Upcoming Trials

Journalism and freedom of expression trials: Week of September 26

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

September 27th, Tuesday

  • The 22nd hearing of the trial in which the since-shuttered Özgür Gündem daily’s managing editor Reyhan Çapan faces “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “publishing or spreading the publications and the announcements of terrorist organizations” charges will be held in the İstanbul 2nd High Criminal Court, at 09:30. 18 separate indictments have been prepared against Çapan and all of them were merged and accepted by the İstanbul 2nd High Criminal Court. The indictments present news articles published in Özgür Gündem between 2012-2015 as evidence against Çapan. The prosecution requests imprisonment for Çapan for up to 15 years and six months and judicial fine for up to five thousand days.
  • The sixth hearing of the trial in which 38 people, including Özgür Gelecek reporter Taylan Özgür Öztaş, Etkin News Agency (ETHA) reporter Tunahan Turhan and journalist Vedat Örüç whom MLSA represents in court, face “defying the Law no. 2911 on Assemblies and Demonstrations” charge will be held in the Anadolu 13th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10:55. Öztaş was taken into police custody on August 22, 2019, at the protest which he was covering and Turhan was taken into custody later in the evening that day when the police raided his house. Both journalists were released with judicial control measures after providing their statements at the prosecutor’s office.
  • The 17th 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 11:00. Tunçdemir and Duman stand trial due to news reports published in 2018 in the papers which they distributed.
  • The sixth hearing of the trial in which author and journalist Burhan Ekinci whom MLSA represents in court, faces “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge will be held in İstanbul 30th High Criminal Court, at 11:10. The indictment presents seven tweets which Ekinci had shared on his personal account and which the police “detected” during an “open source investigation” after Ekinci was reported to the police as evidence against the journalist. At the fifth hearing of the trial held on May 26, 2022 the court rejected the request by Ekinci’s lawyers for the court to issue a writ so that the defense of Ekinci can be taken via rogatory letters. The court ruled to reject the request, reasoning that “Germany does not accept such requests.”
  • The sixth hearing of the trial in which journalists Hazal Ocak, Olcay Büyüktaş, İpek Özbey and Vedat Arık face “publishing the identities of state officials on anti-terror duty and/or identifying them as targets” and “violation of the privacy of personal life” charges will be held in the İstanbul 26th High Criminal Court, at 14:15. The indictment presents a news report by Ocak titled “Boğaz’da Kaçak Var [Illegal Construction at the Bosphorus] and published in Cumhuriyet daily on April 14, 2020 as evidence for the charges. In the news report, Ocak had shared with the public that next to Turkish Presidency’s Communications Director Fatih Altun’s home in Kuzguncuk, a pergola and a fireplace were constructed. The journalist documented that considering the fact that Altun’s home is located in the Boğaziçi Preview Zone, where construction is prohibited, these constructions by Altun were illegal. The prosecutor argues that “freedom of expression and dissemination of thought must at times be limited in order to protect the public and the state” and claims that Communications Director Altun must be considered as “having anti-terror duty and serving for this purpose when considered his statements and activities against the terrorist organizations.” At the second hearing of the trial, the court accepted the intervention request by Fahrettin Altun. At the third hearing of the trial held on June 24, 2021, the prosecutor presented his final opinion as to the accusations. The prosecutor argued that considering that there has been a 24-hour protection decision about Altun and that Altun has “statements and efforts against terrorist organizations”, it has been established that Altun has “duties and responsibilities in the fight against terrorism.” At the fifth hearing of the trial held on March 31, 2022, without providing any reason, the court rejected the requests by the journalists’ lawyers for the court to hear Altun in the courtroom and to issue a writ to the Ministry of Internal Affairs so that the role of Altun in the fight against terrorism can be determined.

