This week, the hearings of numerous freedom of expression trials will be held. Below is the list of these hearings:
March 14th, Tuesday
- The 14th hearing of the trial in which journalist and sociologist Adil Demirci faces “membership in a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charges will be held in the İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court, at 09.40. Adil Demirci was released on February 14, 2019 after being held in pre-trial detention for 10 months. At the 13th hearing of the trial held on 13 October 2022, the court decided to separate the case files of 19 other defendants.
- The third hearing of the retrial of the since shuttered Özgür Gündem daily’s managing editor Reyhan Çapan over the charges of “failing to publish reply and correction in a proper way” will be held in the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.15. In the indictment filed on 20 January 2015, the prosecutor claimed that Eren Keskin and Çapan failed to publish a reply and a correction to the article titled “Çocuk Katilleri [Child Killers]” published in the daily on 17 June 2014. Citing the order of the Adana 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace for a reply and correction to be published, the prosecutor requested that Çapan be sentenced as per the Article 18/1-2 and 3 of the Press Law no. 5187 as they failed to publish the ordered reply and correction in a way deemed proper by the judgeship. The İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance which heard the case imposed upon Çapan and Eren Keskin, who was the co-executive editor of the daily, a judicial fine of 50.000 Turkish Liras. The court had deferred the announcement of the verdict for Keskin and the lawyers of Çapan appealed against the sentence. Reviewing the appeal, the 19th Penal Chamber of the Court of Cassation overturned Çapan’s sentence on the grounds the procedures of simple trial were violated. On 16 June 2022, at the first hearing of the trial, the court decided to issue a writ to the law enforcement so that the address of S.A. who is an intervening party in the case can be determined. At the second hearing of the trial held on 22 November 2022, the prosecutor presented his final opinion and requested Çapan to be sentenced.
- The 24th hearing of the trial in which since-shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper’s editors-in-chief Hüseyin Aykol, Zana Bilir Kaya, managing editor İnan Kızılkaya and politician Hatip Dicle face “degrading Turkish Nation, state of Turkish Republic, the organs and institutions of the state” charges will be held in the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.20. The indictments present the news articles published in the newspaper as evidence against the defendants.
- The fifth hearing of the trial in which İleri Haber’s former editor-in-chief Doğan Ergün and İleri Haber’s current editor-in-chief İzel Sezer face “libel”, “insult” and “unlawful disclosure of data obtained by recording non-public conversations between people via the press” charges upon complaint by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s former lawyer Mustafa Doğan İnal will be held in the İstanbul 33rd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11.50. The indictment, which was prepared after the investigation per the complaint of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s former lawyer Mustafa Doğan İnal, cites two news reports published on the website of İleri Haber and dated 2 December 2020 and 16 December 2020 as evidence against the journalists. The hearing planned to be held on 10 March 2022 was postponed to a later date as the judges and prosecutors were granted administrative leave due to adverse weather conditions. At the third hearing of the trial which was held on 13 September 2022, the court rejected the requests of the defense for MP Ahmet Şık and journalist Barış Terkoğlu to be heard as witnesses. The court reasoned that hearing Şık and Terkoğlu “will not contribute to the case file” despite the fact that their names are mentioned in the indictment. In his final opinion which he submitted to the court six days before the fourth hearing of the trial scheduled for 8 December 2022, the prosecutor requested Ergün and Sezer to be sentenced.
March 15th, Wednesday
- The second hearing of the trial in which journalist Fırat Fıstık and former managing editor of GerçekGündem Ozan Buz face “illegally obtaining or giving data” charges upon complaint by the Boğaziçi University’s appointed rector Mehmet Naci İnci, will be held in the Istanbul 46th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.03. The prosecutor presents a news article which was published on GerçekGündem on 6 October 2021 and in which Fıstık revealed that Boğaziçi University students were taken into custody and were subsequently arrested on 6 October 2021 upon complaint by Naci İnci. Emphasizing that the article was shared by the Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chair Veli Ağbaba and journalist Gökhan Özbek, the prosecutor claims that the personal information of Naci Inci was shared with the public without his consent and Inci as a public official was identified as a target because of the article. In the indictment, the prosecutor also notes that he decided not to prosecute Fıstık and Buz for “disturbing an individual’s peace and harmony”, “violation of privacy” and “calumny.” At the first hearing of the trial held on 9 December 2022, the court decided to accept the intervention request of Naci Inci on the grounds that he might have been harmed by the alleged offense.
