This week, the hearings of several journalism and freedom of expression trials will be held. Below is the list of these hearings:
February 28, Tuesday
- The seventh hearing of the trial in which 38 people, including journalists Taylan Özgür Öztaş, Tunahan Turhan and Vedat Örüç whom MLSA represents in court, face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Assemblies and Demonstrations” charge will be held in the Anadolu 13th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09.25. Öztaş was taken into police custody on August 22, 2019, at the protest which he was covering and Turhan was taken into custody later in the evening that day when the police raided his house. Both journalists were released with judicial control measures after providing their statements at the prosecutor’s office.
- The 10th hearing of the trial in which journalist Rüstem Batum whom MLSA represents in court, faces “insulting the president” and “inciting the public to hatred and hostility” charges will be held in the Istanbul 5th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09.35. The indictment presents 20 tweets Rüstem had posted between 2016 – 2018 as evidence against him.
- The first hearing of the trial in which 15 women who attended a demonstration called by the Ankara Campaigning Group for the Istanbul Convention in order to protest the murder of Azra Gülendam Haytaoğlu and Emine Gökkız by men, face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies”, “prevention of public duty” and “intentional injury” charges will be held in the Ankara 66th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09.45. Among the evidence cited by the prosecutor against the defendants are also the slogans chanted by women such as “Women are stronger together”, “Put murderers on trial, not women” and the banner inscribed with “We will not be the unsolved murders of the male state” and which as the prosecutor describes, was written on “a brown cardboard with the colors representing LGBTİ.” Three male police officers who claim that the women battered them and broke their shields are listed as complainants in the indictment. The prosecutor also cites the women’s statements, some of which stated that they were sexually harassed and battered by police officers while being taken into custody. Claiming that the protest “which was under the guise of freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly” was “beyond the aims of demonstrations and assemblies which are stipulated in the law”, the prosecutor requests the women to be sentenced. Prosecutor Ramazan Hançer who indicted the women has also indicted 42 people who had attended the 2022 Ankara Pride March with “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” and “prevention of public duty.”
- The third hearing of the trial in which 16 people who were taken into custody before the February 3, 2022 “Freedom for the ill prisoners watch” in front of the Yenibosna Forensic Medicine Institute, called by the Solidarity with the Imprisoned Initiative face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” charge will be held in the Bakırköy 51st Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.25. Among the evidence cited against people, which the prosecutor describes as “those gathered in front of the institute to create pressure on the public” is the social media call shared on the Initiative’s accounts.
- The first hearing of the trial in which the Chair of the Turkish Journalists Association in Bitlis Sinan Aygül whom MLSA also represents, faces “openly disseminating information misleading the public (Article 217/A of Turkish Penal Code)” charge will be held in the Tatvan 1st Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11.45. As evidence against the journalist, the prosecutor presents a tweet Aygül had shared on his personal account on 13 December 2022 and in which he shared the allegations of a 14 year old child being sexually assaulted in Tatvan. In the one-page indictment, the prosecutor claims that “after investigating the matter, it was determined that no sexual assault reported to the prosecutor’s office that day.” The prosecutor states that “a criminal investigation was launched after an unsubstantiated news report was shared about sexual abuse of a child which is one of the sensitive issues in the country.” Summarizing the statements Aygül had given at the police and the prosecutor’s office, the prosecutor claims that Aygül also admitted to his guilt in a tweet he shared after the initial one. The prosecutor argues that by sharing such allegations Aygül “portrayed the members of the law enforcements as suspects” and that Aygül shared these allegations as the Chair of the Turkish Journalists Association in Bitlis which helped them reach a wider audience. The prosecutor requests the journalist to be sentenced by the maximum limit. Aygül was arrested over the suspicion of “openly disseminating information misleading the public” and was released on 22 December 2022 after being held in pre-trial detention for eight days.
March 1, Wednesday
- The third 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. At the second hearing of the trial held on 21 December 2022, the court accepted the intervention request of the Onder Imam Hatip Association but rejected the request of the We Will Stop Femicide Platform. The court also decided to send the case file to the prosecutor so that he can prepare his final opinion as to the accusations.
- The eighth 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 09.50. Albayrak claims that Sözeri damaged his “business reputation” with her article titled “AKP’ye kim oy kaybettirdi? [Who cost AKP the votes?]” and asks 200.000 Turkish Liras for the damages.
March 2, Thursday
- The first hearing of the retrial of since shuttered Taraf newspaper’s former administrators Ahmet Altan, Yasemin Çongar and Yıldıray Oğur, reporter Mehmet Baransu, and Aktüel reporter Tuncay Opçin face “establishing or managing a terrorist organization”, “procuring documents concerning the security of the state with other intentions than damaging, procuring or stealing or using said documents outside their intended purpose”, “securing classified information relating to the security of the state, disclosing classified information relating to the security of the state”, “terrorist propaganda” and “disclosing information or documents that, due to their nature, must be kept confidential for reasons relating to the security, or domestic or foreign political interests of the State” charges will be held in the İstanbul 13rd High Criminal Court, at 09.30. In the 276 page indictment, the prosecutor requests imprisonment for Baransu up to 75 years. At the 39th hearing of the trial held on 4 March 2022, the court had sentenced Mehmet Baransu to 6 years in prison for “procuring documents concerning the security of the state” and to 7 years in prison for “disclosing classified information relating to the security and the political interests of the state.” The court had acquitted Baransu of “procuring documents concerning the security of the state with other intentions than damaging, procuring or stealing or using said documents outside their intended purpose” and ruled to dismiss the case on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” charge. The court had also sentenced Ahmet Altan, Yasemin Çongar and Yıldıray Oğur to 3 years and 4 months in prison for “procuring documents concerning the security of the state.” Ahmet Altan, Yasemin Çongar and Yıldıray Oğur were acquitted of “procuring documents concerning the security of the state with other intentions than damaging, procuring or stealing or using said documents outside their intended purpose” and “disclosing classified information relating to the security and the political interests of the state” charges.
