This week, the hearings of numerous freedom of expression trials will be held. Below is the list of these hearings:
April 24th, Monday
The first hearing of the trial in which Özkan Yücel, the President of the Izmir Bar Association between 2018-2021, and 10 Board Members face “openly degrading the religious values adopted by a section of the public (Turkish Penal Code Article 216/3)” will be held in the Izmir 1st High Criminal Court at 09.30. The Izmir Bar Association's press statement titled “Nefrete İnat, Yaşasın Hayat [Against Hatred, Long Live Life]” dated April 25, 2020 is cited as evidence against the lawyers. In the statement, the Izmir Bar Association reacted to the hate speech in the sermon given by the President of the Directorate of Religious Affairs, Ali Erbaş, on 24 April 2020, which targeted LGBTI+, HIV+ individuals, and those who engage in extramarital relationships. The Bar Association reminded that hate speech must be punished, referring to international treaties which Turkey is also a state party to. The prosecutor requests for the lawyers to be sentenced, alleging that the Bar Association “insulted religious values” with their statement. Ankara Bar Association had also issued a statement against Erbaş's hate speech, and upon Erbaş’s complaint, a lawsuit was filed against Erinç Sağkan, the President of the Ankara Bar Association between 2018-2021, and 10 Board Members on charges of “insulting a public official because of his religious beliefs, thoughts and convictions.”
The second hearing of the trial in which Mesopotamia News Agency reporter Ceylan Şahinli faces “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Ankara 20th High Criminal Court, at 10.00. In the indictment which was filed on 5 December 2022, the prosecutor presents three demonstrations in 2017 which he claims that Şahinli attended. Additionally, the prosecutor presents three 2017 retweets “discovered” in an “open source investigation” conducted by the police on a social media account allegedly belonging to Şahinli. Among the social media posts cited as evidence is also a tweet by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP Meral Danış Beştaş. Similar to the indictment against human rights defender Aslı Saraç, the prosecutor also cites as evidence the press statement in Ankara organized on 11 May 2017 to commemorate Ulaş Bayraktaroğlu who was killed in Raqqa while fighting ISIS. The prosecutor who indicted Şahinli had also indicted prominent human rights defender Şebnem Korur Fincancı and documentary filmmaker Sibel Tekin with terrorism charges. Şahinli and her lawyer did not attend the first hearing of the trial held on 7 March 2023. In connection with another criminal investigation, journalist Şahinli has been held in pre-trial detention together with 9 of her colleagues over the suspicion of “membership in a terrorist organization” since 29 October 2022.
April 25th, Tuesday
The third hearing of the trial in which the former executive editor of bianet Nazan Özcan faces “insult” and “libel” charges upon complaint by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s former lawyer Mustafa Doğan İnal will be held in the Istanbul 34th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09.55. Prosecutor Türkşad Kunthan Uçuk who had also indicted journalist Sedef Kabaş and pop star Gülşen cites the news article titled “Erdoğan'ın avukatının rüşvet iddialarını haberleştiren gazetecilere dava [Lawsuit against journalists who reported the allegations of bribery about Erdoğan’s lawyer]” which was published in bianet on 7 December 2021 as evidence against Özcan. Citing the news article about the lawsuit brought against İleri Haber’s former editor-in-chief Doğan Ergün and İleri Haber’s current editor-in-chief İzel Sezer by Mustafa Doğan İnal after the journalists reported about the bribery allegations about İnal, the prosecutor claims that İnal Özcan “openly insulted” and “defamed via the press” and requests that Özcan be sentenced. At the first hearing of the trial held on 8 December 2022, the court decided to accept the intervention request of İnal and to give additional time for his lawyer to present his detailed arguments. The court also decided to ask for the file of the case in which journalists Doğan Ergün and İzel Sezer stand trial upon complaint by İnal. At the second hearing of the trial held on 22 March 2023, prosecutor Caner Özler presented his final opinion as to the accusations. Arguing that the news article in question must be considered within the context of press freedom, prosecutor Özler requested Özcan to be acquitted.
