This week, the hearings of numerous freedom of expression trials will be held. Below is the list of these hearings:
May 8th, Monday
- The first hearing of the trial in which Jin News reporter Öznur Değer and 23 activists face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” and “prevention of public duty” charges will be held in the Ankara 18th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09.30. In the indictment she had filed on 19 December 2022, the prosecutor presents the “Geçinemiyoruz [We cannot make a living]” protest which the Ankara Labour and Democracy Forces wanted to hold to protest increasing living costs as a criminal element. Even though she does not present any ban decision regarding the protest, the prosecutor argues that the protest was illegal because there was no prior notification. Referring to some of the defendants as “those persons who are known to the law enforcement authorities because they had previously attended other illegal demonstrations”, the prosecutor presents slogans like “İnsanca yaşamak istiyoruz [We want to live like human beings]”, “Hükümet İstifa [Government resign]”, “Direne Direne Kazanacağız [We will resist, we will win]”, “Krizin Yükü Patronlara [Put the burden of the economic crisis on bosses]” ve “Yoksulluğa Teslim Olmayacağız [We will not surrender to poverty]” as evidence for the charges. Even though she states that journalist Öznur Değer identified herself to the police as a journalist by showing the press card issued by Jin News, the prosecutor argues that Değer “refused to leave the protest area and conducted herself in a manner incompatible with journalism” and that Değer did not have the press card issued by the Presidency’s Directorate of Communications. Ignoring the statements of Değer in which she had stated that the police knew her to be a journalist but nevertheless violently detained her, the prosecutor requests 24 people to be sentenced.
- The fifth hearing of the trial in which journalists İrfan Tuncçelik, Ümit Turhan Çoşkun and 11 Peace Mothers face “committing an offense on behalf of an organization without being a member of the organization” and “defying the Law no. 2911 on Assemblies and Demonstration” charges will be held in the Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court at 09.40. Among the evidence cited for the charges is the footage of the protest held on 10 May 2019 in front of the Bakırköy Women’s Prison to draw attention to the hunger strikes in prisons which began on 8 November 2019. The prosecutor claims that the Peace Mothers attended the said protest “wearing white head scarfs or muslins to appear sympathetic, dramatic and demagogic in the public eye.” At the third hearing of the trial held on 25 October 2022, the court decided to have an additional expert’s report to be prepared so that it can be determined if the police issued warnings before dispersing the group, if these warnings were audible and if the protestors resisted the police. The court also decided to send the case file to the prosecution so that they can prepare their final opinion if the expert’s report is prepared until the next hearing. At the fourth hearing of the trial held on 7 February 2023, the court decided to have the originals of the confiscated digital material and work equipment returned to the journalists’ lawyers and decided to wait for the additional expert’s report.
May 9th, Tuesday
- The 13th hearing of the trial in which 28 people, including Jiyan Haber’s proprietor journalist İdris Yayla face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Assemblies and Demonstrations” charge will be held in the Batman 1st Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09.00. Journalist Yayla faces these charges for covering the press statement in 2016 which renounced the trustee appointed to Batman Municipality. The former MP Sebahat Tuncel is also among the defendants. In the expert’s report presented to the court before the 10th hearing held on 2 June 2022, it was stated that all the defendants except for two attended the press statement cited in the indictment.
- The ninth hearing of the trial in which former Co-Chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş who has been imprisoned since November 4, 2016 faces “insulting a public official” charge will be held in the Istanbul Küçükçekmece 23rd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11.40. The indictment filed on 27 March 2019 by the Küçükçekmece Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office lists former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu as the injured party. The prosecution presents a speech which Demirtaş gave at a party event on 28 October 2015 as evidence against the imprisoned politician. In the indictment, it is claimed that the prosecutor’s office became aware of the speech in question after an inmate imprisoned in an Alanya prison filed a criminal report on 3 November 2015 and reported that Selahattin Demirtaş “might have provoked the public to hatred and hostility by his speech.” In his speech in which Demirtaş replied to Ahmet Davutoğlu who stated that “PYD will not cross to the west of the Euphrates.” Referring to Davutoğlu’s remarks, Demirtaş stated that “He says ‘They can’t cross the river. They will cross it and you will see it. You will watch it from this side of the river. You will gawk at it.” The prosecution claims that by these remarks Selahattin Demirtaş insulted Ahmet Davutoğlu who was the prime minister at the time. The prosecutor also emphasizes that the indictment has been prepared by the Küçükçekmece Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office after three separate decisions of rejection of venue.
