This week, the hearings of several journalism and freedom of expression trials will be held. Below is the list of these hearings:
January 17th, Tuesday
- The fourth hearing of the trial in which journalist Baransel Ağca faces “inciting the public to hatred and hostility or degrading” charge will be held in the İstanbul 43rd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.40. The prosecutor presents a tweet Ağca had shared on December 25, 2020 and in which he had sarcastically commented on the issue of wine consumption in Islam. 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, it is stated in the indictment that the cited social media post was detected during a “virtual patrol” conducted by the police. In addition to the social media post cited in the indictment, the investigation report prepared by the İstanbul Provincial Security Directorate’s Department of Combating Cybercrime on April 26, 2021 also includes four other tweets by Ağca. These tweets Ağca had shared on April 25, 2021 contain documented information about the companies belonging to the relatives of Minister of Internal Affairs Süleyman Soylu and which have won lucrative public tenders. The prosecutor however, did not include these tweets in the indictment. At the third hearing held on 20 September 2022, the court decided to issue rogatory letters to Germany so that the statement of journalist Ağca can be taken.
- The second hearing of the trial in which journalists Canan Coşkun and Barış Pehlivan face “identifying public officials on anti-terrorism duties as targets” charge will be held in the İstanbul 34th High Criminal Court, at 12.00. The indictment filed on 12 April 2022 was prepared after the criminal complaint by the former presiding judge of the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court Akın Gürlek. The prosecutor presents the remarks of journalists Coşkun and Pehlivan in which they stated that the trial of the members of the Religious Scholars Solidarity Association (DİAYDER) is to be presided by judge Akın Gürlek who is known for his decisions in political trials. Citing the tweet Canan Coşkun had shared on her personal account on 29 December 2021 and in which she had shared the news report she wrote about the details of the indictment of the DİAYDER Trial and the remarks of Barış Pehlivan on the December 12th and 30th broadcasts of Halk TV’s Açıkça show, the prosecutor claims that “by specifically emphasizing the Religious Scholars Solidarity Association (Diayder) which is considered to be closely associated with the PKK/KCK Armed Terrorist Organization and by exposing the case file of the trial in question,” Coşkun and Pehlivan “identified Akın Gürlek as a target for the PKK/KCK Armed Terrorist Organization.” Akın Gürlek who is listed as “victim” in this case, had tried journalist Canan Coşkun over the same charge when he was the presiding judge of the İstanbul 26th High Criminal Court and had sentenced Coşkun to 2 years and 3 months in prison for “identifying public officials on anti-terrorism duties as targets.” At the first hearing held on 27 October 2022, Barış Pehlivan’s lawyer argued that presiding judge Zafer Taşkın was the one who ordered Pehlivan’s arrest in 2020 for which Pehlivan’s lawyer filed a complaint with the Council of Judges and Prosecutors which is still under review. Pehlivan’s lawyer requested the recusal of Taşkın on the grounds that there is hostility between his client and the presiding judge. Canan Coşkun’s lawyer requested that the case file of her client be separated on the grounds that there is no actual connection between the actions for which the journalists are tried. Arguing that there is no need for him to be recused, the presiding judge wrote his dissenting opinion in the minutes and decided to send the case file to an upper court so that the request for recusal can be evaluated. The presiding judge also decided for request for the separation of cases to be evaluated after the request of recusal is decided upon.
