This week, the hearings of numerous freedom of expression trials will be held. Below is the list of these hearings:
May 22nd, Monday
- The third hearing of the trial in which journalist Barış Pehlivan and Cumhuriyet Daily’s Executive Editor Mustafa Büyüksipahi face “insulting a public official due to performance of his public duty” charges upon complaint by former member of the Judges and Prosecutors’ Council Hamit Kocabey and his son Nizameddin Kocabey will be held in the Ankara 19th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.10. In the indictment which he had filed on 7 September 2022, prosecutor Mehmet Aykut Cihangir presents Pehlivan’s article titled “Bahçeli’nin kafasında ne var? [What is on Bahçeli’s mind?]” which was published in Cumhuriyet Daily on 19 October 2021, as evidence for the charges. Claiming that father and son Kocabeys are “public officials” under Article 6 of the Turkish Penal Code, prosecutor Cihangir cites some sentences which he claims are from the article and are about Hamit and Nizameddin Kocabey. Prosecutor Cihangir argues that these sentences were uttered “due to the performance of the complainants’ public duties” and are of nature “insulting the honor and dignity of the complainants.” Prosecutor Cihangir requests Pehlivan and Büyüksipahi to be sentenced for “insulting a public officials due to performance of their public duties.” At the hearing held in an Istanbul court on 6 April 2023 following the instructions of the Ankara 19th Criminal Court of First Instance, journalist Pehlivan pointed out that the first quotation in the indictment was not present in his article and was manufactured by the prosecutor. He also stated that the second quotation in the indictment does not refer to the complainants. At the second hearing of the trial held on 25 April 2023, Nizameddin Kocabey attended the hearing and argued that as a lawyer he should also be considered a public official and requested the journalists to be sentenced. On 28 September 2022 and following the criminal complaints of Hamit Kocabey and Nizameddin Kocabey, prosecutor Mehmet Aykut Cihangir filed two separate indictments against journalist Alican Uludağ and journalist Barış Pehlivan together with Halk TV Executive Editor Suat Toktaş.
- The third hearing of the trial in which journalist Sibel Hürtaş faces “insulting a public official due to performance of his public duty” charge upon complaint by Brigadier General Subutay Adaş will be held in the Ankara 19th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.20. The prosecution presents Hürtaş’s article titled “624 albay olayı [the 624 colonels incident]” published in ArtıGerçek on 26 August 2020, as evidence against the journalist. In her article, Hürtaş shared with the public that Subutay Adaş, who was claimed to have met with a soldier identified as a “FETÖ/PDY armed terrorist organization suspect” by the police, was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General by the decision of the Supreme Military Council (YAŞ). However, it was also revealed that the soldier whom Adaş was alleged to have met with was discharged via the same YAŞ decision. On 6 October 2021, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office concluded the investigation initiated against Hürtaş following the criminal complaint filed by Adaş’s lawyer and decided not to prosecute the journalist. On 24 March 2022, the Ankara 5th Criminal Judgeship of Peace which reviewed the appeal of Adaş’s lawyer, revoked the prosecutor’s no-prosecution decision. In the judge’s decision, it stated, “If there is no statement or investigation regarding the crime alleged against the complainant, which can be determined through a police investigation and the UYAP system, and if alternative dispute resolution methods have been applied, the balance between freedom of the press and the right of individuals not to be tarnished should be evaluated in the case at hand. Accordingly, an indictment should be prepared against the suspect in accordance with Article 173/4 of the Criminal Procedure Code…” Following the judge’s decision, prosecutor Ersoy Yıldız presented the indictment to the court on 15 June 2022, emphasizing the obligation to prepare an indictment under Article 173/4 of the Criminal Procedure Code and noting that the decision to dismiss the prosecution was based on the conviction that the “news content [under investigation] falls within the scope of press freedom, freedom of information, and freedom of expression.” At the second hearing of the trial held on 25 April 2023, Adaş’s lawyer alleged that ArtıGerçek was “aligned with PKK- FETÖ.”
