This week, the hearings of several journalism and freedom of expression trials will be held. Below is the list of these hearings:
February 13th, Monday
- The 11th hearing of the trial in which the proprietor of the since-shuttered Azadiya Welat newspaper Ramazan Ölçen faces “membership in a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Diyarbakır 11th High Criminal Court, at 09.35. The indictment presents Ölçen’s proprietorship of Azadiya Welat and his possession of “illegal” publications as evidence against him. The indictment requests that Ölçen be sentenced to 15 years in prison.
February 14th, Tuesday
- The fourth hearing of the trial in which journalist Baransel Ağca faces “insulting the president” charge will be held in the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.10. The prosecutor presents two social media posts Ağca had shared on his personal account in 2016 and 2021 and which were “detected” after a criminal complaint filed by the lawyers of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and during a “virtual patrol” carried out by the Prevention Bureau of the Department of Cyber Crimes of the İstanbul Provincial Security Directorate. Citing the social media posts which were gathered via “virtual patrol” despite the February 19, 2020 ruling of the Constitutional Court in which the Court revoked the law article which provided the police with the authority to conduct such investigations, the prosecutor claims that Ağca committed the offense he has been charged with “in a consecutive manner” and requests that sentence which may be given to Ağca be increased as per the Article 43 of Turkish Penal Code. At the third hearing of the trial held on 6 October 2022, the court decided to issue a writ so that Ağca’s statement can be taken via rogatory letters and decided to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant issued against the journalist.
- The fifth hearing of the trial in which Birgün daily Sports Editor Eren Tutel faces “insulting a public official” charge will be held in the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11.30. The case was brought against Tutel who reported on the scandals at Turkey Wushu Federation (TWF) upon the complaint of TWF Deputy Chairman Abdurrahman Akyüz and his daughter Elif Akyüz. The prosecution demands up to two years imprisonment for Tutel. At the first hearing on September 30th, the court accepted the intervention requests by Abdurrahman Akyüz and Elif Akyüz arguing that “they might have been harmed by the crime committed.” At the second hearing held on February 1st, Abdurrahman Akyüz and Elif Akyüz’s lawyer requested that Tutel’s lawyer’s request for additional time be rejected and Tutel be sentenced immediately. On 24 May 2022, at the third hearing of the trial, the court decided to send the case file to the prosecution so that the final opinion as to the accusations can be prepared. On 17 November 2022, at the fourth hearing of the trial, the prosecutor presented his final opinion as to the accusations and requested Tutel to be sentenced for “openly insulting public officials because of their duties” (on two accounts).
February 16th, Thursday
- The 11th hearing of the trial in which journalist Hayko Bağdat whom MLSA represents in court, faces “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the İstanbul 28th High Criminal Court, at 09.10. The indictment presents nine social media posts from 2017 and 2018 as evidence against Bağdat. Social media posts that are used as evidence against Bağdat include retweeting a photo of Osman Kavala and retweeting an interview with the PKK leader Cemil Bayık. Germany has refused Turkey’s request of letters rogatory in Hayko Bağdat’s case, stating it would violate freedom of speech. The Terrorism and Organized Crime Bureau of the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has indicted journalist Bağdat for the second time and another lawsuit has been brought against Bağdat. The indictment filed on May 25, 2022 charges Bağdat with “making propaganda for a terrorist organization in a consecutive manner” and cites the social media posts Bağdat had shared on his personal account between 2015 and 2019.
- The 14th hearing of the trial in which journalist Hayko Bağdat whom MLSA represents in court faces “insulting the president” charge will be held in the İstanbul 51st Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09.20. The indictment, which was prepared after a criminal complaint filed by the General Secretariat of the Presidency, cites nine sentences uttered by Bağdat on his TV show on Bugün TV dated September 1, 2015 as evidence against the journalist.
- The first hearing of the trial in which the Association of Lawyers for Freedom İzmir Branch Executive Board Member Aryen Turan faces “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the İzmir 18th High Criminal Court, at 09.30. In the indictment which was filed on 7 November 2022, the prosecutor presents some statements in speech delivered by Turan on 22 October 2022 at the regular general assembly of the Izmir Bar Association. The prosecutor claims that Turan “willingly and knowingly helped the PKK/KCK terrorist organization by expressing the allegations of chemical weapon use and thereby calling for the military operations against the terrorist organization to be stopped” and requests Turan to be sentenced. Turan was taken into police custody on 3 November 2022 after a campaign by the pro-government media outlets. After being held in police custody for a day, Turan was released with judicial control measures imposed upon her. The prosecutor who indicted Turan had also indicted more than 100 people by using copy/paste indictments.
- The first hearing of the trial in which 8 people who were taken into police custody during the Eskişehir 2022 Pride March face “defying the Law no.2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” charge will be held in the Eskişehir 4th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09.30. In the indictment which was filed on 7 October 2022, the prosecutor presents the individuals’ attendance to the Pride March as well the slogans they chanted and the photos they took as evidence for the charges. The prosecutor also presents rainbow flags which he describes as “flags symbolizing LGBTİ” and the distribution of the flags as evidence for the charges. Prosecutor Ferhat Demirci had also indicted the 16 people who were taken into police custody violently during the Eskşehir 2021 Pride March. 16 people were acquitted at the second hearing of that trial.
