This week, the hearings of several journalism and freedom of expression trials will be held. Below is the list of these hearings:
October 17th, Monday
- The first hearing of the retrial in which the since-shuttered IMC TV’s Programs Coordinator and the hostess of the show “Gündem Müzakere” Ayşegül Doğan faces “membership in an armed terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court, at 09.15. On December 7 2020, journalist Doğan was sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison for “membership in an armed terrorist organization” because of her journalistic activities such as her interviews with the representatives of the Democratic Society Congress and the meeting or events she attended. Announcing its decision on March 10 2022, the 2nd Penal Chamber of the Diyarbakır Regional Courts of Appeal ruled to overturn the conviction of journalist Doğan on the grounds that the first degree court convicted Doğan “without adequate investigation” and “with a reasoning which was not compatible with the context of the case file.” The appeals court also ruled to continue the international travel ban imposed upon Doğan a very long time ago, reasoning that it is “proportionate.”
- The first hearing of the trial in which the former Chair of the Diyarbakır Bar Association Cihan Aydın and the Association’s former board members Muhlis Oğurgül, Ahmet Dağ, Erhan Aytekin, Fırat Üger, Gazal Bayram Koluman, Mehmet Akbaş, Serdar Çelebi, Tevfik Karahan, Ömer Şeran and Özgür Yılmaz Biçen face “degrading the Turkish Nation, State of the Turkish Republic, Turkish Grand National Assembly, the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the judicial bodies of the State” charge will be held in the Diyarbakır 11th High Criminal Court, at 10.15. Following the Diyarbakır Provincial Security Directorate’s criminal report, the indictment was prepared by the Batman Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office after the Ministry of Justice granted permission for a criminal investigation to be launched against the lawyers. The indictment presents the remarks in two press statements published on the website of the Diyarbakır Bar Association as evidence for the charges against the lawyers. The prosecutor claims that over the remarks in the press statement titled “1915…!” which was published on April 24 2019 and the press statement titled “Korkmuyoruz ve Susmayacağız!” [We Are Not Afraid and We Will Not Remain Silent!] which was published on December 2 2019 in order to protest the lawsuit brought against the association’s 2017-2018 executives because of their statements about the Armenian Genocide, the lawyers committed the offense they have been charged with. During the investigation, the lawyers refused to provide their statements on the grounds that there is no criminal element in the cited statements. After the Batman 3rd High Criminal Court granted permission for a final investigation to be initiated against the lawyers as per the Article 59 of the Law no. 1136 on Attorneyship, the lawyers appealed against the court’s decision in 2020. However, the 2nd Penal Chamber of the Diyarbakır Regional Courts of Appeal dismissed the lawyers’ appeal on the grounds that only the verdict of the high criminal court of the location where the crime was committed can be appealed against and thus there is no basis for the appeal. Upon the appeals court’s decision, the Diyarbakır 11th High Criminal Court decided to accept the indictment against the lawyers.
- The sixth hearing of the trial in which 14 members of Kocaeli Student Solidarity and EMEP Central Executive Board Member Tarık Erkan, the Head of the Kocaeli Branch of the Education and Science Workers’ Union (Eğitim Sen) Suphi Yıldırım and the Branch Secretary Ömer Furkan Özdemir face “defying the Law on Assemblies and Demonstrations no. 2911” and “prevention of public duty” charges will be held in the Kocaeli 5th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 14.05. 17 people stand trial for attending the press release organized by Kocaeli Student Solidarity on February 11 to show solidarity with the students of Boğaziçi University who had been detained at the protests against “the appointed rector” Melih Bulu. The indictment presents a banner inscribed with “We will not look down, we will not bow down” and the slogan “the appointed rector will go, we will stay” as evidence against 17 people.
October 18th, Tuesday
- The first hearing of the trial in which journalist and author Ender İmrek faces “insulting the president” charge will be held in the Bakırköy 44th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09.40. The indictment presents a column by İmrek titled “Türkiye yanıyor, saray izliyor [Turkey is burning, the palace is watching]” which was published on Evrensel’s website on July 30, 2022. The prosecutor claims that expressions in the column in which İmrek criticized the lack of response to the forest fires ravaging the country at the time and in which President Erdoğan was never mentioned by name, were “insulting to the honor, dignity and respectability of the President of the Republic of Turkey.” However, the prosecutor fails to specify which expressions in the column are insulting.
- The second hearing of the trial in which journalist Metin Cihan faces “insult by means of an oral, written or visual medium message” charge upon complaint by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak will be held in the İstanbul 36th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09.45. The indictment presents a tweet Cihan had shared on his personal account on April 30th, 2020. In his one-page indictment, the prosecutor emphasizes that Albayrak was the Minister of Treasury and Finance at the time and Cihan had insulted him “because of his duties as a public official.” On April 28 2022, at the first hearing of the trial also known in the public as “the Vibrating Ring Trial”, the court decided to accept the intervention request of Berat Albayrak and to issue an arrest warrant against journalist Cihan.
