This week, the hearings of several journalism and freedom of expression trials will be held. Below is the list of these hearings:
November 22nd, Tuesday
- The first hearing of the trial in which the Mesopotamia News Agency’s proprietor and managing editor Ferhat Çelik and the proprietor of Jiyan News İdris Yayla face “disclosing or publishing the identities of public officials on anti-terror duties or identifying public officials on anti-terror duties as targets” charge upon complaint by prosecutor İ. K. will be held in the Van 2nd High Criminal Court, at 09.20. The indictment presents a news article titled “Gazetecilere gözaltı talimatını aynı savcı verdi [The same prosecutor ordered for the journalists to be taken into custody]” which was published on the website of the Mesopotamia News Agency on 8 October 2020, as evidence for the charges. In the cited news article, it was shared with the public that the prosecutor İ. K. who ordered journalists Adnan Bilen, Cemil Uğur, Şehriban Abi, Nazan Sala and former newspaper distributors Şükran Erdem, Mikail Tunçdemir and Fehim Çetiner to be taken into custody after Uğur’s news article broke the story of how villagers in Van’s Çatak district were tortured by the security forces and that Osman Şiban and Servet Turgut were thrown off from a helicopter by soldiers, was the same prosecutor who at that time led the criminal investigation against the soldiers who tortured Osman Şiban and Servet Turgut. Requesting that journalists Çelik and Yayla to be sentenced, in the indictment, the prosecutor claims that in addition to Jiyan News, the news article by the Mesopotamia News Agency was shared by other “press organizations which are supportive of the terrorist organization” and thereby prosecutor Köker was identified as a target for the terrorist organization. Among the websites listed by the prosecutor as “press organizations which are supportive of the terrorist organization” and which also shared the news article are the websites of Evrensel daily, ArtıGerçek and the website of the Kocaeli MP of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu. In the indictment, the prosecutor gives 9 October 2020 as “the date of the offense” despite the fact that the news article in question was published on 8 October 2020. Prosecutor Köker who had also indicted journalists Adnan Bilen, Cemil Uğur, Şehriban Abi, Zeynep Durgut and Nazan Sala in “the Helicopter Torture Case” in which all journalists were eventually acquitted, also referred the journalists Adnan Bilen, Cemil Uğur, Şehriban Abi and Nazan Sala on 9 October 2020 to the Van 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace and requested them to be arrested. In its 18 January 2022 ruling, the Constitutional Court found that the detention of journalist Cemil Uğur who was arrested on 9 October 2020 together with his three colleagues, was unlawful and ruled that Uğur’s right to liberty and security was violated.
- The eighth hearing of the “Boğaziçi Rainbow case” in which 12 students of Boğaziçi University face “defying the Law no.2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” charge will be held in the İstanbul 24th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09.30. The indictment presents “the LGBT flags which the students insisted on not covering up” and the slogans shouted by students as evidence for the charge. On March 24th, at the fifth hearing of the trial, the defense was notified that the expert’s report requested by the court was submitted to the case file. The report was supposed to determine whether or not the police warned the students before intervening and whether or not the students dispersed after the warning. However, the report described students as those “who defied the ban and who marched” and claimed that the students were blocking the traffic despite the fact that the report contained photographs of students standing on the sidewalk. On 13 November 2022, the prosecutor presented his final opinion as to the accusations to the case file. Refraining from mentioning the LGBTİ+ flags which were presented as criminal evidence in the indictment, the prosecutor claimed that students were protesting the appointed rector Melih Bulu contrary to the fact the students were protesting against the disciplinary investigation initiated against their friends on the grounds that they were carrying rainbow flags. Arguing that the students violated the demonstration bans imposed by the Beşiktaş and Sakarya District Governorships and claiming that they failed to disperse “despite multiple warnings”, the prosecutor requests imprisonment for 12 students up to 3 years.
- The eighth hearing of the trial in which journalist Cengiz Çandar whom MLSA represents in court and activist Kemal Işıktaş face “praising an offense and an offender” charge will be held in the İstanbul 30th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09.40. The indictment presents a 2017 tweet in which Çandar and Işıktaş commemorated Ayşe Deniz Karacagil who died fighting ISIS. In the indictment, the prosecution 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. For the past couple of hearings, the court has been waiting for the return of the rogatory letters issued so that the statement of journalist Çandar who lives abroad can be taken.
