Upcoming Trials

Journalism and freedom of expression trials: Week of January 23

This week, the hearings of several journalism and freedom of expression trials will be held. Below is the list of these hearings:

January 24th, Tuesday

  • The first hearing of the trial in which the Chair of the Human Rights Agenda Association (İHGD) Özlem Yılmaz faces “identifying officials on anti-terror duties as targets” and “insulting a public official” charges will be held in the İzmir 21st High Criminal Court, at 10.00. The prosecutor cites a tweet shared by the social media account called “Deniz Poyraz Davası [Deniz Poyraz Case]” on 17 April 2022 and which was retweeted by Yılmaz as evidence for the charges. Even though he does not specify how and when Yılmaz shared the tweet in question, the prosecutor claims that by sharing the tweet in which it was stated “The prosecutor who failed to conduct an effective investigation so that the attack and the murder could be brought to light, who allowed the evidence to be spoiled and who prevented all those responsible to be brought to justice…”, Yılmaz openly insulted the complainant prosecutor C.U. because of his duties and requests Yılmaz to be sentenced for “insulting a public official because of his duties.” The prosecutor also claims that by sharing the tweet in which it was stated “… the prosecutor filed a lawsuit against Deniz Poyraz’s grieving father [Abdulillah Poyraz] over propaganda charges”, Yılmaz pointed complainant prosecutor C.U. as a target for terrorist organizations. Despite the fact that the indictment is against human rights defender Yılmaz, the prosecutor states that “It has been understood that Abdulillah Poyraz who identified the Terror Crimes Investigation Bureau prosecutor assigned to the investigation file as target for terrorist organizations, has committed the offense of identifying officials on anti-terrorist duties as a target.” The prosecutor includes this argument in the indictment against Yılmaz despite the fact that he states in the beginning of the indictment that Abdulillah Poyraz was charged with “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” and was acquitted in that case. The prosecutor who indicted human rights defender Yılmaz also separately indicted at least 40 people, including journalists Rabia Çetin and Nazlan Ertan, Sendika.org reporter Derya Saadet, the Co-Chair of the Human Rights Association (İHD) Eren Keskin, the District Executives of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), human rights defenders and lawyers with “identifying officials on anti-terror duties as targets (Article 6/1 of the Anti- Terror Law)” and “insulting a public official (Article 125/3a-4 of the Turkish Penal Code)” by using copy/pasted indictments.
  • The first hearing of the trial in which journalist Nazlan Ertan whom MLSA represents in the court, faces “identifying officials on anti-terror duties as targets” and “insulting a public official” charges will be held in the İzmir 21st High Criminal Court, at 10.15 The İzmir 21st High Criminal Court which accepted the indictment filed on 2 November 2022 in eight days, decided to impose an international travel ban on journalist Ertan who also holds a French citizenship. On 16 December 2022, Ertan’s lawyers appealed against the international travel ban. On 28 December 2022, the İzmir 22nd High Criminal Court to which the appeal was filed, ruled to reject the appeal on the grounds that the judicial control measure imposed upon the journalist “is not against the procedure and the law.”
  • The fifth hearing of the trial in which PEN Berlin’s Spokesperson and Die Welt correspondent Deniz Yücel whom MLSA represents in the court, faces “degrading the Turkish Nation, State of the Turkish Republic, Turkish Grand National Assembly, the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the judicial bodies of the State” and “insulting the president” charges will be held in the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11.10. On 16 July 2020, the İstanbul 32nd High Criminal Court had sentenced journalist Yücel to 2 years and 9 months in prison for “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.” In addition the prison sentence it handed down, the court had also ruled to file additional criminal complaints against journalist Deniz Yücel for “insulting the president” and “publicly degrading the Turkish Nation, State of the Turkish Republic, the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the judicial bodies” citing two separate articles he penned for Die Welt in late 2016. On 14 June 2021, the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance ruled to merge the case where Yücel stands trial on “insulting the president” charge with the case where Yücel stands trial for “degrading the Turkish Nation, State of the Turkish Republic, Turkish Grand National Assembly, the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the judicial bodies of the State.” At the second hearing held on 25 November 2021, the court decided to issue a writ for rogatory letters so that the statement of Yücel, who lives in Germany can be taken. The court still waits for the return of the rogatory letters.
  • The second hearing of the trial in which lawyer Efkan Bolaç faces “insulting the president” charge will be held in the İstanbul 52nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 13.30. In the indictment, two social media posts that were claimed to have been discovered during an investigation which was initiated after the police were tipped off, are presented as evidence. The two posts Bolaç had shared on his personal Instagram account are cartoons by Carlos Latuff. The cartoons in question are about the Soma Mining Massacre and Berkin Elvan who was killed by the police during the Gezi Park protests. The prosecutor claims that by sharing these cartoons Bolaç “publicly insulted the president.” The indictment also includes the information that the investigation launched over two tweets by Bolaç over the suspicion of “degrading Turkish Nation, State of Turkish Republic, the Organs and Institutions of the State” resulted in a decision of non-prosecution as the Ministry of Justice denied permission for this suspicion to be investigated. At the first hearing of the trial held on 6 September 2022, the court decided to accept the intervention request of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the grounds that “he might have been injured by the offense” and decided to send the case file to the prosecutor so that he can prepare his final opinion as to the accusations.