- The second hearing of the trial in which the former Chair of the Van-Hakkari Chamber of Physicians Dr. Hüseyin Yaviç and the Van Representative of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) Sevim Çiçek face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” charge will be held in the Van 4th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.30. On October 25 2021, the representatives of NGOs and healthcare professionals wanted to make a press statement on the death of doctor Rümeyse Berin Şen who died in a car accident in Ankara after a 36-hour shift. The Van police however, did not allow the press statement and took human rights defenders Yaviç and Çiçek into custody. Among the evidence cited against the human rights defenders are the demonstration ban which has been in force in Van for the past six years and the footage of the press statement which was prevented by the police. On May 26 2022, at the first hearing of the trial, the court decided to send the footage in the case file to an expert for it to be reviewed.
- The fourth hearing of the trial in which 10 people, including EMEP Dersim Provincial President Ergin Tekin, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Dersim Provincial Co-Presidents İbrahim Kasun and Nurşat Yeşil, the Dersim Branch Chairperson of Disk Genel-İş Şükran Yılmaz who were taken into police custody during a Dersim Labour and Democracy Forces protest against high cost of living at Dersim’s Seyit Rıza Square face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” and “prevention of public duty” charges will be held in the Tunceli 1st Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.55. The prosecutor presents the statements of the complainant police officers and the footage of the protest as evidence against the defendants. On July 19 2022, at the second hearing of the trial, the court accepted the intervention request by one of the complainant police officers.
October 19th, Wednesday
- The fifth hearing of the retrial in which Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Erol Önderoğlu and Ahmet Nesin face “making propaganda for a terrorist organization”, “incitement to commit an offense” and “praising an offense and an offender” charges will be held in the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court, at 11.00. Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Erol Önderoğlu are being retried at the “Özgür Gündem Solidarity Trial” after the 3rd Penal Chamber of Istanbul Regional Court of Appeal overturned the acquittal verdict of three human rights defenders on November 2020.
- The third hearing of the trial in which the Co-Chair of the Ankara Branch of the Human Rights Association (İHD) Fatin Kanat faces “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Ankara 25th High Criminal Court, at 11.45. The 2022 indictment presents nine press statements made by the Freedom for Ill Prisoners Initiative in 2019 and a press statement made by the Justice for Roboski Initiative in 2018. The prosecutor claims that the press statements made in front of the IHD Ankara building were made “upon orders from the terrorist organization.” On September 6 2022, at the second hearing of the trial, the court decided to send the case file to the prosecutor so that he can prepare his final opinion as to the accusations.
- The second hearing of the SLAPP brought against journalist Mehmet Kızmaz and Cumhuriyet daily by the Turkey Youth Foundation (TÜGVA) will be held in the İstanbul 9th Civil Court of First Instance, at 12.50. In the lawsuit petition, TÜGVA lawyers describe the foundation as a foundation “which has been established to raise generations who defend all that is good and beautiful in the world, who will always side with the just and the righteous” and a foundation “which only strives to help raising a youth that is loyal to their state and capable.” The TÜGVA lawyers claim that the news article by Mehmet Kızmaz titled “Ensar, TÜRGEV, TÜGVA paralel terör örgütü gibi [Ensar, TÜRGEV, TÜGVA are like the parallel terrorist organization]” and which was published in Cumhuriyet on October 23 2021, “damaged the [Foundation’s] personal rights and the reputability in the public eye.” Arguing that “even though it will not cover the spiritual damages” inflicted on the Foundation, the lawyers still request a compensation of 50.000 Turkish Liras because of the “deterrent” effect of such compensation will have. The foundation’s lawyers also present the tweets by Salih Altun who was the Deputy Governor of Bitlis at the time. In the tweets, Altun had denied the claims in the news report that he warned about TÜGVA, TÜRGEV, the Ensar Foundation and İlim Yayma Cemiyeti [the Wisdom Spreading Community] being like “the parallel terrorist organization.”
- The fifth hearing of the trial in which journalist Metin Cihan and his alleged source face “illegally obtaining or giving personal data” charge will be held in the İstanbul 22nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 13.00. The indictment in which the Turkey Youth Foundation (TÜGVA) is listed as “the injured party”, presents social media posts of Cihan through which he publicized the leaked documents about TÜGVA showing the corruption the foundation has been involved in as evidence against the journalist. Even though the prosecutor states that he failed to authenticate the content of the documents, he nonetheless claims that the documents have been “doctored” and requests up to six years imprisonment for Cihan. On May 11 2022, at the third hearing of the trial, the court decided to release Ramazan Aydoğdu with judicial control measures imposed upon him and left the request of Cihan’s lawyer for the authenticity of the papers in question to be asked from the TÜGVA unanswered. On June 24 2022, at the fourth hearing of the trial, the court decided to issue a writ to the Ministry of Justice to inquire about the experts who were assigned to prepare a report but rejected to do so without providing any explanation.
