This week, the hearings of several journalism and freedom of expression trials will be held. Below is the list of these hearings:
January 10th, Tuesday
- The second hearing of the trial in which journalist and author Ender İmrek faces “insulting the president” charge will be held in the Bakırköy 44th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.00. The indictment presents a column by İmrek titled “Türkiye yanıyor, saray izliyor [Turkey is burning, the palace is watching]” which was published on Evrensel’s website on 30 July 30 2021. The prosecutor claims that expressions in the column in which İmrek criticized the lack of response to the forest fires which ravaged the country at the time and in which President Erdoğan was never mentioned by name, were “insulting to the honor, dignity and respectability of the President of the Republic of Turkey.” However, the prosecutor fails to specify which expressions in the column are insulting. At the first hearing of the trial held on 18 October 2022, the judge decided to ask the Journalists’ Union of Turkey if İmrek is a journalist.
- The 14th hearing of the trial in which exiled artist Ferhat Tunç faces “insulting the president” charge will be held in the Büyükçekmece 14th Criminal Court of the First Instance, at 11.25. The indictment presents several tweets Tunç had posted in 2016 as evidence against him.
- The third hearing of the trial in which 40 people, including journalists Muhammed Enes Sezgin, Sena Dolar and Kardelen Yoğungan face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Assemblies and Demonstrations” charge will be held in the Büyükçekmece 10th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11.30. On 27 April 2021, 40 people were taken into custody for attempting to make a press statement in front of the factory building of SML in order to protest the mass-firing of workers via Code- 29 [the legal exception of the ban on firing employees during the pandemic] at Sinbo and SML Labeling. In the indictment, the prosecutor presents the Beylikdüzü District Governorate’s 1-month ban decision which effectively banned all demonstrations, protests and assemblies in the district and the May Day slogans shouted as evidence for the charges. In the indictment, the prosecutor also states that all the suspects exercised their rights to remain silent at the police station.
January 11th, Wednesday
- The third hearing of the trial in which the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) Central Council President Şebnem Korur Fincancı faces “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the İstanbul 24th High Criminal Court, at 10.00. In the indictment prepared by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, it is stated that the criminal investigation against Şebnem Korur Fincancı was initiated after the Legal Services Directorate of the Ministry of National Defence filed a criminal complaint against Şebnem Korur Fincancı on 20 October 2022. In the indictment which was filed on 9 November 2022, the prosecutor presents Şebnem Korur Fincancı’s appearance on the 19 October 2022 broadcast of the Medya Haber TV which is claimed to be “the media outlet of the armed terrorist organization PKK” and her evaluations about the footage which was circulating on the social media at that time and which was claimed to be the proof of the allegations of use of chemical weapons by Turkey against PKK members. On the said broadcast, Şebnem Korur Fincancı provided her evaluations as a renowned forensic scientist and stated that the footage suggests that some kind of chemical weapon which affects nervous system might have been used and these suspicions must be investigated at the scene by an impartial committee as per the Minnesota Protocol of the United Nations. Ignoring the statements Şebnem Korur Fincancı provided during the criminal investigation, the prosecutor claims that Şebnem Korur Fincancı who attended the broadcast via Skype, saw the screen and especially the background of the anchorman on which “17 guerillas were massacred by chemical weapons in Zap” was inscribed but nonetheless continued her evaluations as the President of TTB and thereby “took part in a propaganda campaign in which the activities of the PKK armed terrorist organization were portrayed as if they were legal and in which the neutralization of the organization’s members were presented as if ‘guerillas were murdered’.” Also presenting the social media posts Şebnem Korur Fincancı “had shared back in the day” as evidence, the prosecutor requests up to seven and half years of prison sentence for Şebnem Korur Fincancı. The prosecutor who interrogated Şebnem Korur Fincancı and prepared the indictment against her also filed a lawsuit with the Ankara 31st Civil Court of First Instance on 26 October 2022 and demanded that Şebnem Korur Fincancı and the board members of TBB be dismissed arguing that Şebnem Korur Fincancı made “statements in favor of the terrorist organization.” Şebnem Korur Fincancı was taken into police custody in İstanbul six days after the Ministry of National Defence filed a criminal complaint against her and was brought to Ankara. On 27 October 2022, the Ankara 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace ruled to arrest Şebnem Korur Fincancı. On 11 November 2022, the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court to which the indictment was presented, ruled to continue Şebnem Korur Fincancı’s detention. The court also handed down a decision of rejection of venue citing “the place where the offense was committed, the place where the defendant was caught and the defendant’s place of residence” as the reasons and sent the case file to İstanbul. At the first hearing of the trial held on 23 December 2022, it was revealed that Şebnem Korur Fincancı was handcuffed all the way from Ankara to İstanbul as she was transferred from Sincan Prison to the courthouse. At the same hearing the prosecutor presented his final opinion as to the accusations and he repeated the indictment. The prosecutor requested that Şebnem Korur Fincancı be sentenced for “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.” At the second hearing of the trial held on 29 December 2022, the court rejected the requests of Şebnem Korur Fincancı’s lawyers for recusation on the grounds that “it was not made in due time” and that “it is intended to prolong the trial.” The court also found the time Şebnem Korur Fincancı spent in pre-trial detention “reasonable” and ruled to continue her detention.
