Upcoming Trials

Journalism and freedom of expression trials: Week of June 27

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

June 27th, Monday

  • The fourth hearing of the trial in which 14 Boğaziçi University students face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Assemblies and Demonstrations”, “deprivation of liberty” and “hijacking or seizure of transport vehicles” charges will be held in the İstanbul 22nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09:30. The students were detained on October 4th while protesting against the appointment of yet another rector to their universities. Two of the students, Caner Perit Özen and Ersin Berke Gök, were arrested on October 6th and were held in pre-trial detention until the first hearing of the trial held on January 7th. Mehmet Naci İnci who was appointed as rector after Melih Bulu is listed as the injured party in the indictment while three security guards are listed as the complainants. One of the security guards was also heard as a witness in the trial, where seven Boğaziçi University students face “inciting the public to hatred and hostility” charges because of a protest exhibition organized against the appointment of Melih Bulu as the rector. The third hearing of the trial, which was supposed to be held on March 23rd was adjourned because the judge left the courtroom.
  • The second hearing of the SLAPP case brought against journalist Sedat Yılmaz and Yeni Yaşam daily by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law and the Board Chairman of Baykar Defense Selçuk Bayraktar will be held in the Bakırköy 14th Civil Court of First Instance, at 10:30. The article titled “Erdoğan ailesi ve devlet Bayraktar’ın satış mümessili gibi: Aile boyu savaş ticareti [The Erdoğan family and the state are like the salespeople for Bayraktar: War commerce for the whole family] published in the daily on November 23, 2021 and the article titled “Bayraktar SİHA’lar hangi ülkeye nasıl satılıyor? [How and to which countries Bayraktars are sold?]” published on the website of the daily on November 22, 2021 are cited as the reason for the 150.000 TL compensation demanded. In the lawsuit petition which includes a lengthy explanations of the advantages of the armed drones and the praises of foreign representatives for the Bayraktar drones, it is claimed that through the news articles Bayraktar’s personal rights were violated because the articles “create the impression that public sources from the treasury are transferred to [Bayraktar]” through donations made to countries who purchase the Bayraktar drones.
  • The third hearing of the trial in which the Co-Chair of the Human Rights Association (İHD), Attorney Öztürk Türkdoğan faces “insulting a public official” charge upon complaint by the Minister of Internal Affairs Süleyman Soylu, will be held in the Ankara 60th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11.45. The indictment presents the press statement titled “A Necessary Statement About the Minister of Internal Affairs Süleyman Soylu” by İHD as evidence against Türkdoğan. The prosecutor claims that Öztürk attacked “the dignity and the honor of Süleyman Soylu by swearing at him.” On May 11th, at the second hearing of the trial, the prosecutor presented his final opinion as to the accusations and requested that Türkdoğan be sentenced.

