This week, the hearings of several journalism and freedom of expression trials will be held. Below is the list of these hearings:
March 29th, Tuesday
- The 14th hearing of the trial where 17 people including journalists Eylem Sonbahar and Sema Karakurt whom MLSA represents in court and journalist Metin Cihan face “prevention of public duty” charge will be held in the Antalya 25th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 14:00. The journalists were detained on November 15, 2015 while covering the G20 Summit protests in Antalya. In addition to “prevention of public duty” charges, four people face “insult” charges.
- The seventh hearing of the trial where journalist Rüstem Batum whom MLSA represents in court, faces “insulting the president” and “inciting the public to hatred” charges will be held in the Istanbul 5th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09:35. The indictment presents 20 tweets Rüstem had posted between 2016 – 2018 as evidence against him.
March 30th, Wednesday
- The fourth 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 09:35. 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 fifth hearing of the trial where seven Boğaziçi University students face “inciting the public to hatred and hostility” charge will be held in the İstanbul 21st Criminal Court of First Instance, at 13.30. Students are charged for a work of art which included the Kaaba and that was displayed in an on-campus protest exhibition against the appointed rector Melih Bulu. In the indictment in which the prosecutor requests imprisonment for students up to three years, it is stated that in the picture the Kaaba was displayed together with a basilisk figure and LGBTI+ flags. The prosecutor argued that both the figure and the LGBTI+ symbols are unacceptable as they represent things forbidden by Islam.
March 31st, Thursday
- The third hearing of the trial where author Yavuz Ekinci faces “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Istanbul 34th High Criminal Court, at 09:30. The indictment presents Ekinci’s social media posts which he shared between 2013-2014 as evidence against the author. The prosecutor lists social media posts in which author Ekinci celebrated the Diyarbakır Newroz and joined the call for support to Kobani.
- The first hearing of the trial where Jin News reporter Beritan Canözer faces “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court, at 09:45. 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.
- 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 11:20.
- The fifth hearing of the trial where journalist Abdurrahman Gök faces “membership in an armed terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charges will be held in the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court, at 11:30. 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.
- The eighth hearing of the suit for damages brought against journalist Çiğdem Toker by the Turkey Technology Team Foundation (T3 Foundation) will be held in the Istanbul Küçükçekmece 10th Civil Court, at 11:33. The lawsuit was brought against Toker after her article titled “Service Report of IBB to Foundations” in Sözcü Newspaper on 28 January 2019. The article shared the details of the report titled “Non-Governmental Organizations – School – Dormitory Activity Report” prepared by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB). In the lawsuit petition, the Foundation’s lawyers claim that the article was baseless and constitutes defamation. In the petition, it was also stated that “the patriotism of those who wrote and published this article must be questioned.” In the petition, a fine of 80 thousand liras for non-pecuniary damages are demanded. At the last hearing on September 23, 2021, both the presiding judge and the court hearing the case were changed.
- The fifth hearing of the trial where journalists Hazal Ocak, Olcay Büyüktaş, İpek Özbey and Vedat Arık face “publishing the identities of state officials on anti-terror duty and/or identifying them as targets” and “violation of the privacy of personal life” charges will be held in the İstanbul 26th High Criminal Court, at 14:15. Journalists stand trial for Ocak’s reporting on an illegal construction site in the land next to Turkish Presidency’s Communications Director Fatih Altun’s home in Kuzguncuk, which was published on April 14, 2020. The indictment claims that “freedom of expression and dissemination of thought must at times be limited in order to protect the public and the state” and further argues that Communications Director Altun must be considered as “having anti-terror duty and serving for this purpose when considered his statements and activities in relation to terrorist organizations.”
April 1st, Friday
- The 28th hearing of the trial where 76 people including since-shuttered Dicle News Agency (DİHA) reporter Engin Eren face “membership in a terrorist organization”, “defying the Law on Assemblies and Demonstrations no. 2911” and “defying the Military Restricted Zones and Security Zones Law no. 2565” charges will be held in the Batman 2nd High Criminal Court, at 09:30. Engin was detained in 2015 while he was following “the human shield protest” organized by civil society organizations and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Batman to stop the fight between PKK and the Turkish Armed Forces.