- The fourth hearing of the trial in which 17 women who had attended the 19th Feminist Night March held on the Istiklal Avenue on 8 March 2021 face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” and “insulting the president” charges will be held in the Istanbul 10th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11.55. In the indictment he had filed on 10 August 2021, prosecutor Onur Yılmaz presents the ban decision of the Beyoğlu District Governor’s Office dated 06 March 2021, the slogans the women chanted and the women jumping to the rhythm of the slogans as evidence for the charges. The prosecutor argues that by attending an allegedly illegal demonstration, by chanting “Zıpla, zıpla; zıplamayan Tayyip’tir [Jump, jump; if you don’t jump, you are Tayyip]” and “Tayyip kaç kaç kaç;kadınlar geliyor [Tayyip run run run; the women are coming]” and by jumping to the rhythm of the slogans, the women had committed the offenses they have been charged with and requests them to be sentenced.
- The third hearing of the trial in which journalists Canan Coşkun and Barış Pehlivan face “identifying public officials on anti-terrorism duties as targets” charge will be held in the Istanbul 34th High Criminal Court, at 12.00. The indictment filed on 12April 2022 was prepared after the criminal complaint by the former presiding judge of the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court Akın Gürlek. The prosecutor presents the remarks of journalists Coşkun and Pehlivan in which they stated that the trial of the members of the Religious Scholars Solidarity Association (DIAYDER) is to be presided by judge Akın Gürlek who is known for his decisions in political trials. Citing the tweet Canan Coşkun had shared on her personal account on 29 December 2021 and in which she had shared the news report she wrote about the details of the indictment of the DIAYDER Trial and the remarks of Barış Pehlivan on the December 12th and 30th broadcasts of Halk TV’s Açıkça show, the prosecutor claims that “by specifically emphasizing the Religious Scholars Solidarity Association (Diayder) which is considered to be closely affiliated with the PKK/KCK Armed Terrorist Organization and by exposing the case file of the trial in question,” Coşkun and Pehlivan “identified Akın Gürlek as a target for the PKK/KCK Armed Terrorist Organization.” Akın Gürlek who is listed as “victim” in this case, had tried journalist Canan Coşkun over the same charge when he was the presiding judge of the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court and had sentenced Coşkun to 2 years and 3 months in prison for “identifying public officials on anti-terrorism duties as targets.” At the first hearing held on 27 October 2022, Barış Pehlivan’s lawyer argued that presiding judge Zafer Taşkın was the one who ordered Pehlivan’s arrest in 2020 for which Pehlivan’s lawyer filed a complaint with the Council of Judges and Prosecutors which is still under review. Pehlivan’s lawyer requested the recusal of Taşkın on the grounds that there is hostility between his client and the presiding judge. Canan Coşkun’s lawyer requested that the case file of her client be separated on the grounds that there is no actual connection between the actions for which the journalists are tried. Arguing that there is no need for him to be recused, the presiding judge wrote his dissenting opinion in the minutes and decided to send the case file to an upper court so that the request for recusal can be evaluated. The presiding judge also decided for request for the separation of cases to be evaluated after the request of recusal is decided upon. At the second hearing of the trial held on 17 January 2023, it was learned that request for recusal was rejected by a higher court. The presiding judge decided to give 15 days for the defense to submit their written arguments and to send the case file to the prosecution for their final opinion after the defense’s arguments are submitted.
May 11th, Thursday
- The first hearing of the trial in which 42 people who were violently detained before the 2nd Ankara Pride March which was planned to be held on 5 July 2022 face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” and “prevention of public duty” charges will be held in the Ankara 52nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.00. The indictment filed by Prosecutor Ramazan Hançer on 19 January 2023 refers to Article 22 of Law No. 2911 and presents the slogans chanted during the march, and video footage recorded by the police as evidence for the charges. Referring to LGBTI+ “persons affiliated with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex (LGBTI+) organization,” the prosecutor mentions the groups targeting the Pride March with hate speech and claims that the march was not allowed to go on so as to prevent possible incidents that could “disrupt social peace” between these groups and LGBTI+ individuals. The prosecutor claims that it became illegal when the march was attempted to be carried out nonetheless. Prosecutor Hançer had also prepared the indictment against 15 women who wanted to protest the femicide of Azra Gülendam Haytaoğlu and Emine Gökkız and charged them with “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies”, “prevention of public duty” and “intentional injury.” The prosecutor had alleged that the real intention of the 15 women was violence.
- The 24th hearing of the trial in which since-shuttered Dicle News Agency’s (DİHA) reporter Şerife Oruç faces “membership in a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Batman 2nd High Criminal Court, at 10.50. Oruç and two others were detained by police while in the field. Oruç was arrested on 5 July 2016 over the suspicion of “membership in a terrorist organization”. After two years in pre-trial detention in the Batman M-type prison, Oruç was released on 9 July 2018 but detained immediately at the prison gate because of a warrant issued for her arrest. She was later released on 10 July 2018. The court waited for four hearings for a response to the writ issued to the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office to get information about the criminal investigation being carried out against Oruç. Previously, the court had waited to hear the testimony of an anonymous witness who had Oruç arrested. Having waited until the 19th hearing of the trial held on 17 February 2022, the court decided not to hear the anonymous witness as he could not be found and instead had the testimony he gave during the investigation be read. On 23 June 2022, at the 21st hearing of the trial, the court decided to inquire with the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office about a criminal investigation initiated in 2022.