January 25th, Wednesday

  • The second hearing of the retrial in which the since-shuttered IMC TV’s Programs Coordinator and the host of the “Gündem Müzakere” Ayşegül Doğan faces “membership in an armed terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court, at 09.15. On 7 December 2020, journalist Doğan was sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison for “membership in an armed terrorist organization” because of her journalistic activities such as her interviews with the representatives of the Democratic Society Congress and the meeting or events she had attended to cover. Announcing its decision on 10 March 2022, the 2nd Penal Chamber of the Diyarbakır Regional Courts of Appeal ruled to overturn the conviction of journalist Doğan on the grounds that the first instance court convicted Doğan “without adequate investigation” and “with a reasoning which was not compatible with the context of the case file.” The appeals court also ruled to continue the international travel ban imposed upon Doğan a very long time ago, reasoning that it is “proportionate.” At the first hearing of the trial held on 17 October 2022, the court ruled to continue the international travel ban imposed upon the journalist and to subpoena the witnesses. The court also issued a writ so that the witnesses who had failed to attend the hearing be brought to the next hearing.

January 26th, Thursday

  • The fourth hearing of the trial in which the former Co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party Figen Yüksekdağ, the former Parliamentary Group Chair Deputies İdris Baluken and Çağlar Demirel and MPs Altan Tan, Ahmet Yıldırım, Ertuğrul Kürkçü, Mehmet Ali Aslan and Saadet Becerikli face “prevention of public duty”, “insulting a public official” and “insulting the president” charges will be held in the Silvan Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09.00. The indictment prepared by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office lists former Deputy of Silvan Chief of Police Osman Gündüz, “other security officers”, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and former Minister of the Interior Efkan Ala as complainants. The indictment presents the statements allegedly made by the MPs during the police intervention which took place as the MPs tried to walk to the Silvan district where a curfew was imposed on 12 November 2015; the press statement by Figen Yüksekdağ and the footage of the brawl which broke out after the police had intervened, as evidence against the MPs. The Diyarbakır 8th Criminal Court of First Instance which had accepted the indictment ruled lack of jurisdiction on the grounds that the events in the case file took place in Silvan and sent the case file to the Silvan Criminal Court of First Instance. After having held eight hearings, the Silvan Criminal Court of First Instance decided to stay the trial against Hüda Kaya and Feleknas Uca who were among the charged, after they were reelected and separated their files in order to send their files to the Grand National Assembly. The court also ruled non jurisdiction as per the state of emergency decree numbered 694 which transferred the authority to investigate and prosecute members of the parliament to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and to local high criminal courts in Ankara and sent the case file to the Ankara 33rd High Criminal Court. After having reviewed the dispute between the courts, the Court of Cassation ruled in 2021 that the case be heard by the Silvan Criminal Court of First Instance. At the first hearing of the trial held on 16 March 2022 the court ruled to issue writs to prisons where İdris Baluken and Figen Yüksekdağ are held so that they can provide their statements over the audio-visual system (SEGBİS). Figen Yüksekdağ could not attend the second hearing held on 15 June 2022 via SEGBİS and thus could not provide her statements against the charges. At the third hearing of the trial held on 29 September 2022, Çağlar Demirel and imprisoned İdris Baluken provided their statements however imprisoned politician Figen Yüksekdağ could not attend the hearing as she was required to attend the hearing of another trial brought against her.
  • The second hearing of the trial in which journalist Baransel Ağca faces “illegally obtaining or giving data” charge will be held in the Elazığ 8th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09.30. In the half-page indictment, the prosecutor presents  as evidence the social media posts in which Ağca had shared the autopsy and toxicology reports of Yeldana Kaharman who was found dead in her apartment in Elazığ on 28 March 2019 under suspicious circumstances. The prosecutor also claims that journalist Ağca had obtained the reports “by benefiting from the privileges derived from a profession or trade” and requests that the sentence which will be imposed upon Ağca be increased as per Article 137/1-b of the Turkish Penal Code. In the indictment, Yeldana Kaharman is listed as “the injured party.” Even though he is not listed in the indictment, the Elazığ 8th Criminal Court of First Instance listed Elazığ MP of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) Zülfü Tolga Ağar as “complainant”  in the minutes of the preliminary proceedings. At the first hearing of the trial held on 13 September 2022, the court decided to issue writs for journalist Ağca and complainant Ağar to be brought to the next hearing.
