Upcoming Trials

Journalism and freedom of expression trials: Week of October 3

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

October 3rd, Monday

  • The first hearing of the retrial in which journalist Ferhat Parlak faces “membership in a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Diyarbakır 11th High Criminal Court, at 09:55. The evidence cited against Parlak is included only in the last page of the 18 page indictment filed on March 25, 2019. The prosecutor cites anonymous witness statements and a piece of paper found in the person of an alleged member of a terrorist organization and upon which “Ferhat Parlak: The Press Guy” was inscribed as evidence and argues that Parlak was “conducting journalism in line with the orders given to him.” The anonymous witness whose statements the prosecutor cites as evidence claims that he saw Ferhat Parlak “shooting a footage while also throwing a Molotov cocktail.” In 2019,  the trial of Parlak began after the Diyarbakır 11th High Criminal Court accepted the indictment and Parlak was held in pre-trial detention for 15 months until the first hearing of the trial held on July 8, 2019. At the sentencing hearing of the trial held on December 7, 2020 the court ruled to dismiss the case on the grounds that the case is a repeating one. The court reasoned that the charges were similar to the charges leveled against Parlak in the case heard by the Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court and in which Parlak was eventually acquitted. Reviewing the separate appeals filed by Parlak’s lawyer and the prosecutor, the 2nd Penal Chamber of the Diyarbakır Regional Court of Appeals found the prosecution’s appeal to be valid and ruled to overturn the ruling of the Diyarbakır 11th High Criminal Court on April 1, 2022. The appeals court sent the case file back to the first degree court and ordered that the incidents in the anonymous witness statements and any illegal activities Parlak might have had carried out as part of an illegal organization to be investigated. 
  • The ninth hearing of the trial in which journalist Engin Korkmaz faces “insulting the president” charge will be held in the Antalya 19th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11:00. The indictment presents the posts Korkmaz had shared on his social media accounts on July 16 and July 17, 2016  as evidence against him.

October 4th, Tuesday

  • The 14th hearing of the trial in which journalist Hayri Demir faces “membership in a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charges will be held in the Ankara 15th High Criminal Court, at 09:00. Among the evidence presented in the indictment are footage and photographs taken by Demir while he was covering news in Syria. This footage was inside a memory card from a camera that was stolen from Demir’s home in Ankara. At the 12th hearing held on June 29, 2022, witness Hasan Şahin repeated his testimony and claimed that he saw journalist Demir in Kobane in 2015 despite the fact Şahin proceeded to tell the court that he was in Syria between 2018 and 2021. Journalist Demir objected to the testimony of Şahin and stated that Şahin repeated the testimony of someone else named Hüseyin Durudemir who is also on trial on separate charges. The court however, refused to hear Hasan Şahin again, even though the prosecution also requested it. Before the 13th hearing of the trial, which will be heard this week, the court issued a writ to ask an expert to examine the confiscated digital material to determine if they contain “any data about the FETÖ/PYD terrorist organization.”
  • The 11th hearing of the trial in which 28 people, including Jiyan Haber’s proprietor journalist İdris Yayla face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Assemblies and Demonstrations” charge will be held in the Batman 1st Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09:50. Journalist Yayla faces these charges for following the press statement in 2016 which renounced the trustee appointed to Batman Municipality. The former MP Sebahat Tuncel is also among those who are tried.
  • The eighth hearing of the trial in which author Ahmet Altan faces “insult” charge will be held in the Anadolu 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10:50. Altan is tried in this case which was re-initiated ten years after the sentence he received in another trial was upheld by a court of appeals, for allegedly insulting the then President Court of Cassation Abdurrahman Yalçınkaya with his article titled “Preparation for a coup or shutting down Kemalism” published on Taraf newspaper in 2008.
  • The second hearing of the trial in which the grant holder and the chief editor of Demokrat Haber Mehmet Göcekli faces “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” will be held in the İstanbul 27th High Criminal Court, at 11:00. The prosecutor presents the posts Göcekli had shared on his personal account between 2011 and 2016 which also included news articles published on Demokrat Haber and the posts shared on the Facebook page of Demokrat Haber between 2015 and 2018 as evidence against Göcekli. Referring to the Article 66/6 of the Turkish Criminal Code, the prosecutor argues that there is no statute of limitations for the 2011 and 2013 posts included in the case file as Göcekli committed the offense he has been charged with in “a consecutive manner” and the referred article stipulates that for offenses which are committed consecutively the period for statute of limitations begins on the date of the last act of offense. 

October 5th, Wednesday

  • The seventh hearing of the suit for damages brought against Evrensel daily columnist and academic Ceren Sözeri by the CEO of Turkuvaz Media Group Serhat Albayrak will be held in the İstanbul 2nd Commercial Court of First Instance, at 10:15. Albayrak claims that Sözeri damaged his “business reputation” with her article titled “AKP’ye kim oy kaybettirdi? [Who cost AKP the votes?]” and asks 200.000 Turkish Liras for the damages.

