Upcoming Trials

Journalism and freedom of expression trials: Week of November 28

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

November 28th, Monday

  • The ninth hearing of the retrial of since shuttered Zaman newspaper columnists Şahin Alpay, Ali Bulaç, Mümtaz’er Türköne, Ahmet Turan Alkan and editor Mehmet Özdemir will be held in the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court, at 10.00. 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 7 April 2022, 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.

November 29th, Tuesday

  • The 15th hearing of the trial in which Vice News reporters Philip John Pendlebury and Jacob Philip John Gingell (Jake) Hanrahan along with their translator and fixer face “membership of a terrorist organization by willingly and knowingly aiding and abetting the organization”, “making propaganda for a terrorist organization”, and “opposing the Law on the Prevention of Financing of Terrorism” charges will be held in the Diyarbakır 8th High Criminal Court, at 09.00. Pendlebury and Hanrahan came to Diyarbakır in August to document the events in Cizre, Silopi, Nusaybin and Sur where a curfew had been imposed. The reporters were arrested in Diyarbakır in August 2015 and were subsequently deported. Since 2016, the court has been waiting for a response to the rogatory letters issued abroad so that the statement of the deported journalists can be taken. Among the questions asked to the journalists in the rogatory letters are “Why did you take notes?” and “Why did you take pictures?”
  • The 22nd hearing of the trial in which since-shuttered Dicle News Agency’s (DİHA) reporter Şerife Oruç faces “membership of a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Batman 2nd High Criminal Court, at 09.40. Oruç and two others were detained by police while reporting in the field. Oruç was arrested on July 5, 2016, on accusations of “membership of a terrorist organization”. After two years in detention in the Batman M-type prison,Oruç was released on July 9, 2018 but detained immediately at the prison gate because of an arrest warrant issued for her. She was later released on July 10, 2018. For the past four hearings, the court’s been waiting 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 second hearing of the trial in which journalist Sezgin Kartal whom MLSA represents in court, faces “insult by means of an oral, written or visual medium message” charge upon complaint by columnist Fuat Uğur will be held in the İstanbul 24th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09.40. The indictment presents a tweet Kartal had shared on his personal account on June 21 2021 and in which he criticized Uğur’s column which was published on Türkiye daily on June 19 2021. However, the prosecutor fails to state in the indictment that the tweet in question was intended to criticize Uğur’s column in which Uğur had claimed that the attack on the İzmir provincial building of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) which resulted in the death of Deniz Poyraz was the machination of HDP itself. On 20 October 2022, at the first hearing of the trial, the prosecutor presented his final opinion as to the accusations. Arguing that it has been understood that Kartal openly committed the offense he has been charged with, the prosecutor requested that Kartal be sentenced for “insulting by means of an oral, written or visual medium message.”
  • The first hearing of the retrial in which  since-shuttered Azadiya Welat daily’s former editor-in-chief İsmail Çoban faces “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court, at 10.10.The indictment which was prepared by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office was filed on 19 February 2015. The indictment presents news articles published on Azadiya Welat daily between 4 September – 30 September and 1 October- 21 October 2014 as evidence for the charge. Arguing that “despite numerous lawsuits brought against the daily and its former chief editors, the daily did not change its editorial policy and therefore continued acting like the [terrorist] organization’s press and thereby continued committing crimes,” the prosecutor requested that Çoban be sentenced. Began to hear the case in 2015, the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court sentenced Çobak to 1 year 8 months and 25 days in prison for “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” and deferred the announcement of the verdict. Another lawsuit was brought against Çoban in 2021 after allegedly banned copies of Özgürlükçü Demokrasi daily were found on his person during a search at the Tarsus Prison, where Çoban was held in pre-trial detention in connection with another investigation. The Tarsus 8th Criminal Court of First Instance sentenced Çoban to 2 years in prison for “conveying prohibited items to a prison or place of arrest.” After the finalization of the verdict, the Tarsus 8th Criminal Court of First Instance notified the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court. Reasoning that Çoban had committed an offense during the time in which the verdict for the propaganda charge was deferred, the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court decided to retry Çoban.
  • The sixth hearing of the retrial in which journalists Ahmet Memiş, Ali Akkuş, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Ünal Tanık, Yakup Çetin and Yetkin Yıldız face “aiding a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court, at 10.20. The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Court of Cassation had upheld the sentences of 17 out of 26 defendants and overturned sentences of 8 defendants. The court justified its decision to overturn convictions based on the fact that there is insufficient evidence to prove that seven defendants (excluding Atilla Taş) are “members in a terrorist organization.” The court also overturned Atilla Taş’s conviction for “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” charge, arguing that Taş’s actions constitute the elements of crimes of “insulting the president” and “denigrating the Turkish nation.” On February 17th, at the fourth hearing of the trial, the court had decided to separate the case file of musician and former Meydan daily columnist Atilla Taş on the grounds that there is no need to try him together with the rest and that all the evidence has been collected for other defendants. On 23 June 2022, at the fifth hearing of the trial, the court decided to remove the international travel ban imposed upon Çulhaoğlu.

November 30th, Wednesday

  • The 34th hearing of the trial in which 31 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 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 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.

December 1st, Thursday

  • The fourth hearing of the trial in which journalist Zübeyde Sarı whom MLSA represents in court, faces “publicly inciting the public to hatred and hostility” charge will be held in the Bakırköy 24th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.20. The evidence in the indictment are 11 social media posts, which were gathered by the police via “virtual patrol”, a method which the Constitutional Court found to be unlawful. The posts cited as evidence include posts which contain phrases like “the Dersim Genocide” and “Kobani.”
  • The third hearing of the trial in which Charlie Hebdo’s general director Julien Serignac, editor in chief Gérard Biard, executive editor Laurent Sorurisseau and cartoonist Alice face “insulting the president” charge will be held in the Ankara 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.44. 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 third hearing of the trial in which actor İlyas Salman faces “publicly degrading the Turkish nation, the Turkish state, the government and the state’s judicial bodies” charge will be held in the Anadolu 54th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 14.30. The indictment presents the statements of Salman in an interview as evidence against the actor. Even though the interview was first published on Yol TV’s YouTube account on January 23, 2021, the prosecutor states in the indictment that it was shared on the Facebook account of Oda TV. In the interview, commenting on a fellow actor’s acceptance of an award by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Salman stated that he would never accept an award from Erdoğan and said that “He got his award with the votes of these mindless people.” After the interview, Salman was targeted by the mainstream media and was accused of “insulting the nation.” On 13 September 2022, at the second hearing of the trial, the prosecutor presented his final opinion as to accusations, which was only four lines long. Arguing that it has been established that Salman committed the offense he has been charged with, the prosecutor requested that Salman be sentenced for “publicly degrading the Turkish nation.”

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