This week, the hearings of several journalism and freedom of expression trials will be held. Below is the list of these hearings:
February 6th, Monday
The 10th hearing of the trial in which journalist Engin Korkmaz faces “insulting the president” charge will be held in the Antalya 19th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.25. The indictment presents the posts Korkmaz had shared on his social media accounts on July 16 and July 17, 2016 as evidence against him.
February 7th, Tuesday
The 23rd hearing of the trial where since-shuttered Özgür Gündem daily’s managing editor Reyhan Çapan faces “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “publishing or spreading the publications and the announcements of terrorist organizations” charges will be held in the İstanbul 2nd High Criminal Court, at 10.00. 18 separate indictments have been prepared against Çapan and all of them were merged and accepted by the İstanbul 2nd High Criminal Court. The indictments present news articles published in Özgür Gündem between 2012-2015 as evidence against Çapan. The prosecution requests imprisonment of Çapan for up to 15 years and six months and judicial fine for up to five thousand days.
The fourth hearing of the trial in which journalists İrfan Tuncçelik, Ümit Turhan Çoşkun and 11 Peace Mothers face “committing an offense on behalf of an organization without being a member of the organization” and “defying the Law no. 2911 on Assemblies and Demonstration” charges will be held in the İstanbul 23rd High Criminal Court at 10.50. Among the evidence cited for the charges is the footage of the protest held on May 10, 2019 in front of the Bakırköy Women’s Prison to draw attention to the hunger strikes in prisons which began on 8 November 2019. The prosecutor claims that the Peace Mothers attended the said protest “wearing white head scarfs or muslins to appear sympathetic, dramatic and demagogic in the public eye.” At the third hearing of the trial held on 25 October 2022, the court decided to have an additional expert’s report to be prepared so that it can be determined if the police issued warnings before dispersing the group, if these warnings were audible and if the protestors resisted the police. The court also decided to send the case file to the prosecutor so that he can prepare his final opinion if the expert’s report is prepared until the next hearing.
The seventh hearing of the retrial in which journalists Ahmet Memiş, Ali Akkuş, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Ünal Tanık, Yakup Çetin and Yetkin Yıldız face “aiding a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court, at 10.50. The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Court of Cassation had upheld the sentences of 17 out of 26 defendants and overturned sentences of 8 defendants. The court justified its decision to overturn the convictions based on the fact that there is insufficient evidence to prove that seven defendants (excluding Atilla Taş) are “members of the terrorist organization.” The court also overturned Atilla Taş’s conviction for “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member”, arguing that Taş’s actions constitute the elements of crimes of “insulting the president” and “denigrating the Turkish nation.” On 17 February, at the fourth hearing of the trial, the court had decided to separate the case file of musician and former Meydan daily columnist Atilla Taş on the grounds that there is no need to try him together with the rest and that all the evidence has been collected for other defendants. On 23 June 2022, at the fifth hearing of the trial, the court decided to remove the international travel ban imposed upon Çulhaoğlu.
The second hearing of the trial in which journalist and economist Mustafa Sönmez faces “insulting the president” charge will be held in İstanbul Anadolu 38th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11.15. The prosecutor presents a tweet Sönmez had shared on his social media account on 24 October 2021 as evidence for the charge. Claiming that the tweet was discovered after the police was tipped-off that Sönmez was insulting the president via his social media, the prosecutor argues that the cited tweet cannot be considered within the context of freedom of thought and criticism and requests the journalist to be sentenced.
The 12th hearing of the trial in which the imprisoned former Co-Chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş faces “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” charge will be held in the Batman 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 14.00. The indictment was prepared by the Organized Crimes Investigation Bureau of the Batman Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in 2019. In the indictment, the prosecutor presents the impromptu rally of Selahattin Demirtaş during the Newroz celebrations which were planned to take place on 20 March 2016 but was banned by the Batman Governor’s Office as evidence against Demirtaş. In addition to the ban decision of the governor’s office, the prosecutor also presents the incidents which took place before Demirtaş came to the city and the slogans allegedly chanted during his speech as evidence against the politician and requests Demirtaş to be sentenced up to 3 years in prison for “organizing, leading illegal demonstrations and marches or taking part in illegal demonstrations and marches.” At the ninth hearing of the trial held on 18 October 2022, the prosecutor presented his final opinion as to the accusations and requested imprisonment of Demirtaş for up to 3 years. At the same hearing, Demirtaş provided his arguments against the final opinion and stated that the prosecutor offered no justification for his request for imprisonment.
