May 16th, Tuesday
- The first hearing of the trial in which Mesopotamia News Agency’s Chief Editor Diren Yurtsever, Mesopotamia News Agency’s Ankara Bureau Chief Deniz Nazlım, Mesopotamia News Agency reporters Berivan Altan, Zemo Ağgöz, Selman Güzelyüz, Hakan Yalçın, Emrullah Acar, Ceylan Şahinli, JinNews reporters Habibe Eren, Öznur Değer and former Mesopotamia News Agency intern Mehmet Günhan face “membership in a terrorist organization” charges will be held in the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court, at 10.00. In the indictment which he had filed on 8 February 2023, the prosecutor presents the statements of anonymous witnesses and confessors, the news agencies the journalists work for, the editorial policies of the news agencies the journalists work for, 129 news articles published in Mesopotamia News Agency and Fırat News Agency (ANF) and the language used in these articles, social media posts shared by accounts belonging to the journalists or by accounts allegedly belonging to the journalists, allegedly banned books and magazines allegedly confiscated during house and office raids, events they had attended for covering, phone conversations with news sources and colleagues, reports obtained from the Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK) as evidence for the charges. In addition to these evidence, the prosecutor presents journalists Öznur Değer, Deniz Nazlım and Zemo Ağgöz’s membership in the legally operating Dicle Fırat Journalists’ Association as evidence against them. In the 210-page long indictment, the prosecutor uses the expression “so-called” 308 times and refers to the journalists as “so- called reporters/journalists” and to the news agencies they work for as “so-called news agencies.” Despite the fact that the journalists have not been charged with “provoking the public to hatred and hostility (Article 216 of the Turkish Penal Code)” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization (Article 220/8 of the Turkish Penal Code and Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law)”, the prosecutor claims that Mesopotamia News Agency and JinNews operate under the Press Committee of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) and alleges that the journalists produce news articles following the orders of the PKK/KCK terrorist organization in order to “provoke the public to hatred and hostility” and “to make propaganda for a terrorist organization.” For these claims, the prosecutor only cites the anonymous witness and confessors’ statements. In the indictment, the prosecutor does not provide general or individual legal arguments on the evidence cited against journalists. Additionally, the prosecutor copied the section about journalist Diren Yurtsever and pasted it to the part in which the evidence against journalist Habibe Eren should have been listed. Journalists Diren Yurtsever, Deniz Nazlım, Berivan Altan, Selman Güzelyüz, Hakan Yalçın, Emrullah Acar, Ceylan Şahinli, Habibe Eren and Öznur Değer were arrested on 29 October 2022 as part of the criminal investigation initiated by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. Journalist Zemo Ağgöz and former intern Mehmet Günhan who were among those detained were released with judicial control measures imposed upon them. On 25 October 2022, the day when 11 journalists were taken into custody, the Ankara General Directorate of Security posted a tweet on its official account. In the tweet through which the footage of journalists being detained was also served, the Ankara police announced the apprehension of “11 individuals who were carrying out organizational activities at the Mesopotamia News Agency which operate under the PKK/KCK terrorist organization’s press committee” After having been brought to Ankara, the detained journalists were interrogated by nine different prosecutors. Lawyer Resul Temur who represents 9 of the 11 journalists was taken into custody on 25 April 2023 as part of a criminal investigation led by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and was held in police custody for 4 days. After the search of lawyer Temur’s office, the Diyarbakır Prosecutor’s Office confiscated all case files and legal documents. The indictment against the journalists was filed on the 102th day of their imprisonment and was accepted by the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court. On 14 February 2023, the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court held preliminary proceedings and set the date of the first hearing. The court had also decided to continue the pre-trial detention of nine journalists and to continue the judicial control measures imposed upon Zemo Ağgöz and Mehmet Günhan. At the preliminary proceedings, the Ankara court had also decided to ask for the files of cases in which some of the journalists previously stood trial and to hear the anonymous witness at the first hearing on 16 May 2023.