May 23rd, Tuesday
- The sixth 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 09.20. The indictment presents two speeches made by Demirel in 2016 as evidence for the charge. The prosecutor 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 29 May 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 1 July 2016. At the first hearing of the trial held on 28 June 2022, it was revealed that the court issued an arrest warrant against Demirel even though Demirel was not served the indictment. At that hearing, the court had decided to serve the indictment to Demirel physically and to remove the arrest warrant against her. The second hearing of the trial held on 20 December 2022 was postponed as Demirel could not attend the hearing due to health problems. At the fifth hearing of the trial held on 2 February 2023, the court decided to issue a writ to the Ministry of Justice and ask the Ministry to send the European Court of Human Rights’ Vedat Şorli judgment to the case file.
- The third hearing of the trial in which 5 people, including journalist Sultan Eylem Keleş whom MLSA represents in court, faces “prevention of public duty” and “insulting a public official” charges will be held in the Istanbul 56th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11.55. Journalist Keleş was taken into custody while covering the protest of BİMEKS workers who had gathered in front of the Boğaziçi University where, their former boss Prof. Dr. Vedat Akgiray, who had fired the workers without due compensation, was giving a lecture. The prosecutor presents the testimonies of four complainant police officers as evidence for the charges against Keleş and four other defendants, but fails to specify to whom the insults allegedly directed against police officers belong. The prosecutor, however, requests that the defendants be sentenced arguing that “as a result of the investigation conducted”, it has been established that the defendants not only prevented public officials from carrying out their duties but they also insulted these officials. At the first hearing of the trial held on 13 September 2022, the court decided to inquire with the Chief Public Prosecutor in İstanbul whether an investigation on the grounds of violating the Law No. 2911 on the date of the crime was initiated against the defendants, to issue an order to bring the plaintiffs who did not attend the hearing to court by force, and to reject the request of the defendant’s lawyers for an immediate acquittal as legal conditions were not met. At the second hearing of the trial held on 16 February 2023, the court decided to issue writs to the Beşiktaş District Police Station to have the complainant police officers be present at the next hearing.
May 24th, Wednesday
- The 15th 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 10.35. The indictment presents a tweet in which Tunç criticized the 2017 Referendum as evidence against him. For the past 14 hearings, the court has been waiting for the execution of the arrest warrant issued against Tunç.
May 25th, Thursday
- The fifth hearing of the trial in which the former Co-Chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party Figen Yüksekdağ, the former Parliamentary Group Chair Deputies İdris Baluken and Çağlar Demirel and MPs Altan Tan, Ahmet Yıldırım, Ertuğrul Kürkçü, Mehmet Ali Aslan and Saadet Becerikli face “prevention of public duty”, “insulting a public official” and “insulting the president” charges will be held in the Silvan Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09.00. The indictment prepared by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office lists former Deputy of Silvan Chief of Police Osman Gündüz, “other security officers”, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and former Minister of the Interior Efkan Ala as complainants. The indictment presents the statements allegedly made by the MPs during the police intervention which took place as the MPs tried to walk to the Silvan district where a curfew was imposed on 12 November 2015; the press statement by Figen Yüksekdağ and the footage of the brawl which broke out after the police had intervened, as evidence against the MPs. The Diyarbakır 8th Criminal Court of First Instance which had accepted the indictment ruled lack of jurisdiction on the grounds that the events in the case file took place in Silvan and sent the case file to the Silvan Criminal Court of First Instance. After having held eight hearings, the Silvan Criminal Court of First Instance decided to stay the trial against Hüda Kaya and Feleknas Uca who were among the charged, after they were reelected and separated their files in order to send their files to the Grand National Assembly. The court also ruled non jurisdiction as per the state of emergency decree numbered 694 which transferred the authority to investigate and prosecute members of the parliament to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and to local high criminal courts in Ankara and sent the case file to the Ankara 33rd High Criminal Court. After having reviewed the dispute between the courts, the Court of Cassation ruled in 2021 that the case be heard by the Silvan Criminal Court of First Instance. At the first hearing of the trial held on 16 March 2022 the court ruled to issue writs to prisons where İdris Baluken and Figen Yüksekdağ are held so that they can provide their statements over the audio-visual system (SEGBİS). Figen Yüksekdağ could not attend the second hearing held on 15 June 2022 via SEGBİS and thus could not provide her statements against the charges. At the third hearing of the trial held on 29 September 2022, Çağlar Demirel and imprisoned İdris Baluken provided their statements however imprisoned politician Figen Yüksekdağ could not attend the hearing as she was required to attend the hearing of another trial brought against her. The fourth hearing of the trial held on 26 January 2023 was adjourned because Figen Yüksekdağ, who had presented her excuse to the court, did not attend the hearing.
