Upcoming Trials

Journalism and freedom of expression trials: Week of January 24

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

25 January Tuesday

  • The 10th hearing of the retrial where since-shuttered Dicle News Agency’s former reporter Ramazan Akoğul faces “membership in a terrorist organization” charges will be held in Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court, at 09:20. Even though Akoğul was initially acquitted of all charges in 2018, an appeals court has overturned his acquittal and sent the case file back to the local court for retrial. Akoğul is accused of attending a road-blocking demonstration which he covered as a reporter. The prosecution had appealed to the acquittal decision, claiming that the fact that the demonstrators did not intervene with Akoğul shows that he has some “trust relationship” with “the organization members” and thus he should be sentenced for “membership in a terrorist organization” charges.
  • The first hearing of the trial where 3 activists who were detained during the 2021 İstanbul Pride March face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Assemblies and Demonstrations” charge will be held in İstanbul 14th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09:35.
  • The fourth hearing of the trial where author, journalist Burhan Ekinci whom MLSA represents in court, faces “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge will be held in İstanbul 30th High Criminal Court, at 10:25. The indictment presents seven tweets which Ekinci had shared on his personal account and which the police “detected” during an “open source investigation” after Ekinci was reported to the police as evidence against the journalist.
  • The 12th hearing of the trial where exiled artist Ferhat Tunç faces “insulting the president” charges will be held in Büyükçekmece 14th Criminal Court of the First Instance, at 10:40. The indictment presents several tweets Tunç had posted in 2016 as evidence against him.
  • The first hearing of the trial where journalist İsmail Arı faces “illegally obtaining or giving data” charge will be held in İstanbul 58th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11:00. Journalist Arı stands trial upon complaint by Kerem Kınık, the President of Turkish Red Crescent. The indictment presents a news report penned by Arı in which he uncovered the amounts of heavy fines that Kınık and another top executive of the Turkish Red Crescent received from the Directorate General for Relations with Civil Society for malpractice.
  • The fifth hearing of the trial where journalist Caner Taşpınar faces “insult” charges will be held in İstanbul 11th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11:50. Taşpınar is on trial for his 2020 book titled Son-in-Law: Fethullahists In-Laws in the AKP. Taşpınar is put on trial after the former Turkish Parliament Speaker İsmail Kahraman and AKP founding members İhsan Arslan and Ali İhsan Arslan, who were mentioned in the book, filed criminal complaints against Taşpınar. At the last hearing on January 6, the prosecutor requested that Taşpınar be acquitted arguing that the depictions in the book do not constitute the crime of insult.

26 January Wednesday

  • The seventh hearing of the trial where Yeni Yaşam newspaper reporter Hatice Şahin faces “membership in a terrorist organization” charge will be held in Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court, at 09:05. Şahin was detained with 144 other people on October 9, 2018 as part of a criminal investigation against Democratic Society Congress (DTK). The indictment presents her flights from Diyarbakır to İstanbul and phone conversations with news sources as evidence against journalist Şahin.
  • The second hearing of the trial where journalist Derya Okatan faces “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge will be held in Ankara 4th High Criminal Court, at 10:30. The indictment, which is the end result of a criminal investigation led by Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office since 2019, presents the social media posts shared on Etkin News Agency’s (ETHA) social media accounts during the time Okatan was the editor-in-chief as evidence against the journalist. The concerned posts include the news reports on the military operation conducted by Turkish Armed Forces and Free Syrian Army in and around Efrin, in 2018 and the reactions to the operation. The prosecutor demands imprisonment for Okatan up to 8 years and 9 months.
  • The seventh hearing of the trial where journalist Engin Korkmaz faces “insulting the president” charges will be held at Antalya 19th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11:45.The indictment presents the posts Korkmaz had shared on his social media account as evidence against him.

27 January Thursday

  • The sixth hearing of the trial where journalist Buse Söğütlü faces “disclosing or publishing the identity of a public official on anti-terrorist duty and identifying them as a target” charge will be held in İstanbul 33rd High Criminal Court, at 09:00. The indictment presents Söğütlü’s retweet in which she quoted the news report by the newspaper where she worked and commented about the former Presiding Judge of  İstanbul 37th High Criminal Court Akın Gürlek as evidence against the journalist.  At the last hearing on April 14th, the court demanded that Söğütlü provide her defense against “insulting a public official” charge which is not included in the indictment. Before the hearing on September 14, 2021, Akın Gürlek had submitted a petition to the court and asked that journalist Söğütlü be sentenced for “disclosing or publishing the identity of a public official on anti-terrorist duty and identifying them as a target” not for “insult.” At the last hearing on September 14, the prosecutor requested that Söğütlü be sentenced for “disclosing or publishing the identity of a public official on anti-terrorist duty and identifying them as a target.”
  • The eighth hearing of the trial where journalist Hayko Bağdat whom MLSA represents in court, faces “terror propaganda” charges will be held in İstanbul 28th High Criminal Court, at 09:00. 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 first hearing of the trial where since-shuttered Azadiya Welat’s reporter Velat Öztekin faces “insulting the president” charge will be held in Diyarbakır 7th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10:50.  The indictment presents two caricatures Öztekin had shared on his personal Facebook account between 2015 and 2016 as evidence against the journalist.
  • The second hearing of the retrial where since shuttered Azadiya Welat newspaper reporter Çetin Kurşun faces “membership in a terrorist organization” charge will be held in Mardin 2nd High Criminal Court, at 10:20. Kurşun was detained on February 6, 2018 along with his brother and was later released on May 30, 2019. The 3rd Penal Chamber of Gaziantep Circuit of Appeals overturned Kurşun’s conviction for “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” arguing that Kurşun should have been convicted for “membership in a terrorist organization”. In its remitter, Gaziantep Appeals Court stated that Kurşun’s conviction for “propaganda” is unlawful. The court reasoned that Kurşun has “organic connections” with the members of a terrorist organization and he published news articles on the website mentioned in the indicment according to the directives he received from said members of the organization.
  • The fourth hearing of the retrial where since-shuttered Özgür Gündem’s Editor-in-Chief Eren Keskin and Managing Editor Reyhan Çapan faces “defying the Press Law no. 5187” charges will be held at İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11:40. In five separate indictments prepared against Keskin and Çapan, five different news stories published in Özgür Gündem in 2013 and 2014 are cited as evidence against them. The prosecutors claim that the news stories about 14 years old Berkin Elvan who was killed by the police during the Gezi Park protests, were publications which “disclose[d] the identities of victims or perpetrators of crimes under the age of 18.”

28 January Friday

  • The third hearing of the trial where journalist Çetin Yılmaz whom MLSA represents in court, faces “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge will be held in Manisa 2nd High Criminal Court, at 10:00. The indictment dated August 26, 2021, presents 13 social media posts shared on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook between 2015-2020 as evidence against journalist Yılmaz. Yılmaz was detained on August 13, 2021 together with six people and was released with judicial control measures after spending a week in police custody.
  • The 18th hearing of the trial where nine people including journalist Kenan Kırkaya face “membership in a terrorist organization” charges will be held at Ankara 32nd High Criminal Court, at 14:30. The indictment presents secret witness testimonies, employment at since shuttered Dicle News Agency (DİHA), and Kırkaya’s news show titled “Ankara’s Agenda” for Nûçe TV as evidence against Kırkaya.