This week, the hearings of several journalism and freedom of expression trials will be held. Below is the list of these hearings:
December 19th, Monday
- The first hearing of the trial in which journalist Onur Öncü whom MLSA represents in court faces “insulting a public official” charge will be held in the Küçükçekmece 22nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09.50. In the indictment which lists the Minister of Internal Affairs Süleyman Soylu as the “injured party”, the prosecutor presents the May 3, 2021 broadcast on #ÖZGÜRÜZ’s Youtube channel titled “Ülkenin başına Hortum Süleyman kesilmek isteyen bir İçişleri Bakanı var!” which contained a reference to an infamous police officer who tortured detainees by beating them up with a hose [hortum] as evidence against Öncü. Citing the remarks in the title of the video which were actually uttered by Mustafa Kuleli who was Öncü’s guest at the show, the prosecutor claims that Öncü “insulted a public official because of his duties” and requests the journalist to be sentenced. Initially, the Küçükçekmece 22nd Criminal Court of First Instance accepted the indictment and decided to hear the case via “simple trial procedure.” Adjudicating the case on July 26 2022, the Küçükçekmece 22nd Criminal Court of First Instance reasoned that the elements of the offense Öncü was charged with did not occur and acquitted the journalist.The court emphasized that Öncü had no remarks in the video which can be considered insulting to Soylu and the remarks in the video should be considered “harsh criticism” in the light of the case law of the Court of Cassation and the European Court of Human Rights. After Soylu’s lawyer appealed against the acquittal of journalist Öncü, the Küçükçekmece 22nd Criminal Court of First Instance decided to hear the case via general trial procedure.
December 20th, Tuesday
- The second hearing of the trial in which the former Diyarbakır MP and the Group Deputy Chairperson of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Çağlar Demirel faces “insulting the president” charge will be held in the Diyarbakır 5th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09.30. The indictment presents two speeches made by Demirel in 2016. The prosecution claims that Demirel “insulted the public in a way that offends the honor of the president” by saying “We do not accept his words and refer them back to him” during a speech on May 29, 2016 in which she referred to what Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said about HDP during a rally he held in Diyarbakır on May 28th. The prosecution also claims that Demirel “offended the honor of the president by suggesting that he was bending the knee and begging” by saying “The Palace is bending the knee before Russia and Israel and begging” during a speech on July 1, 2016. At the first hearing of the trial held on 28 June 2022, it was revealed that the court issued an arrest warrant against Demirel even though Demirel was not served the indictment. At that hearing, the court had decided to serve the indictment to Demirel physically and to remove the arrest warrant against her.
- The third hearing of the trial in which journalist Sezgin Kartal whom MLSA represents in court, faces “insult by means of an oral, written or visual medium message” charge upon complaint by columnist Fuat Uğur will be held in the İstanbul 24th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11.15. The indictment presents a tweet Kartal had shared on his personal account on June 21 2021 and in which he criticized Uğur’s column which was published on Türkiye daily on 19 June 2021. However, the prosecutor fails to state in the indictment that the tweet in question was intended to criticize Uğur’s column in which Uğur had claimed that the attack on the İzmir provincial building of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) which resulted in the death of Deniz Poyraz was the machination of HDP itself. On 20 October 2022, at the first hearing of the trial, the prosecutor presented his final opinion as to the accusations. Arguing that it has been understood that Kartal openly committed the offense he has been charged with, the prosecutor requested that Kartal be sentenced for “insulting by means of an oral, written or visual medium message.”
December 21st, Wednesday
- The 11th hearing of the trial in which three journalists, including Osman Akın and Veysi Sarısözen face “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court. The indictment presents the news and articles published in Yeni Yaşam newspaper where Osman Akın was the editor-in-chief as evidence against the journalists. The prosecutor claims that the newspaper published news and articles which “legitimize the violent and threatening actions of the terrorist organization.”