  • The ninth hearing of the trial in which author Ahmet Altan faces “insult” charge will be held in the Anadolu 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09.35. Altan is tried in this case which was re-initiated ten years after the sentence he received in another trial was upheld by a court of appeals, for allegedly insulting the then President Court of Cassation Abdurrahman Yalçınkaya with his article titled “Preparation for a coup or shutting down Kemalism” published on Taraf newspaper in 2008.
  • The second hearing of the trial in which social media influencer Merve Taşkın faces “obscenity” charges will be held in the İstanbul 55th Criminal Court of First Instance. In the indictment, the prosecutor states that the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched a criminal investigation against the influencer after a criminal complaint was filed against her on the grounds that “she shared her obscene photos exhibitionistically on her Instagram account” and that “she uploaded her naked photos” to a website which is currently inaccessible “in order to sell those photos.” Referring to Taşkın’s statement in which she acknowledged sharing the said photos, the prosecutor claims that it has been established that Taşkın committed the offense of “acting as an intermediary in the publication of obscene material (Article 226/2 of the Turkish Penal Code).” The prosecutor requests imprisonment for Taşkın up to three years and a judicial fine of up to five thousand days. The prosecutor fails to emphasize that the website cited in the indictment is currently inaccessible and that selling one’s photos on the said website was not an option. At the first hearing of the trial held on 12 January 2023, the court decided to ask the Information and Communication Technologies Authority and the Cyber-crimes Bureau for information about the website cited in the indictment.
  • The third hearing of the trial in which the former Chair of the Van-Hakkari Chamber of Physicians Dr. Hüseyin Yaviç and the Van Representative of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) Sevim Çiçek face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” charge will be held in the Van 4th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.25. On October 25 2021, the representatives of NGOs and healthcare professionals wanted to make a press statement on the death of doctor Rümeysa Berin Şen who died in a car accident in Ankara after a 36-hour shift. The Van police however, did not allow the press statement and took human rights defenders Yaviç and Çiçek into custody. Among the evidence cited against the human rights defenders are the demonstration ban which has been in force in Van for the past six years and the footage of the press statement which was prevented by the police. On 26 May 2022, at the first hearing of the trial, the court decided to send the footage in the case file to an expert for it to be reviewed. At the second hearing of the trial held on 18 October 2022, the judge who was temporarily assigned to the case decided to wait for the case file to be completed and the requests of the defense lawyers to be evaluated by the permanent judge.
  • The second hearing of the trial in which Hanife Yıldız, the mother of 19-year old Murat Yıldız who was forcefully disappeared in İzmir on 23 February 1995, faces “insulting a public official” charge for referring to Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu as “Süslü Sülo [Fancy Sülo]” will be held in the İstanbul 48th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.50.The prosecutor who indicted Yıldız 71 days after “the date of the crime”, presents Yıldız’s statements during a 17 May 2022 press statement by the İstanbul Branch of the Human Rights Association, Saturday Mothers/People and Human Rights Foundation of Turkey on the occasion of the Week of Disappearances. However, the prosecutor fails to specify which expressions are insulting to Soylu. Due to health issues, Yıldız could not attend the first hearing of the trial held on 17 November 2022. At the first hearing the court decided to give additional time for Yıldız’s lawyer and issued a warning that Yıldız will be brought before the court if she fails to attend the hearing. At the same hearing, it was also revealed that Kağıthane Police is also listed in the case as “the injured party.”
  • The fifth hearing of the trial in which journalists Can Bursalı, Barış Terkoğlu and the Chief Editor of Independent Turkish Nevzat Çiçek face “insult” and “calumny” charges upon complaint by the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s former lawyer Mustafa Doğan İnal will be held in the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 14.00. The indictment presents Bursalı’s article published in Independent Turkish on 3 December 2020 and in which Can Bursalı interviewed Barış Terkoğlu about the claims surrounding İnal in the book titled Metastaz 2: Cendere. Even though the prosecutor also cites December 2nd, the day on which the book was published as “the date of the offense”, he does not present the book itself as evidence. The prosecutor argues that by including the claim that İnal was paid 15 million Turkish Liras to represent the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality in a case even though he was not the staff lawyer of the municipality, Bursalı hurt the “honor, dignity and the reputation of İnal among the people” and requests that Bursalı, Terkoğlu and Çiçek be sentenced. In the indictment, the prosecutor also includes that he decided not to prosecute Bursalı, Terkoğlu and Çiçek for the offense of “fabricating an offense.” At the fourth hearing of the trial held on 20 September 2022, the court decided to give additional time for journalist Can Bursalı to prepare his arguments as he was not served with the proceedings. 