January 12th, Thursday
- The 12th hearing of the trial in which 28 people, including Jiyan Haber’s proprietor journalist İdris Yayla face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Assemblies and Demonstrations” charge will be held in the Batman 1st Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09.05. Journalist Yayla faces these charges for covering the press statement in 2016 which renounced the trustee appointed to Batman Municipality. The former MP Sebahat Tuncel is also among the defendants. In the expert’s report presented to the court before the 10th hearing held on 2 June 2022, it was stated that all the defendants except for two attended the press statement cited in the indictment.
- The first 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. In the half-page indictment, 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.
January 13th, Friday
- The fourth hearing of the trial in which the President of the Ankara Branch of the Chamber of Architects Tezcan Karakuş Candan and 6 former members of the Executive Committee face “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Ankara 25th High Criminal Court, at 10.00. The indictment explains that the architects have been charged with a terrorism-related charge because they had awarded Jin TV reporter Güler Yıldız Bastion with the Emre Madra Press Award for her work on the destruction of nature by hydroelectric dams and mines. The prosecutor claims that Jin TV is among the media outlets which serve to disseminate “PKK propaganda.” The indictment presents the informational note by the Department of Combating Cyber Crimes which was prepared after the award became “a hot topic in national press and on social media” and social media posts by an account claimed to be belonging to Jin TV. The prosecutor also cites speeches and news articles by Güler Yıldız dating back to 2015 and 2016 even though she is not a defendant in the case. After the award ceremony picked up by media outlets close to the government, including the state-owned Anadolu Agency, the Chamber and the architects became the targets of an orchestrated smear campaign. The second hearing of the trial held on 15 September 2022 was adjourned as the court decided to wait for the digital material examination report to be submitted to the case file. At the third hearing of the trial held on 22 November 2022, the prosecutor presented his final opinion as to the accusations. Claiming that it has been that the defendants committed the offense they have been charged with, the prosecutor requested their imprisonment for “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.”
- The second hearing of the trial in which journalist Yağmur Kaya whom MLSA represents in the court and 51 Boğaziçi University students face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” charge will be held in the İstanbul 17th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.00. On 26 March 2021, 51 Boğaziçi University students who had tried to gather in front of the Çağlayan Courthouse in order to show solidarity with their friends who were taken into custody while standing up for their friend against whom a disciplinary investigation was launched for carrying a rainbow flag, were also violently taken into police custody. ArtıGerçek reporter Yağmur Kaya who was covering the dispersal of the students by the police was also taken into custody together with 51 students. In the indictment, the prosecutor presents the decision of the Kağıthane District Governorate which banned all demonstrations and assemblies in front of the Çağlayan Courthouse and the slogans shouted by the students such as “The dignity of the humanity will triumph over torture” and “Police get lost, leave universities alone” as evidence against 52 people. In the indictment, five students have additionally been charged with “damage to public property” for allegedly breaking the glass of the detention bus. The prosecutor emphasizes that the glass costs 556,40 Turkish Liras. At the first hearing of the trial held on 7 September 2022, defense lawyers claimed that the ban decision of the district governorate was produced after the police dispersed the students and requested for the court to ask for the logs of the computer on which the ban decision was written. The court rejected the defense lawyers’ requests on the grounds that the ban decision in the case file matches with the date of the incident. At the hearing, the defense lawyers had also requested for the court to file criminal complaints against police officers who ill-treated the students. The court rejected these requests as well on the grounds that the defendants and their lawyers themselves can file criminal complaints. The court also decided to inform the İstanbul Provincial Security Directorate, which is listed as “the injured party” in the indictment, of the lawsuit on the grounds that “it may have been harmed by the offense.”
- The fourth hearing of the trial in which six people including 3 human rights activists who had attended the press statement on 3 February 2021 called by the İzmir Labor and Democracy Forces in support of the Boğaziçi University, face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies”, “insult” and “prevention of public duty” charges will be held in the İzmir 49th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 14.00. The evidence cited against the defendants include the testimonies of eight police officers who are included in the case as complainants. The police officers claim that they were “battered” and “injured” by the defendants during the police intervention which caused a public reaction because of the disproportionate violence of the police. In their statements, some of the police officers refer to the defendants as “…whom I knew from before.” On June 24, 2022, at the second hearing of the trial, the İzmir Provincial Security Directorate responded to the writ issued by the court at the previous hearing. The police claimed that they did not have the footage demanded by the court because “cameras were not working at the time.” At the third hearing of the trial held on 4 November 2022, the court decided to issue a subpoena for police officers who failed to attend hearings without providing their excuses. The three human rights activists who stand trial in this case also stood trial in another case in which they faced the charge of “insulting the president.”. In that case as well, the evidence cited against the defendants includes the testimonies of police officers. On 30 December 2022, two human rights defenders were sentenced to 11 months and 20 days in prison for “insulting the president.”
- The third hearing of the 1st Cihangir Case in which 7 LGBTİ+ rights defenders who were among those detained during the İstanbul 2021 Pride March face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Assemblies and Demonstrations” charge will be held in the İstanbul 18th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 14.30. Among the evidence cited against the rights defenders in the indictment, there is also the 26 June 26 2021 demonstration ban by the Beyoğlu District Governorate. At the second hearing of the trial held on 21 September 2022, the court decided to send the footage to an expert so that it can be determined if the police issued warnings prior to dispersing the crowd as required by the law.
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