- The second hearing of the trial in which 8 women face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” charge will be held in the Ankara 53rd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 13.30. The 8 women were violently taken into police custody for trying to hold a press statement on 7 June 2021 in front of the Ankara Courthouse to support 33 women who were being tried at the time on the grounds of a protest held on 12 August 2020 to defend the İstanbul Convention. 5 of the 8 women were also among the 33 women who faced the same charge. Prosecutor Mehmet Arslan who also prepared the indictment of the “Barınamıyoruz [We Cannot Find Shelter] Case”, presents the attempted press statement which he claims was “illegal” because “there was no prior notification”, the banner confiscated by the police on which “12. Cumhurbaşkanı Kadınlar Seni İs-te-mi-yor [12th President the Women Do not Want You]” was inscribed and the slogans (“the İstanbul Convention keeps us alive”, “We will not be silent, we will not be afraid and we will not submit”) chanted by the women as they were being taken into custody as evidence for the charges. The prosecutor additionally charges one woman with “damage to public property” and presents the torn t-shirt of a complainant police officer as evidence for this charge. Prosecutor Arslan initially charged the 8 women with “prevention of public duty” in addition to the charge of “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” and presented the indictment to the Ankara 53rd Criminal Court of First Instance on 29 December 2021. However, the court returned the indictment on the grounds that “the police officers who were allegedly subjected to use of force and therefore may be considered as the injured party are not listed in the indictment” and that “it was not specified in the indictment which suspect used force against which police officer.” On 4 January 2021, prosecutor Arslan appealed against the return of the indictment on the grounds that “the decision of return is not legally appropriate.” On 5 January 2021, the Ankara 5th High Criminal Court rejected the prosecutor’s appeal on the grounds that the decision of the Ankara 53rd Criminal Court of First Instance was legally appropriate. Following the rejection, on 9 May 2022, prosecutor Arslan decided not to prosecute the 8 women for “prevention of public duty” and presented the revised indictment to the Ankara 53rd Criminal Court of First Instance on 10 May 2022. Prosecutor Aslan had also prepared the indictment of “the Barınamıyoruz [We Cannot Find Shelter] Case” in which three journalists and 46 activists stand trial. The Ankara 15th Criminal Court of First Instance which hears the case had also initially returned the indictment by Arslan on the grounds that “the injured party of the offense ‘insulting a public official’ leveled against some suspects is not specified in the indictment.” At the first hearing of the trial of eight women held on 14 September 2022, complainant police officer Necdet Atilla Çiftçi was caught taking the photos of the defendants and their lawyers during the hearing. Following this incident, the judge decided to remove other police officers from the courtroom and filed a criminal complaint against the complainant officer for “illegally obtaining or giving data (Article 136/1 of the Turkish Penal Code)”, “recording sound or image during the process of investigation or prosecution (Article 286/1 of the Turkish Penal Code)” and “offenses against lawyers (Article 57/1 of the Law no. 1136 on Attorneyship).”
January 18th, Wednesday
- The 11th hearing of the trial in which journalist Aziz Oruç whom MLSA represents in court, faces “membership in a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charges and the Dicle Fırat Journalists’ Association’s Co-Chair Dicle Müftüoğlu, Muhammet İkram Müftüoğlu, HDP Doğubayazıt Co-Chair Abdullah Ekelik, Turgay İlboğa and Yücel İlhan face “knowingly and willingly aiding and abetting a terrorist organization” charges will be held in the Ağrı 2nd High Criminal Court, at 09.40. Müftüoğlu, Ekelek, İlboğa and İlhan stand trial together with Oruç on the grounds that they helped him when he was caught, mistreated and then dropped off at the Turkey- Iran border by Iranian border patrols as he was trying to reach Europe via Armenia. Oruç was arrested on 18 December 2019 in Ağrı’s Doğubayazıt Province on the grounds that he entered the country in an illegal manner. Oruç remained in pre-trial detention for 11 months until being released at the third hearing which was held on 9 November 2020. On 28 September 2022, at the ninth hearing of the trial, the prosecutor presented his final opinion as to the accusations. Arguing that “there is no sufficient and convincing evidence” to support the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization”, the prosecutor requested that journalist Aziz Oruç be acquitted of this charge. However, citing his social media posts, the prosecutor argued that it has been established that Oruç committed the offense he has been charged with and requested that Oruç be sentenced for “openly making propaganda for a terrorist organization in a consecutive manner.” In his final opinion, the prosecutor argued that as there is no evidence to support the claim of Oruç’s membership in a terrorist organization, Muhammet İkram Müftüoğlu, Abdullah Ekelik, Dicle Müftüoğlu, Turgay İlboğa and Yücel İlhan cannot be sentenced for “knowingly and willingly aiding and abetting a terrorist organization.” Therefore, the prosecutor reasoned that Muhammet İkram Müftüoğlu, Abdullah Ekelik, Dicle Müftüoğlu, Turgay İlboğa and Yücel İlhan who had saved Oruç from freezing to death, should be sentenced for “protecting an offender” (Article 283/1 of the Turkish Penal Code) as Oruç had standing arrest warrants against him. Together with his 15 colleagues, journalist Aziz Oruç has been held in pretrial detention since 16 June 2022 because of a criminal investigation led by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office over the suspicion of “membership in a terrorist organization.”