- The second hearing of the trial in which popstar Gülşen faces “openly inciting the public to hatred and hostility” charge will be held in the İstanbul 11th Criminal Court of First Instance. In the indictment, prosecutor Türkşad Kunthan Uçuk cites footage from Gülşen’s 30 April 2022 concert in which Gülşen jokes with one of her band members, as evidence against the popstar. In the cited footage, Gülşen is heard saying “He studied at an İmam Hatip [religious vocational school] and that’s where his perversion comes from.” Prosecutor Uçuk includes all the complaints filed against Gülşen over the Presidency’s Communication Center (CİMER) and lists 702 complainants in the indictment. Referring to the concept of “social class” in Article 216 of the Turkish Penal Code, the prosecutor argues that “the concept of social class should not only be conceived as economic classes” and claims that since they have specific place in secondary education “there is no doubt that [students and alumni of] İmam-Hatip schools also constitute a social class.” Ignoring the fact the video of the April 30th concert began to be circulated on social media on 25 August 2022, the prosecutor further claims that the element of “clear and imminent danger to public security” as stipulated in Article 216 also exists in this case as “the video was shared by many accounts and groups with negative comments.” Popstar Gülşen was taken into police custody on 25 August 2022 and was subsequently arrested after providing her statement at the prosecutor’s office on the grounds that “judicial control measures will not be sufficient.” Gülşen spent three days in the Bakırköy Women’s Prison and was released to house arrest. Gülşen was kept under house arrest until 12 September 2022. At the first hearing of the trial held on 21 October 2022, the court rejected the requests for Gülşen’s immediate acquittal and decided to exempt Gülşen from attending further hearings and to continue the international travel ban imposed upon the popstar. Upon appeal by Gülşen’s lawyers against the continuation of the international travel ban, the İstanbul 33rd High Criminal Court ruled to remove the international travel ban on the condition that 250.000 Turkish Liras be deposited as assurance.
- The seventh hearing of the trial in which 97 Boğaziçi University students who protested the appointment of Melih Bulu as the rector of Boğaziçi University, face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Assemblies and Demonstrations” charge will be held in the İstanbul 32nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.00. The 75 pages long indictment cites banners, flags and brochures the students carried during the protest and some social media posts tagged #bundansonrasıbizde [We got this from here] as evidence against the students. At the sixth hearing of the trial held on 1 June 2022, the court decided to issue arrest warrants against three defendants whose statements could not be taken.
- The sixth hearing of “the Özgürlükçü Demokrasi” retrial in which journalists İhsan Yaşar, İshak Yasul, Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Mizgin Fendik, Pınar Tarlak, Reyhan Hacıoğlu and Hicran Urun face “membership of a terrorist organization”, “printing or publishing the leaflets and declarations of terrorist organizations”, “inciting the public to hatred and hostility”, “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “praising an offense and offender” charges will be held in the İstanbul 23rd High Criminal Court, at 10.30. On its decision dated 5 March 2021, the 27th Penal Chamber of the İstanbul Regional Court of Appeals had overturned the acquittals of Mizgin Fendik and Pınar Tarlak and the convictions of other journalists on the grounds that the sentences they received were “inadequate.” Presenting his final opinion at the hearing held on 7 April 2022, the prosecutor requested that Mizgin Fendik be acquitted; that Hicran Urun, Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Reyhan Hacıoğlu, İshak Yasul and Pınar Tarlak be sentenced for “membership of a terrorist organization”, “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “printing or publishing the leaflets and declarations of terrorist organizations.” At the fifth hearing of the trial held on 15 September 2022, the court decided to give additional time for Hicran Urun, Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Reyhan Hacıoğlu ve İshak Yasul to defend themselves against “aiding and abetting and organization willingly and knowingly without belonging to its hierarchical structure.”
- The 15th hearing of the trial in which journalist Hayri Demir faces “membership in a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charges will be held in the Ankara 15th High Criminal Court, at 10.45. Among the evidence presented in the indictment are footage and photographs taken by Demir while he was covering news in Syria. This footage was inside a memory card from a camera that was stolen from Demir’s home in Ankara. At the 12th hearing held on 29 June 2022, witness Hasan Şahin repeated his testimony and claimed that he saw journalist Demir in Kobane in 2015 despite the fact Şahin proceeded to tell the court that he was in Syria between 2018 and 2021. Journalist Demir objected to the testimony of Şahin and stated that Şahin repeated the testimony of someone else named Hüseyin Durudemir who is also on trial on separate charges. The court however, refused to hear Hasan Şahin again, even though the prosecution also requested it. Before the 13th hearing of the trial, which will be heard this week, the court issued a writ to ask an expert to examine the confiscated digital material to determine if they contain “any data about the FETÖ/PYD terrorist organization.” At the 14th hearing of the trial held on 4 October 2022, the prosecutor requested that Demir be sentenced for “making propaganda for a terrorist organization in a consecutive manner” and “membership in an armed terrorist organization.”
