Upcoming Trials

Journalism and freedom of expression trials: Week of September 19

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

September 19, Monday

  • The 10th hearing of the trial in which Yeni Yaşam daily reporter Hatice Şahin faces “membership in a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court, at 09:35. Şahin was detained with 144 other people on October 9, 2018 as part of a criminal investigation against Democratic Society Congress (DTK). The indictment presents her flights from Diyarbakır to İstanbul and phone conversations with news sources as evidence against the journalist. At the ninth hearing of the trial held on May 11, 2022, the prosecutor presented his final opinion as to the accusations. Citing Şahin’s flights from Diyarbakır to İstanbul and the statements of anonymous witnesses called “Ezel” and “Firar” who claimed that Şahin “operated on behalf of the organization under the guise of journalism” to  “provoke the people,” the prosecutor argued that “it has been understood that Şahin committed the offense she has been charged with” and requested that she be sentenced as per Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code.

September 20th, Tuesday

  • The seventh hearing of the trial in which 23 people who had attended the Boğaziçi University solidarity protest in Kadıköy held in Kadıköy 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 seventh hearing of the “Boğaziçi Rainbow case” in which 12 students of Boğaziçi University face “defying the Law no.2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” charge will be held in the İstanbul 24th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10:20. The indictment presents “the LGBT flags which the students insisted on not covering up” and the slogans shouted by students as evidence for the charge. On March 24th, at the fifth hearing of the trial, the defense was notified that the expert’s report requested by the court was submitted to the case file. The report was supposed to determine whether or not the police warned the students before intervening and whether or not the students dispersed after the warning. However, the report described students as those “who defied the ban and who marched” and claimed that the students were blocking the traffic despite the fact that the report contained photographs of students standing on the sidewalk.
  • The third hearing of the trial in which journalist Baransel Ağca faces “inciting the public to hatred and hostility or degrading” charge will be held in the İstanbul 43rd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10:50. The prosecutor presents a tweet Ağca had shared on December 25, 2020 and in which he had sarcastically commented on the issue of wine consumption in Islam. 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, it is stated in the indictment that the cited social media post was detected during a “virtual patrol” conducted by the police. In addition to the social media post cited in the indictment, the investigation report prepared by the İstanbul Provincial Security Directorate’s Department of Combating Cybercrime on April 26, 2021 also includes four other tweets by Ağca. These tweets Ağca had shared on April 25, 2021 contain documented information about the companies belonging to the relatives of Minister of Internal Affairs Süleyman Soylu and which have won lucrative public tenders. The prosecutor however, did not include these tweets in the indictment.
  • The first hearing of the trial in which journalists Can Bursalı, Barış Terkoğlu and the Chief Editor of Independent Turkish Nevzat Çiçek face “insult” and “calumny” charges upon complaint by the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s former lawyer Mustafa Doğan İnal will be held in the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 14:00. The indictment presents Bursalı’s 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. Even though the prosecutor also includes December 2nd, the day on which the book was published as “the date of the offense”, he does not present the book itself as evidence. The prosecutor argues that by including the claim that İnal was paid 15 million Turkish Liras to represent the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality in a case even though he was not the staff lawyer of the municipality, Bursalı hurt the “honor, dignity and the reputation of İnal among the people” and requests that Bursalı, Terkoğlu and Çiçek be sentenced. In the indictment, the prosecutor also includes that he decided not to prosecute Bursalı, Terkoğlu and Çiçek for the offense of “fabricating an offense.”

