This week, the hearings of several journalism and freedom of expression trials will be held. Below is the list of these hearings:
November 8th, Tuesday
- The third 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 09.10. The indictment presents two cartoons Öztekin had shared on his personal Facebook account between 2015 and 2016 as evidence against the journalist.
- The eighth hearing of the trial in which 23 people who had attended the Boğaziçi University solidarity protest in Kadıköy held on February 2, 2021 with the call of the İstanbul Labor, Peace and Democracy Forces, face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Assemblies and Demonstration” and “prevention of public duty” charges will be held in the İstanbul Anadolu 38th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09.30. The evidence cited against the defendants in the indictment include social media posts about the protest and the slogans chanted by the protestors. Two students who were taken into custody on February 2nd and were sent to prison on February 4th, were released two months later at the hearing held on April 2, 2021.
- The second hearing of the trial in which columnist and expelled sociologist Veli Saçılık faces “insulting a public official” charge (on two accounts) upon complaint by the Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu and the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party Devlet Bahçeli will be held in the Ankara 30th Criminal Court of First Instance,at 11.00. The indictment filed on 14 April 2022 presents a tweet in which Saçılık quoted a news article about Süleyman Soylu and shared on his personal account on 12 January 2020 and a social media post about Devlet Bahçeli which the prosecutor claims that Saçılık had shared on his personal account on 15 January 2020 as evidence against Saçılık. The prosecutor claims that the statement Saçılık had given at the prosecutor’s office was intended “to get away with the crime committed” and that via the social media posts “offended the honor and dignity” of Süleyman Soylu and Devlet Bahçeli. On 8 June 2022, at the first hearing of the trial, the court accepted the intervention request of Süleyman Soylu on the grounds that “he may have been harmed by the offense committed.” The prosecutor who prepared the indictment against Saçılık is the same prosecutor who indicted Öztürk Türkdoğan, the Co-Chair of the Human Rights Association (İHD) for “insulting a public official” upon complaint by Süleyman Soylu. The Ankara 60th Criminal Court of First Instance had eventually acquitted Türkdoğan on the grounds that “his actions cited as evidence for the charges are not defined as a crime in the law.”
- The first hearing of the trial in which the managing editor of the Demokratik Modernite magazine Ramazan Yurttapan, the magazine’s editor Haydar Ergül and the authors who contributed to the 37th issue of the magazine Cihan Doğan, Musa Şanak and Zülal Nazan Üstündağ face “degrading the Turkish Nation, the state of Turkish Republic, the organs and institutions of the state” charge will be held in the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11.00. The indictment presents some sentences in eight articles of the 37th issue of the magazine as evidence against Yurttapan, Ergül and the authors. Arguing that the alleged offense was committed openly and in a consecutive manner, the prosecutor requests an increase of the sentence that is to be imposed upon the defendants. The prosecutor who indicted Yurttapan, Ergül and the authors is the same prosecutor who prepared the indictment against 17 women who had attended the 19th Feminist March and who jumped in sync with the chant “Zıpla, zıpla; zıplamayan Tayyip’tir [Jump, jump; if you don’t jump, you are Tayyip]” and therefore have been charged with “insulting the president” and “defying the Law no.2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies.”
- The fourth hearing of the trial in which journalists Olcay Büyüktaş Akça, Ozan Alper Yurtoğlu, Serkan Ozan and Hazal Ocak face “insult by means of an oral, written or visual medium message” charge upon complaint by Bilal Erdoğan will be held in the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 13.30. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son Bilal Erdoğan filed a criminal complaint against journalists after a news report by Ocak titled “Burak and Bilal Erdoğan’s friend Başçı won 5 public tenders worth 26,4 million Turkish liras: The friend is tenders rich” was published in Cumhuriyet daily on January 31, 2021. In the indictment, it is claimed that the expressions in the report like “Bilal Erdoğan’s lucky friend”, “the friend is tenders rich” and the displaying Bilal Erdoğan’s photos in the report can be considered to constitute the elements of insult and libel. Presenting his final opinion as to the accusations in the hearing held on February 8th, the prosecutor claimed that journalists “openly insulted the complainant in a consecutive manner” and requested that they be sentenced to prison for up to 4 years.
- The 19th hearing of the trial in which 23 defendants, including Etkin News Agency (ETHA) editor İsminaz Temel, former ETHA reporter Havva Cuştan and the lawyers of the Law Firm of the Oppressed (EHB) face “membership in a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charges will be held in the İstanbul 27th High Criminal Court, at 14.00. 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.
November 9th, Wednesday
- The sixth hearing of the trial in which the former MP of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Sırrı Süreyya Önder faces “degrading the Turkish Nation, the state of Turkish Republic, the organs and institutions of the state [Art. 301 of the Turkish Penal Code]” charge will be held in the Diyarbakır 4th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.35. The indictment presents Önder’s 2016 testimony at the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and his speech at the rally organized to protest HDP Co-Chairs and MPs being arrested as evidence for the charge. In his testimony at the prosecutor’s office, Önder said that “I have no doubt about you in person or mean any disrespect towards you. But it is not possible for me to accept this prosecution, which was initiated because Erdoğan, who has a shady political past, ordered it.” Önder was sentenced to 10 months in prison for “insulting the president” on the grounds that he had insulted Erdoğan with the word “shady.” The indictment also presents Önder’s expression in a speech on November 5, 2016 where he said “The court does not belong to the qadi.” At the July 6th hearing of the trial, the prosecutor presented his final opinion as to the accusations which consisted of six lines. Arguing that “it has been established that Önder committed the offense he has been charged with at different dates as can be seen in the sentences written in the indictment”, the prosecutor requested that Önder be sentenced for “publicly degrading the Turkish Nation, State of the Turkish Republic, the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the judicial bodies.” On 21 September 2022, at the fifth hearing of the trial, the judge decided to adjourn the trial as he was newly assigned to the case and wanted to review the case file.
November 10th, Thursday
- The ninth hearing of the trial in which journalist Rüstem Batum whom MLSA represents in court, faces “insulting the president” and “inciting the public to hatred and hostility” charges will be held in the Istanbul 5th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09.30. The indictment presents 20 tweets Rüstem had posted between 2016 – 2018 as evidence against him.
- The 18th hearing of the trial in which Azadiya Welat and Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspapers’ distributors Mikail Tunçdemir and Ferhat Duman face “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “willingly and knowingly aiding and abetting a terrorist organization” charges will be held in the Van 5th High Criminal Court, at 11.15. Tunçdemir and Duman stand trial due to news reports published in 2018 in the papers which they distributed.
- The third hearing of the trial in which journalist Can Ataklı faces “publicly degrading a section of the public” will be held in the İstanbul 16th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11.40. The indictment presents the statements Ataklı had made during his show “Gün Başlıyor [the Day Begins]” aired on Tele 1 on May 21, 2021. On the show, Ataklı commented on the brawl that broke out during the Rize visit of the İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener on May 20th. The prosecutor claims that Ataklı insulted the people of Rize with his comments. The indictment lists 40 complainants, including the Rize branch of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). On June 15 2022, at the first hearing of the trial, the court decided to subpoena Ataklı who failed to attend the hearing and to reject the intervention requests of two complainants on the grounds that they were not directly harmed by the alleged offense.
November 11th, Friday
- The seventh 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 report 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.
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