Upcoming Trials

Journalism and freedom of expression trials: Week of June 20

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

June 21st, Tuesday

  • The second hearing of the trial in which Jin News reporter Beritan Canözer faces “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court, at 09:20. In the indictment, 19 social media posts from four different accounts are presented as evidence against journalist Canözer. The prosecutor puts forward eight social media posts shared between 2014 and 2015 which were gathered in a 2019 “investigation report” and eleven posts from three different accounts as ground for his request for the imprisonment of journalist Canözer claiming that she “committed the offense in a consecutive manner.” On August 13, 2021, Canözer was taken into custody when her house was raided by the police. Canözer was released after having been held for four days in custody. In her statement at the police station, Canözer rejected the claim that the social media account which was later also included in the indictment, belongs to her and she stated that she was asked about it when she was detained before. In the indictment, however, the prosecutor asks the court not to take into consideration the statements of Canözer on the grounds that “they are statements made with the intent to “get away with the crime.” On October 12, 2021, the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office decided not to prosecute Canözer for the same charge on the grounds that there are no “enough and qualified evidence” showing that the social media account “Beritan Sarya” which is included in the indictment, belong to journalist Canözer. On March 31st, at the first hearing of the trial, the court decided to ask for the files of previous cases against Canözer.
  • The sixth hearing of the “Boğaziçi Rainbow case” in which 12 students of Boğaziçi University face “defying the Law no.2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” charge will be held in the İstanbul 24th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09:30. The indictment presents “the LGBT flags which the students insisted on not covering up” and the slogans shouted by students as evidence for the charge. On March 24th, at the fifth hearing of the trial, the defense was notified that the expert’s report requested by the court was submitted to the case file. The report was supposed to determine whether or not the police warned the students before intervening and whether or not the students dispersed after the warning. However, the report described students as those “defying the ban and marching” and claimed that the students were blocking the traffic despite the fact that the report contained photographs of students standing on the sidewalk.
  • The fifth hearing of the SLAPP brought against former Cumhuriyet daily reporter Hazal Ocak by former Minister of Treasury and Finance and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak will be held in the İstanbul 8th Civil Court of First Instance, at 10:00. Ocak is sued for a news report published in Cumhuriyet on January 20, 2020 titled “Son-in-law knows the deal” which revealed that Albayrak had purchased land on the Kanal İstanbul route. The petition claims that Ocak’s reporting “twists the truth, is unrealistic and insulting” while also aiming to “defame Albayrak and slander his reputation.” Albayrak demands up to 200 thousand Turkish liras for non-pecuniary damages. At the last hearing on February 8th, the Court had decided to wait for the finalization of the acquittal ruling handed down in the criminal lawsuit concerning the same news report.
  • The second hearing of the trial in which journalist Evrim Kepenek faces “insult” charge will be held in the Selçuk Criminal Court of First Instance, at 12:00. The lawsuit is brought against Kepenek and 3 other defendants after Refik Y. who is alleged to have sexually abused his 6 years old child, filed a criminal complaint against Kepenek and other defendants claiming that his ”right to privacy” was violated and that he was ”insulted.” The indictment presents the news articles by Kepenek in which the journalist reported the abuse and the social media posts shared by the defendants.

June 22nd, Wednesday

  • The third hearing of the trial in which the former Chair 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 24 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. On the following day, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation against the Ankara Bar Association. On March 9th, 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.”

June 23rd, Thursday

  • The fifth 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 09:40. 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 convictions based on the fact that there is insufficient evidence to prove that seven defendants (excluding Atilla Taş) are “members in a terrorist organization.” The court also overturned Atilla Taş’s conviction for “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” charge, arguing that Taş’s actions constitute the elements of crimes of “insulting the president” and “denigrating the Turkish nation.” On February 17th, 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.
  • The first 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 10:30. 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, 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 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 orchestrated troll attacks.
  • The fourth hearing of the trial in which journalist Can Dündar faces “espionage” charges will be held at İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court, at 11:55. This case file was first merged with “MİT Trucks Trial” where Dündar was sentenced 27 years and 6 months in prison on the charges of  “espionage” and “assisting an armed terrorist organization”. The case file, however, was later separated at the sentencing hearing on June 8 because Dündar’s statement could not be taken for the “espionage” charge as he lives abroad. At the second hearing of the trial on October 6, 2021, the court accepted Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s intervention request, arguing that he might be harmed by the alleged crime.
  • The 21st hearing of the trial in which the former Dicle News Agency (DİHA) reporter Şerife Oruç faces “membership of a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Batman 2nd High Criminal Court, at 13:30. Oruç and two others were detained by police while reporting in the field. Oruç was arrested on July 5, 2016, on accusations of “membership of a terrorist organization”. After two years in detention in the Batman M-type prison,Oruç was released on July 9, 2018 but detained immediately at the prison gate because of an arrest warrant issued for her. She was later released on July 10, 2018. For the past four hearings, the court’s been waiting for a response the writ issued to the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office to get information about the criminal investigation being carried out against Oruç. Previously, the court had waited to hear the testimony of an anonymous witness who had Oruç arrested. Having waited until the 19th hearing of the trial, on February 17th the court decided not to hear the anonymous witness as he could not be found and instead had the testimony he gave during the investigation be read.
  • The fifth hearing of the trial in which 14 members of Kocaeli Student Solidarity and EMEP Central Executive Board Member Tarık Erkan, the Head of the Kocaeli Branch of the Education and Science Workers’ Union (Eğitim Sen) Suphi Yıldırım and the Branch Secretary Ömer Furkan Özdemir face “defying the Law on Assemblies and Demonstrations no. 2911” and “prevention of public duty” charges will be held in the Kocaeli 5th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 14:20. 17 people stand trial for attending the press release organized by Kocaeli Student Solidarity on February 11 to show solidarity with the students of Boğaziçi University who had been detained at the protests against “the appointed rector” Melih Bulu. The indictment presents a banner inscribed with “We will not look down, we will not bow down” and the slogan “the appointed rector will go, we will stay” as evidence against 17 people.

June 24th, Friday

  • The 17th 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 09:05. Batum faces the charge for statements he made during a TV appearance on journalist Ayşegül Doğan’s programme on İMC TV in September 2015.
  • The fourth hearing of the trial in which journalist Metin Cihan and his alleged source face “illegally obtaining or giving personal data” charge will be held in the İstanbul 22nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11:00. The indictment in which the Turkey Youth Foundation (TÜGVA) is listed as “the injured party”, presents social media posts of Cihan through which he publicized the leaked documents about TÜGVA showing the corruption the foundation has been involved in as evidence against the journalist. Even though the prosecutor states that he failed to authenticate the content of the documents, he nonetheless claims that the documents have been “doctored” and requests up to 6 years imprisonment for Cihan.
  • The second hearing of the trial in which six people including 3 human rights activists who had attended the February 3rd Press Statement 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.” The three human rights activists who stand trial in this case also stand trial in another case on “insulting the president” charge. In that case as well, the evidence cited against the defendants includes the testimonies of police officers.