This week, the hearings of several journalism and freedom of expression trials will be held. Below is the list of these hearings:
April 12th, Tuesday
- The first hearing of the trial where journalist and author Hasan Cemal faces “insulting the president” charge will be held in the İstanbul 41st Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09:35. The indictment was prepared after the investigation launched by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office following an anonymous email sent to the Department of Combating Cybercrime of the General Directorate of Security in 2016. The indictment presents two social media posts which Cemal had shared on his personal account on July 15, 2016 and July 15, 2020 as evidence against the journalist. The prosecutor claims that the social media posts in question “go beyond the right to criticize and the freedom of expression and offend the dignity and the reputation of the president.”
- The third hearing of the trial where PEN Germany’s President and Die Welt correspondent Deniz Yücel whom MLSA represents in court, faces “degrading the Turkish Nation, State of the Turkish Republic, Turkish Grand National Assembly, the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the judicial bodies of the State” and “insulting the President” charges will be held in the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09:45. On July 16th, 2020, the İstanbul 32nd High Criminal Court had sentenced journalist Yücel to 2 years and 9 months in prison for “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.” In addition the prison sentence it handed down, the court had also ruled to file additional criminal complaints against journalist Deniz Yücel for “insulting the president” and “publicly degrading the Turkish Nation, State of the Turkish Republic, the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the judicial bodies” citing two separate articles he penned for Die Welt in late 2016. On June 14th, 2021, the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance ruled to merge the case where Yücel stands trial on “insulting the president” charge with the case where Yücel stands trial for “degrading the Turkish Nation, State of the Turkish Republic, Turkish Grand National Assembly, the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the judicial bodies of the State.” At the second hearing on November 25, 2021, the court decided to issue a writ for rogatory letters so that the statement of Yücel can be taken.
- The second hearing of the trial where journalist Sibel Hürtaş faces “prevention of public duty” charges will be held in the Ankara 37th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11:50. Journalist Hürtaş was prevented by the police from following last year’s sit-in protest of many bar association chairs in the garden of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey to protest the multiple bar association law. After insisting on following the protest as a journalist, Hürtaş was taken into custody by the police. Hürtaş claimed that she was tortured and ill-treated as she was strangled in the detention vehicle, and subsequently received a report of incapacity to work for two days. The prosecutor’s office decided not to prosecute for the criminal complaint made by Hürtaş about the policemen who physically assaulted her.
April 13th, Wednesday
- The hearing of the suit for damages brought against Evrensel daily columnist and academic Ceren Sözeri by the CEO of Turkuvaz Media Group Serhat Albayrak will be held in the İstanbul 2nd Commercial Court of First Instance, at 10:10. Albayrak claims that Sözeri damaged his “business reputation” with her article titled “AKP’ye kim oy kaybettirdi? [Who cost the AKP the votes?]” and asks 200.000 Turkish Liras for the damages.
- The 12th hearing of the trial where HDP Diyarbakır Branch’s Press Consultant Vedat Dağ faces “membership in a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charges will be held at Diyarbakır 11th High Criminal Court, at 11:20. The indictment presents Dağ’s attendance to HDP events as a press member, the posts he shared about these events on his social media account and secret witness testimonies as evidence against Dağ. Dağ is accused of conducting media operations for the KCK Press Committee. At the last hearing held on December 15th, 2021, the prosecutor presented his opinion as to the accusations and requested that Dağ be sentenced for “membership” and “threat” charges.
April 14th, Thursday
- The 10th hearing of the trial where former President Abdullah Gül’s press advisor and journalist Ahmet Sever faces “insulting a public official” charge upon complaint by the Minister of Industry and Technology Mustafa Varank will be held in the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11:55. The indictment presents the statements about Varan in the pages between 152-167 of Sever’s book İçimde Kalmasın/Tanıklığımdır published in 2018 as evidence against Sever.
- The second hearing of the trial where stage actor Genco Erkal faces “insulting the president” charge will be held in the İstanbul 16th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 14:00. The indictment presents three social media posts shared in 2016 and 2020 as evidence against Erkal.
April 15th, Friday
- The hearing of the trial where six people including 3 human rights activists who had attended the February 3rd Press Statement called by the İzmir Labor and Democracy Forces in support of the Boğaziçi University, face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies”, “insult” and “prevention of public duty” charges will be held in the İzmir 41st Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09:50. The evidence cited against the defendants include the testimonies of eight police officers who are included in the case as complainants. The police officers claim that they were “battered” and “injured” by the defendants during the police intervention which caused a public reaction because of the disproportionate violence of the police. In their statements, some of the police officers refer to the defendants as “…whom I knew from before.” The three human rights activists who stand trial in this case also stand trial in another case on “insulting the president” charge. In that case as well, the evidence cited against the defendants includes the testimonies of police officers.
- The second hearing of the trial where journalist Metin Cihan and his alleged source face “illegally obtaining or giving personal data” charge will be held in the İstanbul 22nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11:00. The indictment in which the Turkey Youth Foundation (TÜGVA) is listed as “the injured party”, presents social media posts of Cihan through which he publicized the leaked documents about TÜGVA showing the corruption the foundation has been involved in as evidence against the journalist. Even though the prosecutor states that he failed to authenticate the content of the documents, he nonetheless claims that the documents have been “doctored” and requests up to 6 years imprisonment for Cihan.