- The 20th hearing of the trial in which 23 defendants, including Etkin News Agency (ETHA) editor İsminaz Temel, former ETHA reporter Havva Cuştan and the lawyers of the Law Firm of the Oppressed (EHB) face “membership in a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charges will be held in the İstanbul 27th High Criminal Court, at 10.00. The indictment presents the press conferences and events which the journalists covered as evidence against the journalists. After 16 months of pre-trial detention, Temel was released at the third hearing of the trial.
- The first hearing of the trial in which the Co-chair of the Human Rights Association (İHD) Öztürk Türkdoğan faces “openly degrading the state of the Republic of Turkey” charge will be held in the Ankara 24th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11.25. The indictment filed on 30 December 2021 presents a press statement published on the association’s website on 24 April 2017 and which was titled “Adalet ve Hakikat İçin Ermeni Soykırımı’nın İnkârına Son! [End to the Armenian Genocide denial for justice and truth!]” In half of the eight-page indictment, the prosecutor refers to various articles of international covenants and to numerous judgments of the European Court of Human Rights which guarantee freedom of expression and argues that the press statement in question cannot be considered within the scope of this freedom. Referring to the Grand Chamber’s Perinçek v. Switzerland judgment, the prosecutor argues that “no nation or community can be accused of genocide for tragic events which took place before 1948” and claims that “the statements in question bring the Turkish nation and the state of the Turkish Republic under suspicion before history.” The prosecutor argues that “it is unthinkable for a civil society organization which has been established according to the Turkish law, to carry out activities against the interests of the Turkish Nation, the state of the Turkish Republic.” Claiming that “the statements in question openly degrade the Republic of Turkey and the Turkish nation before history and international community”, the prosecutor argues that these statements cannot be considered within the scope of freedom of expression and requests that Türkdoğan be sentenced for “openly degrading the state of the Republic of Turkey.” In the petition addressed to the Ministry of Justice for a permission to be granted for criminal investigation to be launched against Türkdoğan, the judge points out that even though the enquiry report prepared by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office claims “openly degrading the Turkish nation and the Republic of Turkey”, the statements in question should be evaluated as “openly degrading the Republic of Turkey” and thus the permission for criminal investigation should be granted for this suspicion. The permission for criminal investigation was granted on 10 December 2021 by the Ministry. The prosecutor who prepared the indictment of this case had indicted Türkdoğan previously for “insulting a public official” upon complaint by the Minister of Internal Affairs Süleyman Soylu. In that indictment, the prosecutor had presented the press release of the association dated 29 June 2018. The Ankara 60th Criminal Court of First Instance which heard that case ruled to acquit Türkdoğan on the grounds that the elements of the offense Türkdoğan was charged with did not occur. The same prosecutor also indicted expelled sociologist and columnist Veli Saçılık for “insulting a public official (on two accounts)” upon complaint by the Minister of Internal Affairs Süleyman Soylu and the Chair of the Nationalist Movement Party Devlet Bahçeli.
- The sixth hearing of the trial in which author and poet Gökhan Yavuzel faces “publicly provoking the public to hatred and hostility” charges will be held in the Ankara 7th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11.55. The indictment presents a social media post Yavuzel had shared on his social media and which was picked up during a “cyber patrol” by the police as evidence against Yavuzel. The Constitutional Court ruled that the method of gathering evidence via “cyber patrol” is unlawful.
- The seventh hearing of the trial in which journalist Mete Cem Bahtiyar whom MLSA represents in court, faces “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Balıkesir 3rd High Criminal Court, at 14.30. The indictment presents social media posts shared between 2015-2018 on an account claimed to be belonging to Bahtiyar. A tweet which displays the cover photo used for one of philosopher Slavoj Žižek’s articles which he had penned for sendika.org are among the social media posts which are cited as evidence.
March 3, Friday
- The sixth hearing of the trial in which Danish journalist Madds Anneberg whom MLSA represents in the court, faces “entering military zones” charge will be held in the Edirne 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 12.00. In the indictment, the prosecutor presents Anneberg’s being taken into custody by the military police at the Greece border on 3 March 2020 where he came to cover the pushback of refugees by Greece. The indictment which was filed on 13 March 2020 also charges two other Bulgarian journalists who were taken into custody together with Anneberg. On 13 October 2021, the court decided to separate the case file of Anneberg against whom an arrest warrant was issued.
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