- The third hearing of the trial in which 10 people who were taken into custody on 4 September 2022 when police dispersed the September 2nd Festival held in May 1st neighborhood, face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charges will be held in the Istanbul 25th High Criminal Court, at 10.50. In the indictment, the prosecutor presents the statement of a complainant police officer, the report of the footage shot by the police, the slogans allegedly shouted by the defendants and the flags allegedly carried by the defendants as evidence for the charges. In addition to the charges of 2911 and propaganda, the prosecutor charged two people with “prevention of public duty” and three people with “destruction of public property.” Accepting the indictment, the Istanbul 25th High Criminal Court imposed international travel bans on 10 people. At the previous hearing of the trial held on 30 March 2023, the court decided to continue the international travel bans and decided to send the case file to an expert for the footage of the day of the incident to be analyzed. The prosecutor who indicted the 10 people had also prepared the indictment against eight LGBTIQ+ Assemblies activists who attended the 2021 Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride March. The eight activists were subsequently acquitted of the charges. The same prosecutor has also indicted 70 students who attended the 9th Boğaziçi University Pride March. The prosecutor filed the lawsuit against 70 students six months after the march.
- The sixth hearing of the trial in which journalists Can Bursalı, Barış Terkoğlu and the Chief Editor of Independent Turkish Nevzat Çiçek face “insult” and “calumny” charges upon complaint by the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s former lawyer Mustafa Doğan İnal will be held in the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 12.10. The indictment presents Bursalı’s article published in Independent Turkish on 3 December 2020 and in which Can Bursalı interviewed Barış Terkoğlu about the claims surrounding İnal in the book titled Metastaz 2: Cendere. Even though the prosecutor also cites December 2nd, the day on which the book was published as “the date of the offense”, he does not present the book itself as evidence. The prosecutor argues that by including the claim that İnal was paid 15 million Turkish Liras to represent the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality in a case even though he was not the staff lawyer of the municipality, Bursalı hurt the “honor, dignity and the reputation of İnal among the people” and requests that Bursalı, Terkoğlu and Çiçek be sentenced. In the indictment, the prosecutor also includes that he decided not to prosecute Bursalı, Terkoğlu and Çiçek for the offense of “fabricating an offense.” At the fourth hearing of the trial held on 20 September 2022, the court decided to give additional time for journalist Can Bursalı to prepare his arguments as he was not served with the proceedings. At the fifth hearing of the trial held on 26 January 2023, the court decided to have a witness who failed to attend the hearing despite being subpoenaed to be brought to the next hearing.
May 12th, Friday
- The eighth hearing of the trial in which 13 people who were taken into police custody during the protest organized to be held in Ankara in support of the Boğaziçi University students face “defying the Law no.2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” charge will be held in the Ankara 74th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.00. The prosecutor presents the protest planned to be held on 8 January 2021 as evidence for the charges. The court heard five defendants which also include those against whom arrest warrants were issued, in separate hearings. At the seventh hearing of the trial held on 17 February 2023, the court decided to issue an arrest warrant against one defendant and to have another defendant be brought to the next hearing after they had failed to attend previous hearings.
- The fifth hearing of the trial in which six people including 3 human rights activists who had attended the press statement on 3 February 2021 called by the İzmir Labor and Democracy Forces in support of the Boğaziçi University, face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies”, “insult” and “prevention of public duty” charges will be held in the Izmir 49th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 14.00. The evidence cited against the defendants include the testimonies of eight police officers who are included in the case as complainants. The police officers claim that they were “battered” and “injured” by the defendants during the police intervention which caused a public reaction because of the disproportionate violence of the police. In their statements, some of the police officers refer to the defendants as “…whom I knew from before.” On June 24, 2022, at the second hearing of the trial, the İzmir Provincial Security Directorate responded to the writ issued by the court at the previous hearing. The police claimed that they did not have the footage demanded by the court because “cameras were not working at the time.” At the third hearing of the trial held on 4 November 2022, the court decided to issue a subpoena for police officers who failed to attend hearings without providing their excuses. At the fourth hearing of the trial held on 13 January 2023, the court decided to have another expert’s report prepared about the footage of the incident. The three human rights activists who stand trial in this case also stood trial in another case in which they faced the charge of “insulting the president.”. In that case as well, the evidence cited against the defendants includes the testimonies of police officers. On 30 December 2022, two human rights defenders were sentenced to 11 months and 20 days in prison for “insulting the president.”
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