- The fifth hearing of the trial in which journalist Cihan Ölmez faces “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court, at 09.43. Journalist Ölmez was in Cizre at the time when a city-wide curfew was in place and gave interviews on the grave human rights violations in the region during the curfew. The indictment presents the news reports which contained his statements on human rights violations during the curfew and which he also had shared on his social media accounts back in 2016, as evidence against the journalist. The indictment also defines media outlets such as Evrensel daily and bianet as “so-called media outlets” and claims that they “support PKK/KCK.”
- The second hearing of the retrial of the since shuttered Özgür Gündem daily’s managing editor Reyhan Çapan over the charges of “failing to publish reply and correction in a proper way” will be held in the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11.20. In the indictment filed on 20 January 2015, the prosecutor claimed that Eren Keskin and Çapan failed to publish reply and correction to the article titled “Çocuk Katilleri [Child Killers]” published in the daily on 17 June 2014. Citing the order of the Adana 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace for a reply and correction to be published, the prosecutor requested that Çapan be sentenced as per the Article 18/1-2 and 3 of the Press Law no. 5187 as they failed to publish the ordered reply and correction in a way deemed proper by the judgeship. The İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance which heard the case imposed upon Çapan and Eren Keskin, who was the co-executive editor of the daily, a judicial fine of 50.000 Turkish Liras. The court had deferred the announcement of the verdict for Keskin and the lawyers of Çapan appealed against the sentence. Reviewing the appeal, the 19th Penal Chamber of the Court of Cassation overturned Çapan’s sentence on the grounds the procedures of simple trial procedure were violated. On 16 June 2022, at the first hearing of the trial, the court decided to issue a writ to the law enforcement so that the address of S.A. who is an intervening party in the case can be determined.
- The 23rd hearing of the trial in which since-shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper’s editors-in-chief Hüseyin Aykol, Zana Bilir Kaya, managing editor İnan Kızılkaya and politician Hatip Dicle face “openly degrading the government, the judiciary or the police force” and “openly degrading the Turkish nation, the Turkish Republic and the Parliament” charges will be held in the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11.25. The indictments present the news articles published in the newspaper as evidence against the defendants.
- The third hearing of the retrial of Evrensel daily’s former managing editor Çağrı Sarı and the daily’s former proprietor Arif Koşar face “publicly degrading the military or security organizations of the state” charge will be held in the istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11.55. In 2017, Sarı and Koşar were sentenced to 5 months in prison because of a news article titled “Polis Nusaybin’de halkı taradı: 3 yaralı [The police fired into the crowd in Nusaybin: 3 wounded]” which was published in the daily on March 15, 2016. After Sarı and Koşar’s lawyer appealed the conviction, the 3rd Penal Chamber of the Court of Cassation reviewed the case file. The Court of Cassation ruled that Sarı and Koşar should have been acquitted as the elements of the alleged offense did not occur and sent the case file back to the local court for retrial. The first hearing of the trial held on 28 June 2022 was adjourned as the Court of Cassation’s remitter was not served to Arif Koşar. The second hearing of the trial held on 15 November 2022 was adjourned so that the prosecution can prepare its final opinion as to the accusations.
- The third hearing of the trial in which the President of the Ankara Branch of the Chamber of Architects Tezcan Karakuş Candan and 6 former members of the Executive Committee face “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Ankara 25th High Criminal Court, at 14.00. The indictment explains that the architects have been charged with a terrorism-related charge because they had awarded Jin TV reporter Güler Yıldız Bastion with the Emre Madra Press Award for her work on the destruction of nature, hydroelectric dams and mines. The prosecutor claims that Jin TV is among the media outlets which serve to disseminate PKK propaganda. The indictment presents the informational note by the Department of Combating Cyber Crimes which was prepared after the award became “a hot topic in national press and social media” and social media posts by an account claimed to be belonging to Jin TV. The prosecutor also cites speeches and news articles by Güler Yıldız dating back to 2015 and 2016 even though she is not a defendant in the case. After the award ceremony picked up by media outlets close to the government, including the state-owned Anadolu Agency, the Chamber and the architects became the targets of orchestrated troll attacks. The second hearing of the trial held on 15 September 2022 was adjourned as the court decided to wait for the digital material examination report to be submitted to the case file.
