the scope of freedom of expression. These photos are of international news agencies and were used by Turkish media as well. These photos are newsworthy. Turkey has cooperated with local forces against ISIS. These posts are from 2015 and must not be considered with current perspective on terror. ECtHR also rules that such social media posts are within the scope of freedom of expression.”
Ok also reminded the court of the Judicial Reform Package that took effect on 24 October 2019, which proposed a revision to the Article 7 of Anti-Terror law, which stipulates that sharing news cannot be considered as evidence for propaganda. When asked for her last words, Çoban demanded her acquittal.
The court announced its verdict following a short recess and sentenced journalist Sultan Çoban to 1 year and 3 months in prison. The court ruled to suspend the sentence and lifted all judicial control measures on behalf of Çoban, which included an international travel ban.