- The first hearing of the trial in which artist Berkay Kahvecioğlu faces “insulting the president” charge will be held in the the Ankara 74th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.15. In the indictment which he had filed on 4 January 2023, prosecutor Mehmet Aykut Cihangir presents an Instagram which Kahvecioğlu shared on his personal account on 2 June 2022 with a comment “Sürtüğe bak TC etiketiyle her yerde çıktı! Albüme Youtube’dan ulaşabilirsiniz [Look at slut with TC tag is out! You can listen to the album on YouTube].” The social media post contained a drawing which had a reference to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s comments about Gezi Park protestors. On 1 June 2022, Erdoğan had called the protestors “sluts.” Prosecutor Cihangir claims that via the social media post Kahvecioğlu “insulted the honor and dignity” of complainant Erdoğan and thus committed the offense he has been charged with. The prosecutor Cihangir, who prepared the indictment against Kahvecioğlu, also prepared the indictments against feminist YouTuber Kazıklı Maria, journalist Alican Uludağ, expelled sociologist Veli Saçılık, former members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party Central Executive Board, and former Co-Chair of the Human Rights Association (İHD) Öztürk Türkdoğan.
- The fifth hearing of the trial in which journalist Baransel Ağca faces “openly degrading the religious values of a section of the public” charge will be held in the Istanbul 43rd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.35. The prosecutor presents a tweet Ağca had shared on December 25, 2020 and in which he had sarcastically commented on the issue of wine consumption in Islam. Despite the February 19, 2020 ruling of the Constitutional Court in which the Court revoked the law article which provided the police with the authority to conduct such investigations, it is stated in the indictment that the cited social media post was detected during a “virtual patrol” conducted by the police. In addition to the social media post cited in the indictment, the investigation report prepared by the İstanbul Provincial Security Directorate’s Department of Combating Cybercrime on 26 April 2021 also includes four other tweets by Ağca. These tweets Ağca had shared on 25 April 2021 contain documented information about the companies belonging to the relatives of Minister of Internal Affairs Süleyman Soylu and which have won lucrative public tenders. The prosecutor however, did not include these tweets in the indictment. At the third hearing held on 20 September 2022, the court decided to issue rogatory letters to Germany so that the statement of journalist Ağca can be taken. At the fourth hearing of the trial held on 17 January 2023, the court decided to wait for the process of rogatory letters to be completed.
- The third hearing of the trial in which journalist Cengiz Çandar whom MLSA represents in court faces “praising an offense and an offender” charge will be held in the Istanbul 30th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11.10. The indictment which was filed on 30 June 2020, presents a 2017 tweet in which Çandar commemorated Ayşe Deniz Karacagil who died fighting ISIS. In the indictment, the prosecutor claims that Karacagil died fighting for a terrorist organization in Raqqa and that praising her on social media would constitute an open threat to public peace. At the eighth hearing of the trial held on 22 November 2022, the court decided to separate the case file of Çandar who stood trial together with activist Kemal Işıktaş on the grounds that the rogatory letters issued to Sweden are yet to be responded to. On 13 December 2022, at the next hearing after the cases files were separated, the court sentenced Işıktaş to 7 months 15 days in prison. At the second hearing of the trial held on 10 April 2023, the prosecutor presented his final opinion and requested Çandar to be sentenced.
- The seventh hearing of the trial in which 7 women and LGBTİ+, including journalist Şeriban Alkış face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies”, “preventing the activities of a public institution” and “damage to public property” charges will be held in the Istanbul 23rd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11.40. The seven people were violently taken into police custody after they hung up a banner on the İstanbul Provincial Directorate of the Ministry of Family and Labor in order to protest the government’s decision to withdraw from the İstanbul Convention. The prosecutor who cites the slogans about “women’s rights and femicide” as evidence also claims that the defendants damaged a public property as they “broke a decorative vase.” On 9 June 2022, at the fourth hearing of the trial, a journalist was heard as a witness of the defense. The witness stated that contrary to the claims in the indictment, it was the protestors who were battered by police officers. The witness also shared with the court that he saw two women being sexually harassed by police officers that day. At the fifth hearing of the trial held on 25 October 2022, the court decided to send the footage submitted by the defense lawyers to an expert so that it can be evaluated. At the sixth hearing of the trial held on 2 February 2023, the court rejected the requests for the footage which contained the moments of some of the defendants being sexually harassed by the police and decided to send the case file to prosecution for their final opinion on the merits to be prepared.