November 23rd, Wednesday
- The 10th hearing of the trial in which journalist Aziz Oruç whom MLSA represents in court, faces “membership in a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charges; the Dicle Fırat Journalists’ Association’s Co-Chair Dicle Müftüoğlu, Muhammet İkram Müftüoğlu, HDP Doğubayazıt Co-Chair Abdullah Ekelik, Turgay İlboğa and Yücel İlhan face “knowingly and willingly aiding and abetting a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Ağrı 2nd High Criminal Court, at 09.40. 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 at the third hearing which was held on November 9, 2020. On 28 September 2022, at the ninth hearing of the trial, the prosecutor presented his final opinion as to the accusations. Arguing that “there is no sufficient and convincing evidence” to support the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization”, the prosecutor requested that journalist Aziz Oruç be acquitted of this charge. However, citing his social media posts, the prosecutor argued that it has been established that Oruç committed the offense he has been charged with, the prosecutor requested that Oruç be sentenced for “openly making propaganda for a terrorist organization in a consecutive manner.” In his final opinion, the prosecutor argued that as there is no evidence to support the claim of Oruç’s membership in a terrorist organization, Muhammet İkram Müftüoğlu, Abdullah Ekelik, Dicle Müftüoğlu, Turgay İlboğa and Yücel İlhan cannot be sentenced for “knowingly and willingly aiding and abetting a terrorist organization.” Therefore, the prosecutor reasoned that Muhammet İkram Müftüoğlu, Abdullah Ekelik, Dicle Müftüoğlu, Turgay İlboğa and Yücel İlhan who had saved Oruç from freezing to death, should be sentenced for “protecting an offender” (Article 283/1 of the Turkish Penal Code) as Oruç had standing arrest warrants against him. Together with his 15 colleagues, journalist Aziz Oruç has been held in pretrial detention since 16 June 2022 because of a criminal investigation led by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office over the suspicion of “membership in a terrorist organization.”
- The appeals hearing of the 10 month prison sentence imposed upon journalist Alican Uludağ for “disclosing or publishing the identities of public officials on anti-terror duties or identifying public officials on anti-terror duties as targets” will be held in the 22nd Penal Chamber of the Ankara Regional Court of Appeals, at 10.30. On September 30, 2020, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office indicted journalist Uludağ for “identifying officials on anti-terrorist duties as targets” citing a tweet Uludağ had shared on his personal account. The social media post in question contained Uludağ’s criticism of former Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor Yüksel Kocaman who had visited President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan immediately after getting married. In his criticism, Uludağ referred to the fact that Kocaman was the one who had the former Co-President of People’s Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş re-arrested in defiance of the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights and wrote “This is how political opponents are arrested.” In the indictment, the prosecutor claimed that Uludağ “pointed Kocaman as a target for the members of the terrorist organization” with his tweet. On December 2, 2020, the first hearing of the trial was held in the Ankara 18th High Criminal Court. At the first hearing, Uludağ gave his defense and argued that the indictment was prepared with ill-intentions as the prosecutor kept the first tweet of the thread out of the indictment. On February 3, 2021, at the second hearing of the trial, the court sentenced Uludağ to 10 months in prison for “pointing officials on anti-terrorist duties as targets.” The first hearing of the appeals held on 14 September 2022 was adjourned so that the prosecution can prepare its final opinion as to the accusations.
November 24th, Thursday
- The second hearing of the trial in which 10 people, including journalist Zeynep Kuray face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” charge will be held in the İstanbul 39th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 13.30. The indictment prepared by the prosecutor of the Gezi Case and which was filed on 24 January 2022, presents the sit-in protest held on 10 May 2019 in order to show solidarity with the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP Leyla Güven who was on a hunger strike at the time as evidence for the charges. Claiming that “individuals supportive of the terrorist organization attend the protest”, the prosecutor claims that the protest was organized by the HDP and presents it as a criminal element. The prosecutor requests imprisonment for those who he also claims “failed to disperse despite the warnings.” 10 people, including journalist Kuray, were held in police custody for two days. At the first hearing of the trial held on 13 September 2022, the court decided to remove the judicial control measures imposed upon nine defendants and adjourned the case so that the case file can be completed.
November 25th, Friday
- The first 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 09.30. 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.
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