- The seventh hearing of the retrial in which the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) Central Council President Şebnem Korur Fincancı, RSF Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu and journalist Ahmet Nesin face “making propaganda for a terrorist organization”, “incitement to commit an offense” and “praising an offense and an offender” charges will be held in the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court, at 09.40. Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Erol Önderoğlu are being retried at the “Özgür Gündem Solidarity Trial” after the 3rd Penal Chamber of Istanbul Regional Court of Appeal overturned the acquittal verdict of three human rights defenders on November 2020. At the fifth hearing of the trial held on 19 October 2022, defense lawyers recused judge Murat Bircan on the grounds that he cannot be impartial. At the Gezi Case in which judge Bircan was also a member of the panel of judges, it was revealed that in 2018 Bircan tried to become a member of the parliament from the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP). The court decided to send the case file to an upper court so that the requests for Bircan’s recusal can be decided upon. At the sixth hearing of the trial held on 1 February 2023, the court noted in the hearing minutes that the request for judge Murat Bircan’s recusal was rejected. The court had also noted that the appeal against the rejection of the recusal request was also rejected and decided to adjourn the trial so that the case file can be completed.
- The 10th hearing of the trial in which 97 Boğaziçi University students who protested the appointment of Melih Bulu as the rector of Boğaziçi University, face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Assemblies and Demonstrations” charge will be held in the İstanbul 32nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.00. The 75 pages long indictment cites banners, flags and brochures the students carried during the protest and some social media posts tagged #bundansonrasıbizde [We got this from here] as evidence against the students. At the sixth hearing of the trial held on 1 June 2022, the court decided to have three defendants whose statements could not be taken be brought to the next hearing. At the ninth hearing of the trial held on 21 December 2022, the court decided to issue arrest warrants against three defendants whose addresses could not be determined and who failed to attend hearings.
- The third hearing of the retrial in which the since-shuttered IMC TV’s Programs Coordinator and the host of the “Gündem Müzakere” Ayşegül Doğan faces “membership in an armed terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court, at 10.15. On 7 December 2020, journalist Doğan was sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison for “membership in an armed terrorist organization” because of her journalistic activities such as her interviews with the representatives of the Democratic Society Congress and the meeting or events she had attended to cover. Announcing its decision on 10 March 2022, the 2nd Penal Chamber of the Diyarbakır Regional Courts of Appeal ruled to overturn the conviction of journalist Doğan on the grounds that the first instance court convicted Doğan “without adequate investigation” and “with a reasoning which was not compatible with the context of the case file.” The appeals court also ruled to continue the international travel ban imposed upon Doğan a very long time ago, reasoning that it is “proportionate.” At the first hearing of the trial held on 17 October 2022, the court ruled to continue the international travel ban imposed upon the journalist and to subpoena the witnesses. The court also issued a writ so that the witnesses who had failed to attend the hearing be brought to the next hearing. At the second hearing of the trial held on 25 January 2023, the court decided to continue the international travel which was first imposed upon Doğan in 2017 and adjourned the trial until 6 March 2023. However, the March 6th hearing of the trial could not be held due to February 6 earthquakes.