December 22nd, Thursday
- The 14th hearing of the retrial in which since-shuttered Dicle News Agency’s former reporter Ramazan Akoğul faces “membership in a terrorist organization” charge will be held in Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court, at 10.10. Even though Akoğul was initially acquitted of all charges in 2018, an appeals court overturned his acquittal and sent the case file back to the local court for retrial. Akoğul is accused of attending a road-blocking demonstration which he covered as a reporter. The prosecution had appealed to the acquittal decision, claiming that the fact that the demonstrators did not intervene with Akoğul shows that he has some “trust relationship” with “the organization members” and thus he should be sentenced for “membership in a terrorist organization.” At the 13th hearing of the trial held on 15 November 2022, it was revealed that a criminal investigation was launched against Akoğul over charges of which he had been acquitted.
- The 19th hearing of the trial in which Azadiya Welat and Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspapers’ distributors Mikail Tunçdemir and Ferhat Duman face “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “willingly and knowingly aiding and abetting a terrorist organization” charges will be held in the Van 5th High Criminal Court, at 10.50. Tunçdemir and Duman stand trial due to news reports published in 2018 in the papers which they distributed.
- The third hearing of the trial in which columnist and expelled sociologist Veli Saçılık faces “insulting a public official” charge (on two accounts) upon complaint by the Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu and the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party Devlet Bahçeli will be held in the Ankara 30th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11.00. The indictment filed on 14 April 2022 presents a tweet in which Saçılık quoted a news article about Süleyman Soylu and shared on his personal account on 12 January 2020 and a social media post about Devlet Bahçeli which the prosecutor claims that Saçılık had shared on his personal account on 15 January 2020 as evidence against Saçılık. The prosecutor claims that the statement Saçılık had given at the prosecutor’s office was intended “to get away with the crime committed” and that via the social media posts “offended the honor and dignity” of Süleyman Soylu and Devlet Bahçeli. On 8 June 2022, at the first hearing of the trial, the court accepted the intervention request of Süleyman Soylu on the grounds that “he may have been harmed by the offense committed.” At the second hearing of the trial held on 8 November 2022, the court accepted the intervention request of Devlet Bahçeli on the grounds that “he may have been harmed by the offense committed.” The prosecutor who prepared the indictment against Saçılık is the same prosecutor who indicted Öztürk Türkdoğan, the Co-Chair of the Human Rights Association (İHD) for “insulting a public official” upon complaint by Süleyman Soylu. The Ankara 60th Criminal Court of First Instance had eventually acquitted Türkdoğan on the grounds that “his actions cited as evidence for the charges are not defined as a crime in the law.” It was also revealed that via copy/paste indictments, the prosecutor brought separate lawsuits against İHD Co-Chair Öztürk Türkdoğan and former members of the central executive committee of the Peoples’ Democratic Party among whom are also Veli Saçılık for “openly degrading the state of the Turkish Republic.”
- The third hearing of the retrial in which journalist Ertuğrul Mavioğlu and director Çayan Demirel face “making propaganda for an armed terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Batman 2nd High Criminal Court, at 13.50. Mavioğlu and Demirel stood trial because of their documentary Bakur (North) which they had produced in 2015 while the Solution Process was still going on. They were accused of producing a documentary which is claimed to “legitimize or praise the violent, forceful or threatening methods of the terrorist organization or incentivize others to resort to such methods.” Announcing its verdict on July 18, 2019, the Batman 2nd High Criminal Court sentenced Mavioğlu and Demirel to 4 years and 6 months in prison. After Mavioğlu and Demirel’s lawyers appealed the verdict, the 4th Penal Chamber of the Gaziantep Regional Court of Appeals overturned their conviction. The appeals court reasoned that the legal connection between the case file and the case file in which Mavioğlu was convicted of the same charge and which stands before the Court of Cassation should be evaluated. The appeals court also ruled that the sentence handed down by the Batman 2nd High Criminal Court was too high and that the local court did not consider the factors which would call for a reduction in their sentences. At the second hearing of the trial held on 22 September 2022, the court decided to wait for the finalization of the appellate review of Mavioğlu’s case file before the Court of Cassation.