June 28th, Tuesday

  • The second hearing of the trial in which journalists İrfan Tunççelik, Ümit Turhan Çoşkun and 11 Peace Mothers face “committing an offense on behalf of an organization without being a member of the organization” and “defying the Law no. 2911 on Assemblies and Demonstration” charges will be held in the İstanbul 23rd High Criminal Court at 09:00. Among the evidence cited for the charges is the footage of the protest held on May 10, 2019 in front of the Bakırköy Women’s Prison to draw attention to the hunger strikes in prisons which began on November 8, 2019. The prosecutor claims that the Peace Mothers attended the said protest “wearing white head scarfs or muslins to appear sympathetic, dramatic and demagogic in the public eye.”
  • The fifth hearing of the trial in which journalist Sonya Bayık faces “defying the Law no. 2911 on Assemblies and Demonstrations” charges will be held in the Batman 1st Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09:15. Bayık was detained in 2019 while following an event at Hasankeyf and was subsequently released. The indictment also refers to the decision taken by Hasankeyf District Governorship on July 12, 2019 which effectively banned all protests, meetings and similar activities within the district at that time. At the second hearing, Bayık’s file along with two other defendants was separated from the case file.
  • The 21st hearing of the trial in which the since-access-blocked aktifhaber.com’s Editor-in-Chief Yetkin Yıldız faces “slander” and “libel” charges will be held in the Bakırköy 31st Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09:40. Yıldız is on trial after former Interior Minister Efkan Ala filed a criminal complaint against him. The indictment presents the news reports on tweets by an anonymous account called FuatAvni as evidence against the journalist. The court keeps adjourning this trial because it is waiting for the result of a case heard by the İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court in which Yıldız also stands trial.
  • The first hearing of the trial in which the former Diyarbakır MP and the Group Deputy Chairperson of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Çağlar Demirel faces “insulting the president” charge will be held in the Diyarbakır 5th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09:45. The indictment presents two speeches made by Demirel in 2016. The prosecution claims that Demirel “insulted the public in a way that offends the honor of the president” by saying “We do not accept his words and refer them back to him” during a speech on May 29, 2016 in which she referred to what Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said about HDP during a rally he held in Diyarbakır on May 28th. The prosecution also claims that Demirel “offended the honor of the president by suggesting that he was bending the knee and begging” by saying “The Palace is bending the knee before Russia and Israel and begging” during a speech on July 1, 2016.
  • The first hearing of the trial in which 19 people, including journalist Zekine Türkeri whom MLSA represents in court, the Co-chairs of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in İstanbul Elif Bulut and Erdal Avcı face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” charge will be held in the İstanbul 49th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10:00.  On November 21, 2020, 22 people from the HDP İstanbul who wanted to hold a press conference about the operations carried out against the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) were taken into police custody. Initially, the İstanbul 49th Criminal Court of First Instance rejected the indictment on the grounds the indictment contained arguments related to the offense of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” and lack any information whether or not there was a warning issued by the police for the crowd to disperse as required by the Law no. 2911.
  • The third hearing of the trial in which author and poet Gökhan Yavuzel faces “publicly provoking the public to hatred and hostility” charges will be held in the Ankara 7th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10:05. The indictment presents a social media post Yavuzel had shared on his social media and which was picked up during a “cyber patrol” by the police as evidence against Yavuzel. The Constitutional Court ruled that the method of gathering evidence via “cyber patrol” is unlawful.
  • The first hearing of the retrial of Evrensel daily’s former managing editor Çağrı Sarı and the daily’s former proprietor Arif Koşar face “ publicly degrading the military or security organizations of the state” charge will be held in the istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10:20. In 2017, Sarı and Koşar were sentenced to 5 months in prison because of a news article titled “Polis Nusaybin’de halkı taradı: 3 yaralı [The police fired into the crowd in Nusaybin: 3 wounded]” which was published in the daily on March 15, 2016. After Sarı and Koşar’s lawyer appealed the conviction, the 3rd Penal Chamber of the Court of Cassation reviewed the case file. The Court of Cassation ruled that Sarı and Koşar should have been acquitted as the elements of the alleged offense did not occur and sent the case file back to the local court for retrial.
  • The seventh hearing of the retrial of since shuttered Zaman newspaper columnists Şahin Alpay, Ali Bulaç, Mümtaz’er Türköne and editor Mehmet Özdemir will be held in the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court, at 13:45. The Court of Cassation’s 16th Penal Chamber completed its appellate review of the Zaman newspaper case and overturned the convictions of Alpay, Bulaç and Türköne, ruling that their actions do not constitute “membership in a terrorist organization” and that they should be tried for “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization without being a member” charge. The court also overturned the acquittal decision for editor Özdemir, ruling that his actions constitute “membership in a terrorist organization” and therefore should be tried for this charge. On April 7th, at the sixth hearing of the trial, the prosecutor presented his final opinion as to the accusations and requested that Ali Bulaç, Şahin Alpay, Mümtazer Türköne and Ahmet Turan Alkan be sentenced for “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization without being a member.” The prosecutor also requested that the case file of Mehmet Özdemir be separated as the arrest warrant issued against him could not be executed.

June 29th, Wednesday

  • The 12th 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 09:45. The indictment presents a tweet in which Tunç criticized the 2017 Referendum as evidence against him.
  • The 12th hearing of the trial in which journalist Hayri Demir faces “membership of a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charges will be held in the Ankara 15th High Criminal Court, at 09:45. Among the evidence presented in the indictment are footage and photographs taken by Demir while he was covering news in Syria. This footage was inside a memory card from a camera that was stolen from Demir’s home in Ankara.

June 30th, Thursday

  • The sixth hearing of the trial in which journalist Abdurrahman Gök faces “membership of an armed terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charges will be held in the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court, at 09:40. The indictment presents phone conversations with news sources, social media posts, and the content of his news reports as evidence against Gök. The prosecution demands up to 20 years imprisonment for Gök. At the hearing on September 30, 2021, the court decided to file a criminal complaint against journalist Gök for social media posts which were not included in the indictment. Launching an investigation after the court’s complaint, the Diyarbakır Public Prosecutor’s Office prepared a one page indictment in which Gök is once again charged with “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.” Accepting the indictment dated January 12, 2022, at the last hearing on January 20, 2022, the court ruled to merge the case with the ongoing one. On March 31st, at the fifth hearing of the trial, the prosecutor presented his final opinion as to the accusations. The prosecutor argued that even though the case against Gök has been brought on “membership of an armed terrorist organization” charge, there is no evidence that is “definite, beyond suspicion and believable” and requested that Gök be acquitted of this charge. However, the prosecutor requested that Gök be sentenced up to 5 years for “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.” Citing also the social media posts included in the case file later, the prosecutor claimed that it is established that Gök had committed the said offense “in a consecutive manner.”
  • The 16th hearing of the trial in which Azadiya Welat and Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspapers’ distributors Mikail Tunçdemir and Ferhat Duman face “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “willingly and knowingly aiding and abetting a terrorist organization” charges will be held in the Van 5th High Criminal Court, at 09:45. Tunçdemir and Duman stand trial due to news reports published in 2018 in the papers which they distributed.

July 1st, Friday

  • The fourth hearing of the trial in which journalist Vedat Örüç whom MLSA represents in court, faces “defying the Law no. 2911 on Assemblies and Demonstrations” and “insulting a public officer” charges will be held in the İstanbul 18th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 14:30. The testimonies of 12 complainant police officers who claim that the journalist insulted them are among the evidence cited against journalist Örüç, who was detained during covering an event on February 8, 2020.