May 17th, Wednesday
- The second hearing of the retrial of journalist Perihan Kaya over “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Diyarbakır 10th High Criminal Court, at 09.24. The indictment, which was filed on 30 November 20202, presents eight posts which were shared in 2015 on a Facebook account which was claimed to belong to Kaya and 24 tweets listed in an open source intelligence report compiled on 5 October 2018 as evidence for the charge. In the indictment prepared by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, Kaya was also charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” for which Kaya’s phone conversations with her colleagues, anonymous witness statements, criminal reports via e-mails, Kaya’s travels abroad and Kaya’s membership in the Free Journalists’ Association which was closed down by a state of emergency decree, were cited as evidence. The first hearing of the trial of Kaya was held on 24 March 2021 and in which the prosecutor presented his final opinion as to the accusations. The prosecutor had requested that Kaya be acquitted of “membership in a terrorist organization” charge as “there is no definite and convincing” evidence to support the charge. However, the prosecutor also requested that Kaya be sentenced for “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.” At the same hearing, the court ruled to sentence Kaya to 1 year and 3 months in prison for “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” reasoning that it was established that she had committed the offense. Reviewing the case upon appeal by Kaya’s lawyer, a regional court of appeals overturned the conviction of Kaya and sent the case file back to the first degree court for retrial. At the first hearing of the trial held on 16 December 2022, the court decided to issue a writ so that the statement of Kaya who lives abroad, can be taken via rogatory letters.
- The sixth hearing of the trial in which the Ankara Bar Association’s former Chair Erinç Sağkan and former Executive Board Members 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 26 April 2020, 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. At the second hearing of the trial held on 9 March 2022, 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.” Two days before the third hearing of the trial held on 22 June 2022, the prosecutor presented his final opinion on the merits and requested the lawyers to be sentenced. At the fifth hearing of the trial held on 8 February 2023, the court accepted the lawyers’ excuses and adjourned the trial because of February 6th earthquakes.
May 18th, Thursday
- The sixth hearing of the trial in which PEN Berlin’s Spokesperson and Die Welt correspondent Deniz Yücel whom MLSA represents in the court, faces “degrading the Turkish Nation, State of the Turkish Republic, Turkish Grand National Assembly, the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the judicial bodies of the State” and “insulting the president” charges will be held in the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.25. On 16 July 2020, the İstanbul 32nd High Criminal Court had sentenced journalist Yücel to 2 years and 9 months in prison for “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.” In addition the prison sentence it handed down, the court had also ruled to file additional criminal complaints against journalist Deniz Yücel for “insulting the president” and “publicly degrading the Turkish Nation, State of the Turkish Republic, the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the judicial bodies” citing two separate articles he penned for Die Welt in late 2016. On 14 June 2021, the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance ruled to merge the case where Yücel stands trial on “insulting the president” charge with the case where Yücel stands trial for “degrading the Turkish Nation, State of the Turkish Republic, Turkish Grand National Assembly, the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the judicial bodies of the State.” At the second hearing held on 25 November 2021, the court decided to issue a writ for rogatory letters so that the statement of Yücel, who lives in Germany can be taken. The court still waits for the return of the rogatory letters.
- The first hearing of the trial in which T24’s Chief Editor Doğan Akın faces “openly insulting a public official” charge upon complaint by Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank, will be held in the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.35. In the indictment which he filed on 12 January 2023, the prosecutor presents a news article titled “Emlak Konut'tan Bakan Varank'ın kuzeninin şirketine 6.9 milyar TL'lik gelir paylaşımı ihalesi [6.9 billion Turkish Liras worth revenue sharing tender from Emlak Konut to Minister Varank’s cousin]” published in T24 on 18 November 2022. Even though the cited news article was written by BirGün daily reporter İsmail Arı, in his criminal complaint he filed with the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on 28 November 2022, Varank’s lawyer Ahmet Özel claims that Akın “attempted to assassinate [Varank’s] character” by writing the news article. In the petition, Varank’s lawyer also writes the name of Doğan Akın wrong. In the indictment the prosecutor states a criminal investigation has been launched against Akın following the criminal complaint. Claiming that Akın committed the offense he was charged with, the prosecutor requests the journalist to be sentenced.