- The third hearing of the trial in which Evrensel daily’s managing editor Görkem Kınacı, BirGün Daily’s News Director Uğur Şahin and birgun.net’s managing editor Uğur Koç face “libel” and “insulting a public official” charges upon complaint by Constitutional Court Judge İrfan Fidan will be held in the Beykoz 6th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 14.25. The indictment presents the news reports published on the websites of Evrensel and BirGün on October 11, 2020. The prosecutor claims that by publishing the entirety of MP Ahmet Şık’s tweets in which Şık shared some allegations about “a high level member of the judiciary”, journalists defamed and insulted İrfan Fidan even though neither Şık’s tweets nor the news reports contain the name of İrfan Fidan. In order to support his claim that Fidan was defamed and insulted by the journalists, the prosecutor cites the appointment of İrfan Fidan to various posts, the fact that “he is a high level member of the judiciary” and the popularity of his name. The prosecutor requests that journalists who “acted in unison” be sentenced. On June 22 2022, at the first hearing of the trial, the court decided to accept the intervention request by İrfan Fidan but decided not to hear Fidan on the grounds that it will not contribute to the case file. On October 12 2022, at the second hearing of the trial, the prosecutor presented her final opinion as to the accusations. Emphasizing that complainant İrfan Fidan was not mentioned by name in the news reports, the prosecutor requested that the journalists be acquitted of all charges.
October 20th, Thursday
- The first hearing of the trial in which journalist Sezgin Kartal faces “insult by means of an oral, written or visual medium message” charge upon complaint by Fuat Uğur will be held in the İstanbul 24th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.45. 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.
- The second 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 10.50. 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.
- The fifth hearing of the trial in which BirGün daily’s Politics Editor Mehmet Emin Kurnaz faces “insulting the president” and “insulting a public official” charges will be held in the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 13.40. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his governing partner Devlet Bahçeli are listed as “victims” in the indictment. The indictment presents the caption “Çetelerin İktidarı [the Government of the Gangs]” which was placed in a collage that is made up of the pictures of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Devlet Bahçeli, Alaattin Çakıcı and Sedat Peker. The prosecutor who included the definition of the word “çete [gang]” in the indictment, claims that Devlet Bahçeli is a public official. Prosecutor Türkşad Kunthan Uçuk who has been assigned to the case file at the third hearing presented his final opinion as to the accusations at the same hearing. Arguing that the dictionary defines the word “çete [gang]” as “a group of people who got together for illegal activities or to intimidate those around them”, prosecutor Uçuk requested that Kurnaz be sentenced for “insulting the president” and “insulting a public official” as he had hurt the “honor and dignity” of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and MP Devlet Bahçeli by using that word. On September 8 2022, at the fourth hearing of the trial, the court heard the arguments of journalist Kurnaz and his attorney against the prosecutor’s opinion and decided to adjourn the trial so that the case file can be properly examined before the verdict.
October 21st, Friday
- The second hearing of the Tent Trial in which 45 students of Boğaziçi University face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” charge will be held in the İstanbul 27th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10.00. In the indictment, the prosecutor presents the footage of the protests and the slogans chanted for the charges leveled against the 45 students who were taken into custody when police intervened with the protests on October 22, 2021 during which the students wanted to set up a tent in the campus. On April 22 2022, at the first hearing of the trial, the court decided to send the footage to an expert so that it can be examined.
- The first hearing of the trial in which pop star Gülşen faces “openly inciting the public to hatred and hostility” charge will be held in the İstanbul 11th Criminal Court of First Instance. In the indictment, prosecutor Türkşad Kunthan Uçuk cites the footage from Gülşen’s April 30, 2022 concert in which Gülşen jokes with one of her band members, as evidence against the pop star. In the cited footage, Gülşen is heard saying “He studied at an İmam Hatip [religious vocational school] and that’s where his perversion comes from.” Prosecutor Uçuk includes all the complaints filed against Gülşen over the Presidency’s Communication Center (CİMER) and lists 702 complainants in the indictment. Referring to the concept of “social class” in Article 216 of the Turkish Penal Code, the prosecutor argues that “the concept of social class should not only be conceived as economic classes” and claims that since they have specific place in secondary education “there is no doubt that [students and alumni of] İmam-Hatip schools also constitute a social class.” Ignoring the fact the video of the April 30th concert began to be circulated on social media on August 25 2022, the prosecutor further claims that the element of “clear and imminent danger to public security” as stipulated in Article 216 also exists in this case as “the video was shared by many accounts and groups with negative comments.” Pop star Gülşen was taken into police custody on August 25, 2022 and was subsequently arrested after providing her statement at the prosecutor’s office on the grounds that “judicial control measures will not be sufficient.” Gülşen spent three days in the Bakırköy Women’s Prison and was released to house arrest. Gülşen was kept under house arrest until September 12, 2022.
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