Upcoming Trials

Journalism and freedom of expression trials: Week of May 30

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

May 30th, Monday

  • The ninth hearing of the trial in which the proprietor of the since-shuttered Azadiya Welat newspaper Ramazan Ölçen faces “membership of a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Diyarbakır 11th High Criminal Court, at 09:45. The indictment presents Ölçen’s proprietorship of Azadiya Welat and his possession of “illegal” publications as evidence against him. The indictment requests that Ölçen be sentenced to 15 years in prison.

May 31st, Tuesday

  • The first hearing of the trial in which Jin News reporter Zelal Tunç faces “insulting a public official” charge will be held in the Muradiye Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09:30. The indictment was prepared after Erkan Savar, who was appointed as trustee to the Van’s Muradiye Municipality, filed a criminal complaint against journalist Tunç. The indictment presents Tunç’s news article published on May 13, 2019 and in which she exposed the ruined state of the Muradiye Fountain which was renovated by a company which was awarded a 4.5 million Turkish Liras public tender after Savar was appointed to the municipality. On October 21, 2020, the same day in which the trial of Tunç was to commence, the court notified the parties of the case that the trial will be conducted through “simple trial procedure.” Tunç was the first journalist who stood trial with this procedure. At the end of the procedure, the court sentenced Tunç to 8 months 22 days in prison and deferred the announcement of the verdict.  Upon the objection of Tunç’s lawyer, the court decided to hear the case and set a date for the hearing.
  • The 16th hearing of the trial in which journalist Can Dündar faces “publishing or distributing the publications of terrorist organizations” charges will be held in the İstanbul 22nd High Criminal Court, at 09:40. Dündar stands trial for showing solidarity with the shuttered Özgür Gündem daily as an Editor-in-Chief on Watch. The indictment cites a news article published in the newspaper on the day when Dündar was the Editor-in-Chief on Watch as evidence against the journalist. The prosecution requests imprisonment for Dündar for up to three years. An arrest warrant was issued for Dündar on December 22, 2016.
  • The second hearing of the trial in which since-shuttered Azadiya Welat’s reporter Velat Öztekin faces “insulting the president” charge will be held in the Diyarbakır 7th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09:50.  The indictment presents two caricatures Öztekin had shared on his personal Facebook account between 2015 and 2016 as evidence against the journalist.
  • The sixth hearing of the trial in which journalist Derya Okatan faces “insult” charge will be held in the İstanbul 39th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 12:20. The indictment presents a news article  titled “Mersin Women’s Platform: ‘We are exposing lawyer Onur Kale as harasser’ published in Etkin News Agency (ETHA) where Okatan was then the managing editor. Okatan is put on trial upon complaint by lawyer Kale whose first complaint was dismissed by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. Although Kale objected to the decision of non-prosecution at the Istanbul 14th Criminal Court of Peace, the court rejected the lawyer’s objection. Thereupon, Kale applied to the 8th Penal Chamber of the Court of Cassation with the request of “overturning for the benefit of the law”. The Chamber found the objection appropriate and overturned the decision of the Istanbul 14th Criminal Court of Peace. Upon the ruling of the higher court, an investigation was launched against Okatan and the indictment against Okatan was completed on September 9, 2019, by the Press Crimes Investigation Bureau of the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.