- The eighth hearing of the trial in which 17 people who were taken into police custody after the 18 July 2021 press statement held in the İnönü Park located in Adana’s Seyhan district to mark the sixth anniversary of the 2015 Suruç Massacre, face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” and “prevention of public duty” charges will be held in the Adana 17th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.40. The prosecutor presents the statements of five complainant police officers and the footage of the attempted march following the press statement as evidence for the charges. At the seventh hearing of the trial held on 26 October 2022, the court ordered four witness police officers to be brought before the court so that they can be heard.
- The second hearing of the retrial in which journalist Ferhat Parlak faces “membership in a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Diyarbakır 11th High Criminal Court, at 10.40. The evidence cited against Parlak is included only in the last page of the 18 page indictment filed on March 25, 2019. The prosecutor cites anonymous witness statements and a piece of paper found in the person of an alleged member of a terrorist organization and upon which “Ferhat Parlak: The Press Guy” was inscribed as evidence and argues that Parlak was “conducting journalism in line with the orders given to him.” The anonymous witness whose statements the prosecutor cites as evidence claims that he saw Ferhat Parlak “shooting a footage while also throwing a Molotov cocktail.” In 2019, the trial of Parlak began after the Diyarbakır 11th High Criminal Court accepted the indictment and Parlak was held in pre-trial detention for 15 months until the first hearing of the trial held on 8 July 2019. At the sentencing hearing of the trial held on 7 December 2020 the court ruled to dismiss the case on the grounds that the case is a repeating one. The court reasoned that the charges were similar to the charges leveled against Parlak in the case heard by the Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court and in which Parlak was eventually acquitted. Reviewing the separate appeals filed by Parlak’s lawyer and the prosecutor, the 2nd Penal Chamber of the Diyarbakır Regional Court of Appeals found the prosecution’s appeal to be valid and ruled to overturn the ruling of the Diyarbakır 11th High Criminal Court on 1 April 2022. The appeals court sent the case file back to the first degree court and ordered that the incidents in the anonymous witness statements and any illegal activities Parlak might have had carried out as part of an illegal organization to be investigated. At the first hearing of the trial, the court decided to ask the Counter-Terrorism Bureau of the Diyarbakır police to investigate the incident mentioned in the anonymous witness statement against Parlak. The court had also decided to hear the anonymous witness between hearings and in the absence of Parlak and his lawyers.
- The 14th hearing of the trial in which exiled artist Ferhat Tunç faces “inciting the public to hatred and hostility” charge will be held in the Büyükçekmece 4th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 12.48. The indictment presents a tweet in which Tunç criticized the 2017 Referendum as evidence against him. For the past 13 hearings, the court has been waiting for the execution of the arrest warrant issued against Tunç.
- The 16th hearing of the trial in which 17 people, including journalists Eylem Sonbahar and Sema Karakurt whom MLSA represents in the court and journalist Metin Cihan face “prevention of public duty” charge will be held in the Antalya 25th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 14.00. The journalists were detained on November 15, 2015 while covering the G20 Summit protests in Antalya. In addition to “prevention of public duty” charges, four people face “insult” charges.
January 19th, Thursday
- The first hearing of the trial in which JinNews editor Nişmiye Güler faces “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the İstanbul 27th High Criminal Court, at 10.30. The prosecutor presents Güler’s retweets of the tweets shared by the official account of JinNews. In the indictment, the prosecutor repeatedly refers to JinNew as “the so-called news platform of the PKK/KCK Armed Terrorist Organization.” The prosecutor claims that the social media posts were “detected coincidentally” during the criminal investigation initiated by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office against journalist Güler over the suspicion of “membership in a terrorist organization” after the Ağrı Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office filed a criminal complaint against the journalist. In the investigation report prepared by the Diyarbakır Provincial Gendarmerie Command on 27 May 2021, social media posts shared by the JinNews on 6-7 October 2020 Kurdish Women Journalists’ Day and in which killed journalists Deniz Fırat, Nujiyan Erhan, Ayfer Serçe and Gurbeteli Ersöz were commemorated. Among the social media posts included in the gendarmerie report is also a news article about the women who were subjected to racially motivated attacks in Sakarya in 2020. In the indictment, the prosecutor also includes phone conversations which were recorded in 2013 and which were in the file of a criminal investigation led by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office against journalist Güler and which was concluded with a decision of non-prosecution on the grounds of “insufficient evidence.” The prosecutor also includes in the indictment, the statements of one anonymous witness and two witnesses taken by the Ağrı Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in a separate criminal investigation.
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