March 16th, Thursday
- The fourth hearing of the trial in which Gülsüm Elvan and Sami Elvan face “insulting the president” charge will be held in the İstanbul 43rd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09.30. The prosecutor who also prepared the indictment of the Boğaziçi Exhibition Trial presents the remarks of Gülsüm Elvan and Sami Elvan in the press statements held after the September 23, 2020 and January 29, 2021 hearings of the Berkin Elvan Trial as evidence against the parents of Berkin Elvan who was killed by the police during the Gezi Park protests. In the press statements, Berkin Elvan’s parents recalled then Prime Minister Erdoğan’s words in which Erdoğan had defended the police violence during the Gezi Park protests which also resulted in the death of 14 years old Berkin Elvan by saying “I gave the order” and “The police heroically made history in Taksim.” The prosecutor who includes in the indictment the information that criminal investigations launched separately against Berkin Elvan’s parents were merged because of the “legal and factual connection” between them, fails to specify which expressions of Gülsüm and Sami Elvan constitute an insult to the president. Can Atalay, who is listed as one of Gülsüm and Sami Elvan’s lawyers in the indictment is currently imprisoned as he was sentenced to 18 years in the Gezi Trial. At the third hearing of the trial held on 25 October 2022, the court decided to send the case file to the prosecutor so that he can prepare his final opinion as to the accusations.
- The second hearing of the trial in which the managing editor of the Demokratik Modernite magazine Ramazan Yurttapan, the magazine’s editor Haydar Ergül and the authors who contributed to the 37th issue of the magazine Cihan Doğan, Musa Şanak and Zülal Nazan Üstündağ face “degrading the Turkish Nation, the state of Turkish Republic, the organs and institutions of the state” charge will be held in the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.10. The indictment presents some sentences in eight articles of the 37th issue of the magazine as evidence against Yurttapan, Ergül and the authors. Arguing that the alleged offense was committed openly and in a consecutive manner, the prosecutor requests an increase in the sentence that is to be imposed upon the defendants. The prosecutor who indicted Yurttapan, Ergül and the authors is the same prosecutor who prepared the indictment against 17 women who had attended the 19th Feminist March and who jumped in sync with the chant “Zıpla, zıpla; zıplamayan Tayyip’tir [Jump, jump; if you don’t jump, you are Tayyip]” and therefore have been charged with “insulting the president” and “defying the Law no.2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies.” At the first hearing of the trial held on 8 November 2022, the court decided to exempt Ramazan Yurttapan, Haydar Ergül and Musa Şanak from attending further hearings and to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant issued against Nazan Üstündağ and Cihan Doğan.
- The fourth hearing of the trial in which 19 people, including journalist Zekine Türkeri, 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 14.00. On 21 November 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 that 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. At the second hearing of the trial, the court rejected the requests for immediate acquitall and decided to subpoena the defendants whose statements could not be taken. At the third hearing of the trial held on 13 December 2022, the court decided to send the case file to the prosecutor so that he can prepare his final opinion as to the accusations.
- The third hearing of the trial in which the Co-chair of the Human Rights Association (İHD) Öztürk Türkdoğan faces “openly degrading the state of the Republic of Turkey” charge will be held in the Ankara 24th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 14.15. The indictment filed on 30 December 2021 presents a press statement published on the association’s website on 24 April 2017 and which was titled “Adalet ve Hakikat İçin Ermeni Soykırımı’nın İnkârına Son! [End to the Armenian Genocide denial for justice and truth!]” In half of the eight-page indictment, the prosecutor refers to various articles of international covenants and to numerous judgments of the European Court of Human Rights which guarantee freedom of expression and argues that the press statement in question cannot be considered within the scope of this freedom. Referring to the Grand Chamber’s Perinçek v. Switzerland judgment, the prosecutor argues that “no nation or community can be accused of genocide for tragic events which took place before 1948” and claims that “the statements in question bring the Turkish nation and the state of the Turkish Republic under suspicion before history.” The prosecutor argues that “it is unthinkable for a civil society organization which has been established according to the Turkish law, to carry out activities against the interests of the Turkish Nation, the state of the Turkish Republic.” Claiming that “the statements in question openly degrade the Republic of Turkey and the Turkish nation before history and international community”, the prosecutor argues that these statements cannot be considered within the scope of freedom of expression and requests that Türkdoğan be sentenced for “openly degrading the state of the Republic of Turkey.” In the petition addressed to the Ministry of Justice for a permission to be granted for criminal investigation to be launched against Türkdoğan, the judge points out that even though the enquiry report prepared by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office claims “openly degrading the Turkish nation and the Republic of Turkey”, the statements in question should be evaluated as “openly degrading the Republic of Turkey” and thus the permission for criminal investigation should be granted for this suspicion. The permission for criminal investigation was granted on 10 December 2021 by the Ministry. The prosecutor who prepared the indictment of this case had indicted Türkdoğan previously for “insulting a public official” upon complaint by the Minister of Internal Affairs Süleyman Soylu. In that indictment, the prosecutor had presented the press release of the association dated 29 June 2018. The Ankara 60th Criminal Court of First Instance which heard that case ruled to acquit Türkdoğan on the grounds that the elements of the offense Türkdoğan was charged with did not occur. The same prosecutor also indicted expelled sociologist and columnist Veli Saçılık for “insulting a public official (on two accounts)” upon complaint by the Minister of Internal Affairs Süleyman Soylu and the Chair of the Nationalist Movement Party Devlet Bahçeli. At the second hearing of the trial held on 2 Mart 2023, the Ankara 24th Criminal Court of First Instance decided to send the case file to the prosecutor so that he can prepare his final opinion as to the accusations.
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