September 21st, Wednesday

  • The 10th hearing of the trial in which three journalists, including Osman Akın and Veysi Sarısözen face “making propaganda for a terrorist organization”  charge will be held in the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court, at 10:00. The indictment presents the news and articles published in Yeni Yaşam newspaper where Osman Akın was the editor-in-chief as evidence against the journalists. The prosecutor claims that the newspaper published news and articles which “legitimize the violent and threatening actions of the terrorist organization.”
  • The first hearing of the trial in which Kurdish daily Xwebûn’s proprietor Kadri Esen faces “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Diyarbakır 10th High Criminal Court, at 10:10. The indictment presents a post Esen had shared on his personal Facebook account on April 9, 2018 as evidence against Esen.  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, it is stated in the indictment that the cited social media post was detected during an “open source investigation” conducted by the police.
  • The fifth hearing of the trial in which the former MP of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Sırrı Süreyya Önder faces “publicly degrading the Turkish Nation, State of the Turkish Republic, the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the judicial bodies” [Art. 301 of the Turkish Penal Code]” charge will be held in the Diyarbakır 4th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10:50. 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.”
  • The sixth 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 11:00. 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 complaint 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.
  • The seventh hearing of the trial in which Koray Çağlayan, Volkan Uyar, Leman Yurtsever, Levent Gökçek, Lezgin Özalp, Maside Ocak, Mehmet Günel, Muhammed Emin Ekinci, Ayça Çevik, Besna Koç, Cafer Balcı, Can Danyal Aktaş, Cihan Oral Gülünay, Cüneyt Yılmaz, Deniz Koç, Ercan Süslü, Ezgi Çevik, Faruk Eren, Fecri Çalboğa, Ferhat Ergen, Gamze Elvan, Hakan Koç, Hasan Akbaba, Hasan Karakoç, Jiyan Tosun, Kenan Yıldızerler, Murat Akbaş, Rober Koptaş, Onur Yanardağ, Osman Akın, Özer Oymak, Özge Elvan, Ramazan Bayram, Rüşa Sabur, Sadettin Köse, Adil Can Ocak, Ahmet Karaca, Ahmet Süleyman Benli, Ali Ocak, Ali Yiğit Karaca, Atakan Taşbilek, Ataman Doğa Kıroğlu, Saime Sebla Arcan, Sinan Arslan, Ulaş Bedri Çelik and Koray Kesik whom MLSA represents in the court, face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Assemblies and Demonstrations” charge will be held in the  İstanbul 21st Criminal Court of First Instance, at 13:30. The 46 defendants who were detained when the police attacked Saturday Mothers/People’s 700th Week meeting at Istanbul’s Galatasaray Square include members of the Saturday Mothers/People, human rights defenders and journalists who were reporting on the meeting.
  • The second hearing of the 1st Cihangir Trial in which 7 LGBTİ+ rights defenders who were among those detained during the İstanbul 2021 Pride March face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Assemblies and Demonstrations” charge will be held in the İstanbul 18th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 14:50. Among the evidence cited against the rights defenders in the indictment, there is also the June 26th, 2021 demonstration ban by the Beyoğlu District Governorship.

September 22nd, Thursday

  • The 10th hearing of the trial in which journalist Hayko Bağdat whom MLSA represents in court, faces “terror propaganda” charges will be held in the İstanbul 28th High Criminal Court, at 09:00. The indictment presents nine social media posts from 2017 and 2018 as evidence against Bağdat. Social media posts that are used as evidence against Bağdat include retweeting a photo of Osman Kavala and retweeting an interview with the PKK leader Cemil Bayık. Germany has refused Turkey’s request of letters rogatory in Hayko Bağdat’s case, stating it would violate freedom of speech. The Terrorism and Organized Crime Bureau of the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has indicted journalist Bağdat for the second time and another lawsuit has been brought against Bağdat. The indictment filed on May 25, 2022 charges Bağdat with “making propaganda for a terrorist organization in a consecutive manner” and cites the social media posts Bağdat had shared on his personal account between 2015 and 2019.
  • The third hearing of the trial in which journalist Nurcan Yalçın faces “aiding an organization knowingly and willingly” charge will be held in the Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court, at 10:15. The indictment presents the interviews Yalçın had conducted between 2015 and 2016 in Diyarbakır’s Sur district and the statements of the people interviewed as evidence against Yalçın and requests up to 15 years imprisonment. Claiming that Yalçın “aided the terrorist organization without belonging to its hierarchical structure”, the prosecutor argues that Yalçın’s journalistic activities cannot be considered within the boundaries of freedom of expression as they constitute “threat to the territorial integrity of the nation.” On May 17th, at the first hearing of the trial, the prosecutor presented his final opinion and requested that Yalçın be sentenced to prison for up to 15 years.
  • The second hearing of the retrial in which journalist Ertuğrul Mavioğlu and director Çayan Demirel face “making propaganda for an armed terrorist organization” charge will be held in the Batman 2nd High Criminal Court, at 13:30. Mavioğlu and Demirel stood trial because of their documentary Bakur (North) which they had produced in 2015 while the Solution Process was still going on. They were accused of producing a documentary which is claimed to “legitimize or praise the violent, forceful or threatening methods of the terrorist organization or incentivize others to resort to such methods.” Announcing its verdict on July 18, 2019, the Batman 2nd High Criminal Court sentenced Mavioğlu and Demirel to 4 years and 6 months in prison. After Mavioğlu and Demirel’s lawyers appealed the verdict, the 4th Penal Chamber of the Gaziantep Regional Court of Appeals overturned their conviction. The appeals court reasoned that the legal connection between the case file and the case file in which Mavioğlu was convicted of the same charge and which stands before the Court of Cassation should be evaluated. The appeals court also ruled that the sentence handed down by the Batman 2nd High Criminal Court was too high and that the local court did not consider the factors which would call for a reduction in their sentences.

September 23rd, Friday

  • The second 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 14:30. 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. At the first hearing of the trial held on September 13th, the prosecutor presented his final opinion as to the accusations. Citing the social media posts in the indictment, the prosecutor claimed that Önver committed the offense she has been charged with “in a consecutive manner” and requested that she be sentenced.