The third hearing of the trial in which the Mesopotamia News Agency’s proprietor and managing editor Ferhat Çelik and the proprietor of Jiyan News İdris Yayla face “disclosing or publishing the identities of public officials on anti-terror duties or identifying public officials on anti-terror duties as targets” charge upon complaint by prosecutor İ. K. will be held in the Van 2nd High Criminal Court, at 10.20. The indictment presents a news article titled “Gazetecilere gözaltı talimatını aynı savcı verdi [The same prosecutor ordered for the journalists to be taken into custody]” which was published on the website of the Mesopotamia News Agency on 8 October 2020, as evidence for the charges. In the cited news article, it was shared with the public that the prosecutor İ. K. who ordered journalists Adnan Bilen, Cemil Uğur, Şehriban Abi, Nazan Sala and former newspaper distributors Şükran Erdem, Mikail Tunçdemir and Fehim Çetiner to be taken into custody after Uğur’s news article broke the story of how villagers in Van’s Çatak district were tortured by the security forces and that Osman Şiban and Servet Turgut were thrown off from a helicopter by soldiers, was the same prosecutor who at that time led the criminal investigation against the soldiers who tortured Osman Şiban and Servet Turgut. Requesting that journalists Çelik and Yayla to be sentenced, in the indictment, the prosecutor claims that in addition to Jiyan News, the news article by the Mesopotamia News Agency was shared by other “press organizations which are supportive of the terrorist organization” and thereby prosecutor K. was identified as a target for the terrorist organization. Among the websites listed by the prosecutor as “press organizations which are supportive of the terrorist organization” and which also shared the news article are the websites of Evrensel daily, ArtıGerçek and the website of the Kocaeli MP of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu. In the indictment, the prosecutor gives 9 October 2020 as “the date of the offense” despite the fact that the news article in question was published on 8 October 2020. Prosecutor K. who had also indicted journalists Adnan Bilen, Cemil Uğur, Şehriban Abi, Zeynep Durgut and Nazan Sala in “the Helicopter Torture Case” in which all journalists were eventually acquitted, had referred the journalists Adnan Bilen, Cemil Uğur, Şehriban Abi and Nazan Sala on 9 October 2020 to the Van 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace and requested them to be arrested. In its 18 January 2022 ruling, the Constitutional Court found that the detention of journalist Cemil Uğur who was arrested on 9 October 2020 together with his three colleagues, was unlawful and ruled that Uğur’s right to liberty and security was violated. At the first hearing of the trial held on 22 November 2022, the court decided to accept the intervention request of the complainant prosecutor and decided to issue a writ so that the period when the complainant prosecutor was assigned to the Terror Crimes Investigation Bureau of the Van Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office can be determined. At the second hearing of the trial held on 31 January 2023, the court accepted the excuses submitted by the journalists and their lawyers and adjourned the trial.
The first hearing of the trial in which journalist Eylül Deniz Yaşar faces “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court at 11.30. In the indictment which was filed on 4 January 2023, the prosecutor alleges that Yaşar participated in a press statement held on 11 May 2017, on Yüksel Avenue following the death of Ulaş Bayraktaroğlu who died while fighting against ISIS. The indictment, which was previously rejected because there is no sufficient evidence to support the claim that Yaşar is the person in the footage, has been resubmitted to the court by the prosecutor, who claims that there is a “partial similarity in the nose and chin structure” in the said footage.The prosecutor also cites two social media posts shared by an account named Seyri Sokak on 23 and 25 April 2018, as evidence against Yaşar. Despite the fact that a previous criminal investigation initiated against Seyri Sokak over the suspicion of “membership in a terrorist organization” ended with a no prosecution decision on the grounds that there is no sufficient evidence to support the claim that the account is operated by Yaşar, the prosecutor still presents the social media posts by the said account as evidence against Yaşar. Alleging that Yaşar “made propaganda for a terrorist organization by legitimizing or glorifying the violent methods of the terrorist organization by holding rallies and demonstrations through armed terrorist group members or inciting the use of such methods”, the prosecutor requests the journalist to be sentenced. The same prosecutor who prepared the indictment against Yaşar also filed lawsuits against journalist Ceylan Şahinli and human rights defender Aslı Saraç, using the same charges based on the same press statement. Additionally, Gani Kaplan, the former chairman of the Pir Sultan Abdal Cultural Association (PSAKD), who spoke at a commemoration for Ibrahim Kaypakkaya held on May 18, 2017, on Sakarya Avenue in Ankara, was also charged with “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” by the same prosecutor. It was later revealed that the prosecutor added social media posts from 2017 to the indictment against Kaplan without obtaining his defense. The same prosecutor also prepared indictments against the President of the Turkish Medical Association Central Council, Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, and documentary filmmaker Sibel Tekin. The same prosecutor had also filed a lawsuit against the Turkish Medical Association requesting its Central Council members to be dismissed, including the Council President Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı.
The first hearing of the trial in which BirGün daily reporter İsmail Arı faces “openly insulting a public official due to performance of his duties” charge upon complaint by Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank, will be held in the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 13.10. The indictment which was filed on 22 December 2022, cites the news article titled ““Deniz manzaralı araziyi Varank’ın ‘kuzeni’ kaptı! [Varank's 'cousin' takes the sea-view land!]” published in BirGün on 18 November 2022, as evidence against journalist Arı. Despite the presence of phrases such as “...another tender was awarded from the government to the relative of the AKP's Minister of Industry and Technology, Mustafa Varank,” and “...Varank's cousin Sedat Varank had won the tender for the Central Ankara project” in the cited news article, prosecutor Hakan Aksoy repeats the allegation in Varank's complaint letter. Arguing that Arı “created the perception that the lands were allocated to the complainant's cousin without tender, and attempted to undermine the complainant's reputation through the news headline and content, causing public distrust of the complainant, and damaging the complainant's social standing”, prosecutor Aksoy requests journalist Arı to be sentenced.