- The first hearing of the trial in which JinNews reporter Dilan Babat and Mesopotamia News Agency reporter Fırat Can Arslan face “identifying public officials on counter-terrorism duties as targets” charges will be held in the Konya 2nd High Criminal Court, at 10.30. In the indictment which he had filed on 22 February, the prosecutor presents the news agencies the journalists work for, their participation in a funeral ceremony for news coverage, the footage they captured while covering the ceremony and the fact that this footage was live streamed on JinNews’ social media accounts, as evidence for the charges. Journalists Babat and Arslan were detained on 13 October 2022 in Konya while attempting to cover the funeral ceremony of journalist and writer Nagihan Akarsel, who was killed in an armed attack on October 4 in the city of Sulaymaniyah of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. Despite the fact that the journalists were held in custody for approximately four hours, the prosecutor does not specify it in the indictment and argues that the investigation against the journalists was launched after it was detected that “[they were] shooting footage of the personnel present in the area, including civilian personnel involved in counter-terrorism operations, as well as gendarmerie personnel and commanding officers and were live streaming on internet and a Twitter account, which is affiliated with the PKK/KCK armed terrorist organization.” Though he does not provide any evidence to support the allegation that JinNews and Mesopotamia News Agency operate “under the influence of the armed terrorist organization”, the prosecutor claims that the real purpose of the journalists were “producing so-called news reports against the Turkish state and its institutions in line with the aims and the ideology of the organization” and “to turn the funeral into a mass protest.” Arguing that “the close up footage of public officials present at the scene of the incident were live streamed on JinNews”, the prosecutor claims that it has been established that the journalists committed the offense they have been charged with and requests them to be sentenced.
- The second hearing of the compensation lawsuit filed by President Erdoğan’s former lawyer Mustafa Doğan İnal against GerçekGündem’s editor Furkan Karabay will be held in the Istanbul 44th Civil Court of First Instance, at 10.48. In a petition filed on 12 August 2022, İnal’s lawyer presents some tweets Karabay had shared on his personal social media account on 11 August 2022 and claims that “[Karabay] regularly shares with the public his slanders and insults through so-called news articles and tweets.” Even though the cited tweets do not contain Mustafa Doğan İnal’s name, his lawyer claims that İnal’s “personal rights were attacked” and demands 100.000 Turkish Liras for non-material damages.
May 26th, Friday
- The second hearing of the trial in which 14 people including Saturday Mothers/People and human rights defenders face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” charge will be held in the Küçükçekmece 1st Criminal Court of First Instance, at 14.30. In the indictment filed by the Terror and Organized Crimes Investigation Bureau of the Küçükçekmece Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on 14 December 2022, the prosecutor presents 30 August 2022 press statement which Saturday Mothers/People attempted to make at the Altınşehir Cemetery of the Unnamed on the occasion of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, as evidence for the charges. Presenting the ban decision of the Küçükçekmece District Governorate on August 30th, the prosecutor claims that the press statement was illegal and that Maside Ocak, Hüseyin Ocak, Ali Ocak, Besna Tosun, Hanım Tosun, Hasan Karakoç, Hanife Yıldız, Gülseren Yoleri, Hüseyin Aygül, Ferit Barut, Aynur Ergül, Derya Deniz, Hüsnü Alkan and Türkan Acar “insisted on not dispersing despite being warned” by the police. The prosecutor fails to mention that the Saturday Mothers/People were not allowed to disperse as they were trapped inside a so-called “security perimeter” by the police. In his four paragraphs long indictment, the prosecutor also fails to present any facts or evidence in favor of the Saturday Mothers/People including the testimonies of the Saturday Mothers/People taken while they were in police custody which lasted for almost 10 hours. At the first hearing of the trial held on 4 May 2023, the court decided to watch the footage of the police intervention during the next hearing.
*This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. The work may be used and redistributed for non-commercial purposes with proper attribution to the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA).