This week, the hearings of several journalism and freedom of expression trials will be held. Below is the list of these hearings:
September 13th, Tuesday
- The first hearing of the trial in which journalist Baransel Ağca faces “illegally obtaining or giving data” charge will be held in the Elazığ 8th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09:05. In the half-page indictment, as evidence the prosecutor presents the social media posts in which he had shared the autopsy and toxicology reports of Yeldana Kaharman who, under suspicious circumstances was found dead in her apartment in Elazığ on March 28, 2019. The prosecutor also claims that journalist Ağca had obtained the reports “by benefiting from the privileges derived from a profession or trade” and requests that the sentence which will be imposed upon Ağca be increased as per Article 137/1-b of the Turkish Penal Code.
- The first hearing of the trial in which journalist Rabia Önver faces “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Van 2nd High Criminal Court, at 09:30. In the half-page indictment, the Hakkari Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office presents social media posts Önver had shared on her personal account as evidence. The social media posts in question include a post about the 10th year anniversary of the Roboski Massacre and the sixth year anniversary of the Tahir Elçi murder. On March 30th, 2022, the Hakkari 1st High Criminal Court ruled non jurisdiction on the point of venue arguing that Önver had committed said offense while she was in Van and sent the case file to the Van 2nd High Criminal Court.
- The third hearing of the trial in which the Proprietor of Yüksekova News Portal Erkan Çapraz and the Broadcast Coordinator Ömer Oğuz face “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Hakkari 1st High Criminal Court, at 09:30. The indictment presents the February 13th, 2020 speech by Leyla Güven, the imprisoned former Hakkari MP of the Peoples’ Democratic Party being broadcasted on the YouTube channel of the portal as evidence against the journalists. Half of the three-page indictment prepared against Çapraz and Oğuz contains Güven’s speech. Referring to the Article 7/2-3 of the Law on Fight Against Terrorism, the prosecutor requests that an administrative fine up to five thousand days be imposed upon the journalists. At the second hearing held on May 10, 2022, the court decided to issue a writ to the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court, which hears Leyla Güven’s case and request that the case file of Çapraz and Oğuz be merged with Güven’s case.
- The second hearing of the SLAPP case brought against journalists Can Bursalı, Barış Terkoğlu and Independent Turkish daily by the former lawyer of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Mustafa Doğan İnal will be held in the İstanbul 11th Civil Court of First Instance, at 10:45. In a petition submitted on December 21, 2020, İnal’s lawyers claim that the article published in Independent Turkish on December 3, 2020 and in which Can Bursalı interviewed Barış Terkoğlu about the claims surrounding İnal in the book titled Metastaz 2: Cendere, constitute an attack on the person of their client Mustafa Doğan İnal as in the article was portrayed as “a criminal person.” In their petition, İnal’s lawyers Ferah Yıldız and Ömer Faruk Karagüzel also mention Barış Pehlivan (the co-author of Metastaz 2: Cendere) even though he is not one of the libellees and state that “Barış Terkoğlu and Barış Pehlivan are individuals who cannot get enough of manufacturing lies as they often do, who disregard journalism ethics and who strive to create chaos, sedition and panic in the society with lies and perversions.” At the first hearing held on May 12, 2022, the court decided to issue a writ to the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality to inquire how much fee was paid to İnal as a counselor and for which case. Both in the book and in the article, it is claimed that İnal was paid 15 million Turkish Liras to represent the municipality in a case even though he was not the staff lawyer of the municipality.
- The second 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 11:00. 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.”
- The first hearing of the trial in which journalist Sultan Eylem Keleş whom MLSA represents in court, faces “prevention of public duty” and “insulting a public official” charges will be held in the İstanbul 56th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 13:30. Journalist Keleş was taken into custody while covering the protest of BİMEKS workers who had gathered in front of the Boğaziçi University where, their former boss Prof. Dr. Vedat Akgiray, who had fired the workers without due compensation, was giving a lecture. The prosecutor presents the testimonies of four complainant police officers as evidence for the charges against Keleş and four other defendants, but fails to specify to whom the insults allegedly directed against police officers belong. The prosecutor, however, requests that the defendants be sentenced arguing that “as a result of the investigation conducted”, it has been established that the defendants not only prevented public officials from carrying out their duties but they also insulted these officials.
- The third hearing of the trial in which journalists İzel Sezer and Doğan Ergün faces “libel”, “insult” and “unlawful disclosure of data obtained by recording non-public conversations between people via the press” charges will be held in the İstanbul 33rd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 13:30. The indictment, which was prepared after the investigation per the complaint of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s former lawyer Mustafa Doğan İnal, cites two news reports published on the website of İleri Haber and dated December 2, 2020 and December 16, 2020 as evidence against the journalists. The hearing planned to be held on March 10, 2022 was postponed to a later date as the judges and prosecutors were granted administrative leave due to adverse weather conditions.
- The 15th hearing of the trial in which 17 people, including journalists Eylem Sonbahar and Sema Karakurt whom MLSA represents in court and journalist Metin Cihan face “prevention of public duty” charge will be held in the Antalya 25th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 14:00. The journalists were detained on November 15, 2015 while covering the G20 Summit protests in Antalya. In addition to “prevention of public duty” charges, four people face “insult” charges.
September 14th, Wednesday
- The 19th hearing of the trial in which Etkin News Agency (ETHA) editor Semiha Şahin and reporter Pınar Gayıp face “membership in a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charges will be held in the İstanbul 23rd High Criminal Court, at 11:00. Şahin and Gayıp were released with judicial control measures and house arrest following a 14-month detainment during the previous hearing, which was held on June 13, 2019. Their house arrest was ended during the hearing held on December 11, 2019. Before the hearing on March 24th, the prosecutor submitted his final opinion on the merits which was not served to the journalists’ lawyers. Defining ETHA as an agency which “publishes in line with the opinions and the ideology of the MLKP terrorist organization”, the prosecutor requested that Şahin and Gayıp be sentenced for “membership of a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.”
- The appeals hearing of the 10 month prison sentence imposed upon journalist Alican Uludağ for “pointing officials on anti-terrorist duties as targets” will be held in the 22nd Penal Chamber of the Ankara Regional Court of Appeals, at 13:30. On September 30, 2020, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office indicted journalist Uludağ for “pointing 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.”
September 15th, Thursday
- The 12th hearing of the retrial in which since-shuttered Dicle News Agency’s former reporter Ramazan Akoğul faces “membership in a terrorist organization” charge will be held in Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court, at 09:10. Even though Akoğul was initially acquitted of all charges in 2018, an appeals court overturned his acquittal and sent the case file back to the local court for retrial. Akoğul is accused of attending a road-blocking demonstration which he covered as a reporter. The prosecution had appealed to the acquittal decision, claiming that the fact that the demonstrators did not intervene with Akoğul shows that he has some “trust relationship” with “the organization members” and thus he should be sentenced for “membership in a terrorist organization.”
- The fifth hearing of “the Özgürlükçü Demokrasi” retrial in which journalists İhsan Yaşar, İshak Yasul, Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Mizgin Fendik, Pınar Tarlak, Reyhan Hacıoğlu and Hicran Urun face “membership of a terrorist organization”, “printing or publishing the leaflets and declarations of terrorist organizations”, “inciting the public to hatred and hostility”, “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “praising an offense and offender” charges will be held in the İstanbul 23rd High Criminal Court, at 10:00. On its decision dated March 5, 2021, the 27th Penal Chamber of the İstanbul Regional Court of Appeals had overturned the acquittals of Mizgin Fendik and Pınar Tarlak and the convictions of other journalists on the grounds that the sentences they received were “inadequate.” Presenting his final opinion at the hearing held on April 7th, the prosecutor requested that Mizgin Fendik be acquitted; that Hicran Urun, Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Reyhan Hacıoğlu, İshak Yasul and Pınar Tarlak be sentenced for “membership of a terrorist organization”, “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “printing or publishing the leaflets and declarations of terrorist organizations.”
- The 24th hearing of the trial in which since shuttered Özgür Gündem daily’s former Co-Editor-in-Chief Hüseyin Aykol, former Managing Editor Reyhan Çapan and writers Hasan Başak and Kemal Yakut face “making propaganda for a terrorist organization,” “provoking to commit an offense” and “praising an offense or an offender” charges will be held in the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court, at 10:10. The indictment presents the news reports and articles in March 2016 in Özgür Gündem about “self-governance” in Kurdish provinces.
- The second 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 10:30. 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.
September 16th, Friday
- The seventh hearing of the trial in which journalist Rojda Oğuz faces “membership in a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charges will be held in the Van 5th High Criminal Court, at 14:00. Oğuz stands trial among 55 defendants and evidence presented against the journalist include press statements and demonstrations she had attended as well as her social media posts. Attending a demonstration against the Roboski massacre is among the evidence. The indictment also lists a letter dated Feb 10, 2016 from the General Directorate of Press, Broadcasting and Information, which used to be affiliated to the Prime Minister’s office, stating that the institution’s records do not show that Oğuz has a press card. On April 21, 2022, the prosecutor presented his final opinion as to the accusations and requested that Oğuz be acquitted of the “membership” charge but be sentenced for “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.”