April 27th, Thursday
The fourth hearing of the SLAPP suit brought by the Demirören Media Group against Medya Koridoru’s proprietor and editor-in-chief Canan Kaya whom MLSA represents in the court, will be held in the Istanbul 39th Civil Court of First Instance at 10.30. Citing Kaya’s news article titled “Demirören yolun sonuna yaklaşıyor: Ziraat Bankası ‘kayyumları’ ne istedi? [End of the road for Demirören: What did Ziraat Bank ‘trustees’ want?]” published on Medya Koridoru, on November 26, 2021, the lawyers of Demirören Media Group claim that Kaya damaged “the commercial reputation” and violated “the personal rights”' of “a respectable company which serves the public interest.” Including the details of the Group’s investment in the media sector in their petition, the lawyers claim that Kaya’s news report was “purposefully ill-intentioned.” Arguing that the news report reached wide audiences, the lawyers ask for a compensation of 20,000 Turkish Liras for non pecuniary damages but also requests that the news report be removed and the verdict of the court be published in two of the most read newspapers in Turkey as well as on Medya Koridoru. The lawyers of the Demirören Media Group had also filed a criminal complaint against Canan Kaya for “unfair competition.” After its investigation, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office decided not to prosecute Kaya on the grounds that the news report in question is “not against the principle of honesty” and the elements of the offense of “unfair competition were not established.” On 7 June 2022, at the first hearing of the trial, the court decided to issue a writ to relevant parties so that the listed evidence can be collected; to ask about the writ issued to the Security General Directorate for the investigation of journalist Kaya’s socioeconomic conditions and to ask the Press Council General Secretariat to send a copy of the reprimand decision. At the second hearing of the trial held on 1 November 2022, the judge decided to ask the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office if the decision of non-prosecution for the criminal complaint filed against Kaya is finalized. At the third hearing of the trial held on 9 February 2023, the court decided to issue another writ to the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office to find out if their review of the appeal to the non-prosecution decision given for the criminal complaint filed by Demirören is finalized.
The first hearing of the trial in which journalist Haluk Kalafat whom MLSA represents in the court and MLSA court reporter Elif Akgül face “openly degrading the Turkish nation (Turkish Penal Code Article 301/1)” charge will be held in the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 13.30. After the Ministry of Justice granted permission on 24 June 2021, an investigation was initiated against the journalists on the grounds of a complaint made to the Presidency’s Communication Center (CİMER) by a person who alleged that the journalists “were making propaganda for Armenian Genocide.” In the indictment which was filed on 9 December 2022, prosecutor Murat Mert cites six different news articles published on BiaNet in 2015, 2018, and 2019 as evidence for the charges against the journalists. In the indictment, prosecutor Mert disregards the fact that the news articles were promoting some books on Armenian Genocide for which there is no order for seizure and that the articles are mostly made up of quotes from these books. Requesting the journalists to be sentenced, the prosecutor also ignores the Constitutional Court’s Ilker Deniz Yücel (Application Number: 2017/16589) judgment in which the court had ruled that “using the term Armenian Genocide alone should not be the subject of any charge.”
April 28th, Friday
The eighth hearing of the trial in which journalist Metin Cihan and his alleged source face “illegally obtaining or giving personal data” charge will be held in the Istanbul 22nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11.35. In the indictment in which the Turkey Youth Foundation (TÜGVA) is listed as “the injured party”, the prosecutor presents social media posts of Cihan through which he publicized the leaked documents about TÜGVA which show 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 six years imprisonment for Cihan. On 11 May 2022, at the third hearing of the trial, the court decided to release Ramazan Aydoğdu with judicial control measures imposed upon him and left the request of Cihan’s lawyer for the authenticity of the papers in question to be asked from the TÜGVA unanswered. On June 24 2022, at the fourth hearing of the trial, the court decided to issue a writ to the Ministry of Justice to inquire about the experts who were assigned to prepare a report but rejected to do so without providing any explanation. At the fifth hearing of the trial held on 19 October 2022, it was revealed that the expert who was assigned to the case file also withdrew from the file. The court decided to send the case file to another expert. At the sixth hearing of the trial held on 14 December 2022, Cihan’s lawyer revealed that the new and seventh expert to whom the case file was sent for examination was a police officer. Cihan’s lawyer requested the court to revoke its decision to send the case file to the expert in question. The judge, however, rejected the request on the grounds that “it was not acceptable.” At the seventh hearing of the trial held on 8 March 2023, the judge decided to give additional time for the defendants and their lawyers to examine the expert’s report submitted to the case file.
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Medya ve Hukuk Çalışmaları Derneği (MLSA) haber alma hakkı, ifade özgürlüğü ve basın özgürlüğü alanlarında faaliyet yürüten bir sivil toplum kuruluşudur. Derneğimiz başta gazeteciler olmak üzere mesleki faaliyetleri sebebiyle yargılanan kişilere hukuki destek vermektedir.