December 23rd, Friday
- The first hearing of the trial in which the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) Central Council President Şebnem Korur Fincancı faces “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the İstanbul 24th High Criminal Court, at 09.30. In the indictment prepared by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, it is stated that the criminal investigation against Şebnem Korur Fincancı was initiated after the Legal Services Directorate of the Ministry of National Defence filed a criminal complaint against Şebnem Korur Fincancı on 20 October 2022. In the indictment which was filed on 9 November 2022, the prosecutor presents Şebnem Korur Fincancı’s appearance on the 19 October 2022 broadcast of the Medya Haber TV which is claimed to be “the media outlet of the armed terrorist organization PKK” and her evaluations about the footage which was circulating on the social media at that time and which was claimed to be the proof of the allegations of use of chemical weapons by Turkey against PKK members. On the said broadcast, Şebnem Korur Fincancı provided her evaluations as a renowned forensic scientist and stated that the footage suggests that some kind of chemical weapon which affects nervous system might have been used and these suspicions must be investigated at the scene by an impartial committee as per the Minnesota Protocol of the United Nations. Ignoring the statements Şebnem Korur Fincancı provided during the criminal investigation, the prosecutor claims that Şebnem Korur Fincancı who attended the broadcast via Skype, saw the screen and especially the background of the anchorman on which “17 guerillas were massacred by chemical weapons in Zap” was inscribed but nonetheless continued her evaluations as the President of TTB and thereby “took part in a propaganda campaign in which the activities of the PKK armed terrorist organization were portrayed as if they were legal and in which the neutralization of the organization’s members were presented as if ‘guerillas were murdered’.” Also presenting “the social media posts [Şebnem Korur Fincancı] had shared back in the day” as evidence, the prosecutor requests up to seven and half years of prison sentence for Şebnem Korur Fincancı. The prosecutor who interrogated Şebnem Korur Fincancı and prepared the indictment against her also filed a lawsuit with the Ankara 31st Civil Court of First Instance on 26 October 2022 and demanded that Şebnem Korur Fincancı and the board members of TBB be dismissed arguing that Şebnem Korur Fincancı made “statements favoring the terrorist organization.” Şebnem Korur Fincancı was taken into police custody in İstanbul six days after the Ministry of National Defence filed a criminal complaint against her and was brought to Ankara. On 27 October 2022, the Ankara 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace ruled to arrest Şebnem Korur Fincancı. On 11 November 2022, the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court to which the indictment was presented, ruled to continue Şebnem Korur Fincancı’s detention. The court also handed down a decision of rejection of venue citing “the place where the offense was committed, the place where the defendant was caught and the defendant’s place of residence” as the reasons and sent the case file to İstanbul. Şebnem Korur Fincancı is currently held in the Sincan Prison Complex in Ankara.
- The second hearing of the trial in which 19 people who were brutally detained on the Mis Street by the police prior to the 2021 İstanbul Pride March face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” and “prevention of public duty” charges will be held in the İstanbul 60th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.00. The indictment prepared by the Terrorism and Organized Crime Bureau of the İstanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office does not mention the police violence targeting journalists and people on the Mis Street but requests that 19 people be sentenced. At the first hearing of the trial held on 13 May 2022, the court decided to issue a writ to the İstanbul Provincial Security Directorate so that “the victim police officers” of the “prevention of public duty” offense can be identified. The court also issued a writ to the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office to ask for the footage of the incident.
- The eighth hearing of the trial in which exiled artist Ferhat Tunç faces “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the İstanbul 37th High Criminal Court, at 10.40. The indictment presents eight tweets which Tunç had shared on his personal account and in which he criticized the Turkish army’s “Olive Branch operation” in Afrin, Syria as evidence against him.
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