February 8th, Wednesday
The fifth hearing of the trial in which former Chair Erinç Sağkan and former Executive Board Members of the Ankara Bar Association face “insulting a public official because of his religious beliefs, thoughts and convictions” charge will be held in the Ankara 16th High Criminal Court, at 10.00. The indictment, in which the prosecutor requests imprisonment up to two years for the Chair and the Board Members, presents the press release by the Ankara Bar Association as evidence against the defendants. The press release was issued after the April 24th sermon by the President of Religious Affairs Ali Erbaş in which he targeted LGBTI+ community and HIV-positive people. The press release, which was issued on April 26, condemned the hate speech by Erbaş. The following day, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation against the Ankara Bar Association. On 9 March 2022, at the second hearing of the trial, the court rejected the intervention request by the Directorate of Religious Affairs on the grounds that “there is no possibility that they may have been directly harmed by the alleged offense.” At the third hearing of the trial held on 22 June 2022, the court adjourned the trial so that the new prosecutor can study the case file.
February 9th, Thursday
The third hearing of the SLAPP 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 İstanbul 39th Civil Court of First Instance at 09.40. 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 İstanbul 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 June 7, 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 İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office if the decision of non-prosecution for the criminal complaint filed against Kaya is finalized.
The 23rd hearing of the trial in which the since-access-blocked aktifhaber.com’s Editor-in-Chief Yetkin Yıldız faces “slander” and “libel” charges will be held in the Bakırköy 31st Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09.50. Yıldız is on trial after former Interior Minister Efkan Ala filed a criminal complaint against him. The indictment presents the news reports about tweets by an anonymous account called FuatAvni as evidence against the journalist. The court keeps adjourning this trial because it is waiting for the result of a case heard by the İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court in which Yıldız also stands trial.
The ninth hearing of the trial in which journalist Cengiz Çandar whom MLSA represents in court faces “praising an offense and an offender” charge will be held in the İstanbul 30th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.00. The indictment which was filed on 30 June 2020, presents a 2017 tweet in which Çandar commemorated Ayşe Deniz Karacagil who died fighting ISIS. In the indictment, the prosecutor claims that Karacagil died fighting for a terrorist organization in Raqqa and that praising her on social media would constitute an open threat to public peace. At the eighth hearing of the trial held on 22 November 2022, the court decided to separate the case file of Çandar who stood trial together with activist Kemal Işıktaş on the grounds that the rogatory letters issued to Sweden are yet to be responded to. On 13 December 2022, at the next hearing after the cases files were separated, the court sentenced Işıktaş to 7 months 15 days in prison.
The third hearing of the trial in which 10 people, including journalist Zeynep Kuray face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” charge will be held in the İstanbul 39th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 12.20. The indictment prepared by the prosecutor of the Gezi Case and which was filed on 24 January 2022, presents the 10 May 2019 sit-in protest held to show solidarity with the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP Leyla Güven who was on a hunger strike at the time as evidence for the charges. Claiming that “individuals supportive of the terrorist organization attend the protest”, the prosecutor claims that the protest was organized by the HDP and presents it as a criminal element. The prosecutor requests imprisonment for those who he also claims “failed to disperse despite the warnings.” 10 people, including journalist Kuray, were held in police custody for two days. At the first hearing of the trial held on 13 September 2022, the court decided to remove the judicial control measures imposed upon nine defendants and adjourned the case so that the case file can be completed. At the second hearing of the trial held on 24 November 2022, the lawyers of some defendants requested their clients’ case files to be separated. The court decided to consider the separation requests at later stages.
February 10th, Friday
The eighth hearing of the trial in which journalist Mehmet Baransu faces “insulting the president”, “insulting a public official”, “insult” and “calumny” charges will be held in the İstanbul 60th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.20. The indictment lists retired general Çetin Doğan as “complainant.” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the judges of the Istanbul Anadolu 4th High Criminal Court which heard “the Sledgehammer Coup Plot” Case are listed as “the injured party.” The indictment which was filed on 12 November 2019, presents the articles which Baransu wrote from prison and which were published in haberdar.com between 10 and 23 May 2016 as evidence for the charges. The prosecutor claims that Baransu insulted the president in his articles published on 11 and 13 May 2016; that he openly insulted and slandered Çetin Doğan in his articles published between 10 and 15 May 2016; that he insulted the judges because of their duties in his articles published between 15 and 23 May 2016. At the seventh hearing of the trial held on 30 September 2022, the court decided to send the case file to the prosecutor so that he can prepare his final opinion as to the accusations.
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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.