This week, the hearings of several journalism and freedom of expression trials will be held. Below is the list of these hearings:
November 1st, Tuesday
- The second hearing of the SLAPP case brought by the Demirören Media Group against Medya Koridoru’s proprietor and editor-in-chief Canan Kaya whom MLSA represents in court, will be held in the İstanbul 18th Civil Court of First Instance at 09.50. Citing Kaya’s news article titled “Demirören yolun sonuna yaklaşıyor: Ziraat Bankası ‘kayyumları’ ne istedi? [End of the road for Demirören: What did Ziraat Bank ‘trustees’ want?]” published on Medya Koridoru, on November 26, 2021, the lawyers of the Demirören Media Group claim that Kaya damaged “the commercial reputation” and violated “the personal rights”’ of “a respectable company which serves the public interest.” Including the details of the Group’s investment in the media sector in their petition, the lawyers claim that Kaya’s news report was “purposefully ill intentioned.” Arguing that the news report reached wide audiences, the lawyers ask for a compensation of 20,000 Turkish Liras for non pecuniary damages but also requests that the news report be removed and the verdict of the court be published in two of the most read newspapers in Turkey as well as on the website of Medya Koridoru. The lawyers of the Demirören Media Group had also filed a criminal complaint against Canan Kaya for “unfair competition.” After its investigation, the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office ruled not to prosecute Kaya on the grounds that the news report in question is “not against the principle of honesty” and the elements of the offense of “unfair competition were not established.” On June 7, 2022, at the first hearing of the trial, the court decided to issue a writ to relevant parties so that the listed evidence can be collected; to ask about the writ issued to the Security General Directorate for the investigation of journalist Kaya’s socioeconomic conditions and to ask the Press Council General Secretariat to send a copy of the reprimand decision.
- The 26th hearing of the “KCK Press Trial” in which 46 journalists including Dilek Demiral whom MLSA represents in court, face terror-related charges will be held in the İstanbul 3rd High Criminal Court, at 11.45. 32 journalists out of the 46 who were taken into custody on December 20, 2011 were arrested on December 24 as part of a criminal investigation against the Kurdish media including the Dicle News Agency, Özgür Gündem, Azadiya Welat, Demokratik Modernite and Fırat Distribution Inc. The indictment presents interviews, photos, press briefings that the journalists attended, correspondence with news resources and many other journalistic activities as evidence against the journalists. The trial has been going on for the past 10 years. Among the journalists tried in this case is also Ömer Çelik who was arrested on June 16, 2022 along with 15 other journalists as part of a criminal investigation led by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.
- The third hearing of the trial in which journalist Evrim Kepenek faces “insult” charge will be held in the Selçuk Criminal Court of First Instance, at 12.00. The lawsuit is brought against Kepenek and 3 other defendants after Refik Y. who is alleged to have sexually abused his 6 years old child, filed a criminal complaint against Kepenek and other defendants claiming that his ”right to privacy” was violated and that he was ”insulted.” The indictment presents the news articles by Kepenek in which the journalist reported the abuse and the social media posts shared by the defendants. On June 21, 2022 at the second hearing of the trial, the court rejected the request of Refik Y.’s lawyer for journalist Kepenek to be subpoenaed and decided to wait for the finalization of the verdict in the trial against Refik Y.
November 2nd, Tuesday
- The eighth hearing of the retrial of since shuttered Zaman newspaper columnists Şahin Alpay, Ali Bulaç, Mümtaz’er Türköne and editor Mehmet Özdemir will be held in the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court, at 09.30. The Court of Cassation’s 16th Penal Chamber completed its appellate review of the Zaman newspaper case and overturned the convictions of Alpay, Bulaç and Türköne, ruling that their actions do not constitute “membership in a terrorist organization” and that they should be tried for “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization without being a member” charge. The court also overturned the acquittal decision for editor Özdemir, ruling that his actions constitute “membership in a terrorist organization” and therefore should be tried for this charge. On April 7th, at the sixth hearing of the trial, the prosecutor presented his final opinion as to the accusations and requested that Ali Bulaç, Şahin Alpay, Mümtazer Türköne and Ahmet Turan Alkan be sentenced for “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization without being a member.” The prosecutor also requested that the case file of Mehmet Özdemir be separated as the arrest warrant issued against him could not be executed.
- The 20th hearing of the trial in which Etkin News Agency (ETHA) editor Semiha Şahin and reporter Pınar Gayıp face “membership in a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charges will be held in the İstanbul 23rd High Criminal Court, at 11.15. Şahin and Gayıp were released with judicial control measures following a 14-month detainment after the hearing, which was held on June 13, 2019. Their house arrest was ended during the hearing held on December 11, 2019. Before the hearing on March 24 2022, the prosecutor submitted his final opinion as to the accusation which was not served to the journalists’ lawyers. Defining ETHA as an agency which “publishes in line with the opinions and the ideology of the MLKP terrorist organization”, the prosecutor requested that Şahin and Gayıp be sentenced for “membership of a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.”
November 4th, Friday
- The 18th hearing of the trial in which journalist Rüstem Batum whom MLSA represents in court, faces “publicly denigrating the state’s military and law enforcement personnel” charge pursuant to Turkish Penal Code’s notorious Article 301 will be held in the İstanbul 43rd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11.00. Batum faces the charge for statements he made during a TV appearance on journalist Ayşegül Doğan’s programme on İMC TV in September 2015. Before the June 24, 2022 hearing of the trial, the complainant who filed a criminal complaint against Batum in 2015 petitioned the court and withdrew her complaint against Batum.
- The 32nd hearing of the trial in which 35 people, including since-shuttered Dicle News Agency (DİHA) reporter Engin Eren face “membership in a terrorist organization”, “defying the Law no. 2911 on Assemblies and Demonstrations” and “defying the Law no. 2565 Military Restricted Zones and Security Zones” charges will be held in the Batman 2nd High Criminal Court, at 13.30. 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. The prosecutor presented his final opinion at the 30th hearing of the trial held on June 3, 2022. The prosecutor requested that 29 people, including Engin Eren be sentenced for “being a member of an armed organization by committing an offense on behalf of the organization”, “prevention of public duty”, “defying the Law no. 2911 on Assemblies and Demonstrations” and “defying the Law no. 2565 Military Restricted Zones and Security Zones.”
- The third hearing of the trial in which six people including 3 human rights activists who had attended the February 3rd Press Statement 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 İzmir 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.” The three human rights activists who stand trial in this case also stand trial in another case in which they face the charge of “insulting the president.”. In that case as well, the evidence cited against the defendants includes the testimonies of police officers. 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.”
- The seventh 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 İstanbul Küçükçekmece 23rd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 14.00. The indictment filed on March 27, 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 October 28, 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 November 3, 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.
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