June 1st, Wednesday

  • The second hearing of the trial in which Charlie Hebdo’s general director Julien Serignac, editor in chief Gerard Biard, executive editor Laurent Sorurisseau and cartoonist Alice Petit face “insulting the president” charge will be held in the Ankara 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. The indictment presents a cartoon published in Charlie Hebdo on October 28, 2020 as evidence against Serignac, Biard, Sorurisseau and Petit. Claiming that they insulted the president via the cartoon, the prosecutor requests imprisonment for Serignac, Biard, Sorurisseau and Petit up  to 4 years 8 months.
  • The seventh hearing of the trial in which journalist Hayko Bağdat whom MLSA represents in court, faces “insulting the president” and “publicly inciting the public to hatred and hostility” charges will be held in the İstanbul 50th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09:45. Bağdat’s trial began when İstanbul 50th Criminal Court of First Instance accepted the indictment dated July 24, 2019 by the Prosecutor’s Office. The first indictment presents Bağdat’s article titled “My last article on Erdoğan” published at ozguruz.org on April 14, 2017 and four tweets as evidence against the journalist. Two other indictments against Bağdat were prepared later on June 15 and June 25, 2020. The cases opened after these indictments were accepted by the court and were later merged with the ongoing case at İstanbul 50th Criminal Court of First Instance. The June 25th indictment has added “publicly inciting the public to hatred and hostility” to the charges journalist Bağdat faces.
  • The fourth 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 as evidence against the students.
  • The fifth hearing of the trial in which İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu faces “insulting a public official” charge will be held in the İstanbul Anadolu 7th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11:30. The indictment presents the statements İmamoğlu made on November 4, 2019 and claims that İmamoğlu “insulted public officials who work as part of a committee because of their duties.” In a speech, İmamoğlu had responded to the Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu who called İmamoğlu “that idiot complaining about his country abroad” and said that “The real idiots are those who had the elections canceled” referring to the March 31st, 2019 elections which was canceled after the candidate of the ruling party lost. After İmamoğlu’s speech, the Supreme Election Council (YSK) filed a criminal complaint against İmamoğlu. The indictment lists the former head of the YSK Sadi Güven and 11 Council members as the injured party. Announcing his final opinion as to the accusations on April 20, 2022, the prosecutor requested imprisonment for İmamoğlu up to 4 years and 1 month.
  • The sixth hearing of the trial in which 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.

June 2nd, Thursday

  • The 10th hearing of the trial where 28 people including Jiyan Haber’s proprietor journalist İdris Yayla face “defying the Law on Assemblies and Demonstrations no. 2911” charge will be held in the Batman 1st Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09:00. Journalist Yayla faces these charges for following the press statement in 2016 which renounced the trustee appointed to Batman Municipality. The former MP Sebahat Tuncel is also among those who are tried.
  • The ninth hearing of the trial in which journalist Hayko Bağdat whom MLSA represents in court, faces “terror propaganda” charges will be held in the İstanbul 28th High Criminal Court, at 09:05. The indictment presents nine social media posts from 2017 and 2018 as evidence against Bağdat. Social media posts that are used as evidence against Bağdat include retweeting a photo of Osman Kavala and retweeting an interview with the PKK leader Cemil Bayık. Germany has refused Turkey’s request of letters rogatory in Hayko Bağdat’s case, stating it would violate freedom of speech.
  • The fifth hearing of the trial in which journalist Mete Cem Bahtiyar whom MLSA represents in court, faces “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Balıkesir 3rd High Criminal Court, at 11:30. The indictment presents social media posts shared on an account claimed to be belonging to Bahtiyar between 2015-2018. A tweet which displays the cover photo of one of philosopher Slavoj Žižek’s articles which he had penned for sendika.org are among the social media posts which are cited as evidence.
  • The 18th hearing of the trial where 23 defendants, including Etkin News Agency (ETHA) editor İsminaz Temel, ETHA reporter Havva Cuştan and the lawyers of the Law Firm of the Oppressed (EHB) face “membership of a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charges will be held in the İstanbul 27th High Criminal Court, at 13:30.  The indictment presents the press conferences and events which the journalists covered as evidence against the journalists. After 16 months of pre-trial detention, Temel was released at the third hearing of the trial.

June 3rd, Friday

  • The eighth hearing of the trial in which Muhammet İkram Müftüoğlu, HDP Doğubayazıt Co-Chair Abdullah Ekelek, Dicle Fırat Journalists’ Association Chair Dicle Müftüoğlu, Turgay İlboğa, Yücel İlhan and journalist Aziz Oruç, whom MLSA represents in court, face “membership of a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charges will be held in the Ağrı 2nd High Criminal Court, at 09:00. Müftüoğlu, Ekelek, İlboğa and İlhan stand trial together with Oruç on the grounds that they helped him when he was caught, mistreated and then dropped off at the Turkey- Iran border by Iranian border patrols as he was trying to reach Europe via Armenia. Oruç was arrested on December 18, 2019 in Ağrı’s Doğubayazıt Province on the grounds that he entered the country in an illegal manner. Oruç remained in pre-trial detention for 11 months until being released pending trial during the third hearing which was held on November 9, 2020.
  • The 30th hearing of the trial in which 67 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 10:00. 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.
  • The hearing of the trial in which journalist Devrim Ayık faces “membership of a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the İzmir 2nd High Criminal Court, at 13:30. Journalist Ayık who has severe Crohn’s disease is being held in pretrial detention. At the seventh hearing on January 25th, the court rejected Ayık and his lawyer’s request to be released.