- The 26th hearing of the trial in which since shuttered Özgür Gündem daily’s former Co-Editor-in-Chief Hüseyin Aykol, former Managing Editor Reyhan Çapan and columnists Hasan Başak and Kemal Yakut face “making propaganda for a terrorist organization,” “provoking to commit an offense” and “praising an offense and an offender” charges will be held in the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court, at 09.50. The indictment presents the news reports and articles in March 2016 in Özgür Gündem about “self-governance” in Kurdish provinces.
- The third hearing of the trial in which the grant holder and the chief editor of Demokrat Haber Mehmet Göcekli faces “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” will be held in the İstanbul 27th High Criminal Court, at 11.00. The prosecutor presents the posts Göcekli had shared on his personal account between 2011 and 2016 which also included news articles published on Demokrat Haber and the posts shared on the Facebook page of Demokrat Haber between 2015 and 2018 as evidence against Göcekli. Referring to the Article 66/6 of the Turkish Criminal Code, the prosecutor argues that there is no statute of limitations for the 2011 and 2013 posts included in the case file as Göcekli committed the offense he has been charged with in “a consecutive manner” and the referred article stipulates that for offenses which are committed consecutively the period for statute of limitations begins on the date of the last act of offense. At the second hearing of the trial held on 4 October 2022, the court decided to issue a writ so that the statement of Göcekli can be taken via rogatory letters.
- The 27th hearing of the “KCK Press Trial” in which 46 journalists including Dilek Demiral whom MLSA represents in court, face terror-related charges will take place in the İstanbul 3rd High Criminal Court, at 11.25. 32 journalists out of the 46 who were taken into custody on December 20, 2011 were arrested on December 24 as part of a criminal investigation against the pro-Kurdish media including the Dicle News Agency, Özgür Gündem, Azadiya Welat, Demokratik Modernite and Fırat Distribution Inc. The indictment presents interviews, photos, press briefings that the journalists attended, correspondence with news resources and many other journalistic activities as evidence against the journalists. The trial has been going on for the past 10 years. Among the journalists tried in this case is also Ömer Çelik who was arrested on June 16, 2022 along with 15 other journalists as part of a criminal investigation led by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.
- The second hearing of the trial in which 5 people, including journalist Sultan Eylem Keleş whom MLSA represents in court, faces “prevention of public duty” and “insulting a public official” charges will be held in the İstanbul 56th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 13.30. Journalist Keleş was taken into custody while covering the protest of BİMEKS workers who had gathered in front of the Boğaziçi University where, their former boss Prof. Dr. Vedat Akgiray, who had fired the workers without due compensation, was giving a lecture. The prosecutor presents the testimonies of four complainant police officers as evidence for the charges against Keleş and four other defendants, but fails to specify to whom the insults allegedly directed against police officers belong. The prosecutor, however, requests that the defendants be sentenced arguing that “as a result of the investigation conducted”, it has been established that the defendants not only prevented public officials from carrying out their duties but they also insulted these officials. At the first hearing of the trial held on 13 September 2022, the court decided to inquire with the Chief Public Prosecutor in İstanbul whether an investigation on the grounds of violating the Law No. 2911 on the date of the crime was initiated against the defendants, to issue an order to bring the plaintiffs who did not attend the hearing to court by force, and to reject the request of the defendant’s lawyers for an immediate acquittal as legal conditions were not met
February 17th, Friday
- The seventh hearing of the trial in which 13 people who were taken into police custody during the protest organized to be held in Ankara in support of the Boğaziçi University students face “defying the Law no.2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” charge will be held in the Ankara 74th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09.30. The prosecutor presents the protest planned to be held on 8 January 2021 as evidence for the charges. The court heard five defendants which also include those against whom arrest warrants were issued, in separate hearings.
- The second hearing of the trial in which 8 people, including the Health and Social Service Laborers’ Union (SES) Van Branch Co-Chairs Zeki Seven and Figen Çolakoğlu and the former chair of Van-Hakkari Practitioners’ Chamber Hüseyin Yaviç face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” charge will be held in the Van 1st Criminal Court of First Instance, at 13.30. In the indictment which was filed on 31 March 2022, the prosecutor presents a press statement attempted to be held on 8 February 2022 as part of a nationwide protest for the improvement of the working conditions of healthcare professionals. Arguing that the press statement was illegal, the prosecutor cites the ban decision of the Van Governor’s Office and the negative decision of the Governor’s Office on 7 February 2022 following the notification of the organizers. At the first hearing of the trial held on 2 December 2022, the court decided to wait for the statements of all defendants to be taken.
- The eighth hearing of the trial in which seven Boğaziçi University students face “inciting the public to hatred and hostility” charge will be held in the İstanbul 21st Criminal Court of First Instance, at 13.30. Students are charged for a work of art which included the Kaaba and that was displayed in an on-campus protest exhibition against the appointed rector Melih Bulu. In the indictment in which the prosecutor requests imprisonment for students up to three years, it is stated that in the picture the Kaaba was displayed together with a basilisk figure and LGBTI+ flags. The prosecutor argued that both the figure and the LGBTI+ symbols are unacceptable as they represent things forbidden by Islam.
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