January 27th, Friday

  • The fourth hearing of the trial in which 15 people, including then-KESK Spokesperson Bedri Yamaç and the Peoples’ Democratic Party’s Van Provincial Co-Chair Ümit Dede who were taken into police custody during the October 10th Massacre Commemoration called by the Confederation of Public Employees’ Trade Unions (KESK) in 2018 face “prevention of public duty” charge will be held in the Van 7th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09.05. The indictment presents the statements of eight complainant police officers as evidence for the charges. At the third hearing of the trial held on 12 October 2022, the court decided to wait for the case file to be completed.
  • The 19th hearing of the trial in which journalist Rüstem Batum whom MLSA represents in court, faces “publicly denigrating the state’s military and law enforcement personnel” charge pursuant to Turkish Penal Code’s notorious Article 301 will be held in the İstanbul 43rd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11.05. Batum faces the charge for statements he made during a TV appearance on journalist Ayşegül Doğan’s programme on İMC TV in September 2015. Before the 24 June 2022 hearing of the trial, the complainant who filed a criminal complaint against Batum in 2015 petitioned the court and withdrew her complaint against Batum.
  • The fourth 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 14.30. 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. At the third hearing of the trial held on 23 December 2022, the prosecutor requested that an expert’s report be prepared on the footage of the incident. The court rejected the prosecutor’s request on the grounds that the footage was watched by the court during the hearing and that the complainant police officers consistently failed to attend hearings despite the fact that they were notified about the hearings. The court decided to send the case file to the prosecutor so that the final opinion as to the accusations can be prepared.

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