October 6th, Thursday

  • The fourth hearing of the retrial in which since shuttered Azadiya Welat newspaper reporter Çetin Kurşun faces “membership in a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Mardin 2nd High Criminal Court, at 09:20. Kurşun was detained on February 6, 2018 along with his brother and was later released on May 30, 2019. The 3rd Penal Chamber of Gaziantep Circuit of Appeals overturned Kurşun’s conviction for “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” arguing that Kurşun should have been convicted for “membership in a terrorist organization”. In its remitter, Gaziantep Appeals Court stated that Kurşun’s conviction for “propaganda” is unlawful. The court reasoned that Kurşun has “organic connections” with the members of a terrorist organization and he published news articles on the website mentioned in the indictment according to the directives he received from said members of the organization. On March 17, 2022, the case which has been brought against upon criminal complaint filed by the Mardin 2nd High Criminal Court and in which Kurşun faces “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge was merged with the ongoing case heard by the Mardin 2nd High Criminal Court. The evidence cited against Kurşun for the propaganda charge are several news articles published on Ciwannews.
  • The 11th hearing of the trial in which former President Abdullah Gül’s press advisor and journalist Ahmet Sever faces “insulting a public official” charge upon complaint by the Minister of Industry and Technology Mustafa Varank will be held in the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09:55. The indictment presents the statements about Varan in the pages between 152-167 of Sever’s book İçimde Kalmasın/Tanıklığımdır published in 2018 as evidence against Sever. 
  • The second hearing of the trial in which journalist İnci Aydın faces “identifying state officials on anti-terror duties as a target” charge will be held in the Aydın 2nd High Criminal Court, at 10:40. The indictment presents an article published in the Women issue of the Yeni Yaşam daily on December 15th, 2021 and when Aydın was the managing editor. The article titled “İktidara notumuz yok lafımız var: Haksızlıklarınla göndereceğiz!” and penned by the Spokesperson of the HDP Women’s Assembly and Batman MP Ayşe Acar Başaran mentions Çitil’s name only twice. The prosecutor claims that via the article “Çitil is pointed as a target for PKK and KCK.” At the first hearing of the trial held on June 16, 2022, the court accepted the intervention request by Musa Çitil.
  • The first hearing of the trial in which journalist Hayri Tunç faces “openly inciting the public to hatred and hostility” charge will be held in the İstanbul 42nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10:50. The prosecutor who had also indicted journalist Sedef Kabaş and pop star Gülşen cites several social media posts as evidence against journalist Tunç. These posts Tunç had shared on his personal social media account include the footage of the December 2016 İstanbul bombings taken from the İhlas News Agency, Tunç’s tweet in which he commented on the bombings and said “Even though the mainstream media is yet to announce it, it is claimed that at least 7 people died”, the news articles published on Gazete Karınca about the police brutality directed towards students at “Barınamıyoruz [We Cannot Find Shelter] Protests” on September 28, 2021, the news article published on Gazete Karınca about a nightwatchman who killed a woman in Kağıthane on September 25, 2021 and a news video about the Maraş Massacre documentary by Aziz Tunç. The prosecutor claims that these social media posts were found by the Department of Cyber Crimes of the Ankara Provincial Security Directorate during an investigation initiated by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office after an anonymous email tipped off the police. The prosecutor argues these posts are “beyond the borders of informing the public” and therefore cannot be considered within the confines freedom of expression and further claims that by sharing these posts Tunç “incited the public to hold hostile feelings” and “provoked one section of the public to hatred and hostility towards another section of the public because of social, racial, religious, sectarian differences” and therefore these posts created “imminent danger to public security.”
  • The third hearing of the trial in which journalist Baransel Ağca faces “insulting the president” charge will be held in the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 11:45. The prosecutor presents two social media posts Ağca had shared on his personal account in 2016 and 2021 and which were “detected” after a criminal complaint filed by the lawyers of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and during a “virtual patrol” carried out by the Prevention Bureau of the Department of Cyber Crimes of the İstanbul Provincial Security Directorate. Citing the social media posts which were gathered via “virtual patrol” despite the February 19, 2020 ruling of the Constitutional Court in which the Court revoked the law article which provided the police with the authority to conduct such investigations, the prosecutor claims that Ağca committed the offense he has been charged with “in a consecutive manner” and requests that sentence which may be given to Ağca be increased as per the Article 43 of Turkish Penal Code.

October 7th, Friday

  • The fifth hearing of the trial in which 3 human rights defenders who had attended the press statement on February 3rd, 2021 called by the İzmir Labor and Democracy Forces in support of the Boğaziçi University, face “insulting the president” charge will be held in the İzmir 41st Criminal Court of First Instance, at 14:00. The indictment presents the witness statements of two police officers as evidence against the rights defenders. The rights defenders stand trial in another case in which they face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” and “prevention of public duty” charges. In addition to these charges, the rights defenders also face “insulting a public official” charge because of the testimonies against them by the same police officers. At the fourth hearing of the trial held on September 2, 2022, the court decided to issue a writ to the İzmir Provincial Security Directorate so that the complainant police officer who failed to attend the hearings and who claims that the rights defenders insulted and cursed the president be brought to the next hearing.