September 28th, Wednesday

  • The ninth hearing of the trial in which Muhammet İkram Müftüoğlu, HDP Doğubayazıt Co-Chair Abdullah Ekelik, Dicle Fırat Journalists’ Association’s Co-Chair Dicle Müftüoğlu, Turgay İlboğa, Yücel İlhan and journalist Aziz Oruç whom MLSA represents in court, face “membership in a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charges will be held in the Ağrı 2nd High Criminal Court, at 09:00. Müftüoğlu, Ekelek, İlboğa and İlhan stand trial together with Oruç on the grounds that they helped him when he was caught, mistreated and then dropped off at the Turkey- Iran border by Iranian border patrols as he was trying to reach Europe via Armenia. Oruç was arrested on December 18, 2019 in Ağrı’s Doğubayazıt Province on the grounds that he entered the country in an illegal manner. Oruç remained in pre-trial detention for 11 months until being released pending trial during the third hearing which was held on November 9, 2020.
  • The second hearing of the trial in which the Demokratik Modernite Magazine’s Managing Editor Ramazan Yurttapan, Agos Daily Armenian Pages Editor Pakrat Estukyan, lawyer Emran Emekçi, Mehmet Nimet Sevim and Cihan Doğan face “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge will be held in the İstanbul 30th High Criminal Court, at 11:10. The indictment presents the articles written by Estukyan, Emekçi, Sevim and Doğan and some sentences picked from the articles as evidence for the charges. The articles by three people who wrote for the magazine using pseudonyms are also cited in the indictment and the prosecutor argues that as per the Article 11 of the Press Law, Yurttan as the managing editor bears criminal liability for the statements in these articles as well. In addition to the articles, the prosecutor also cites the decision of the İstanbul 4th Criminal Judgeship of Peace banning the 36th issue of the magazine and ordering it to be pulled off the shelves. On May 18, 2022, the İstanbul 27th High Criminal Court ruled to merge the case file of Yurttapan, Estukyan, Emekçi, Sevim and Doğan with the file of the case in which Ramazan Yurttapan faces the same charge because of the 37th issue of the magazine. The İstanbul 27th High Criminal Court reasoned that there is “legal and actual connection” between the case files.
  • The 13th 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 11:15. 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 seventh hearing of the trial in which seven Boğaziçi University students face “inciting the public to hatred and hostility” charge will be held in the İstanbul 21st Criminal Court of First Instance, at 13:45. Students are charged for a work of art which included the Kaaba and that was displayed in an on-campus protest exhibition against the appointed rector Melih Bulu. In the indictment in which the prosecutor requests imprisonment for students up to three years, it is stated that in the picture the Kaaba was displayed together with a basilisk figure and LGBTI+ flags. The prosecutor argued that both the figure and the LGBTI+ symbols are unacceptable as they represent things forbidden by Islam.

September 29th, Thursday

  • The third hearing of the trial in which the former Co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party Figen Yüksekdağ, the former Parliamentary Group Chair Deputies İdris Baluken and Çağlar Demirel and MPs Altan Tan, Ahmet Yıldırım, Ertuğrul Kürkçü, Mehmet Ali Aslan and Saadet Becerikli face “prevention of public duty”, “insulting a public official” and “insulting the president” charges will be held in the Silvan Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09:05. The indictment prepared by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office lists former Deputy of Silvan Chief of Police Osman Gündüz, “other security officers”, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and former Minister of the Interior Efkan Ala as complainants. The indictment presents the statements allegedly made by the MPs during the police intervention which took place as the MPs tried to walk to the Silvan district where a curfew was imposed on November 12, 2015; the press statement by Figen Yüksekdağ and the footage of the brawl which broke out after the police had intervened, as evidence against the MPs. The Diyarbakır 8th Criminal Court of First Instance which had accepted the indictment ruled lack of jurisdiction on the grounds that the events in the case file took place in Silvan and sent the case file to the Silvan Criminal Court of First Instance. After having held eight hearings, the Silvan Criminal Court First Instance decided to stay the trial against Hüda Kaya and Feleknas Uca who were among the charged, after they were reelected and separated their files in order to send their files to the Grand National Assembly. The court also ruled non jurisdiction as per the state of emergency decree numbered 694 which transferred the authority to investigate and prosecute members of the parliament to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and to local high criminal courts in Ankara and sent the case file to the Ankara 33rd High Criminal Court. After having reviewed the dispute between the courts, the Court of Cassation ruled in 2021 that the case be heard by the Silvan Criminal Court of First Instance. At the first hearing of the trial held on March 16, 2022 the court ruled to issue writs to prisons where İdris Baluken and Figen Yüksekdağ are held so that they can provide their statements over the audio-visual system (SEGBİS). Figen Yüksekdağ could not attend the second hearing held on June 15, 2022 via SEGBİS and thus could not provide her statements against the charges.
  • The eighth hearing of the retrial of 38 people including HDP Co-Vice President and Van MP Tayip Temel and HDP Mardin MP Pero Dündar will be held in the Diyarbakır 2nd High Criminal Court, at 09:10. Temel was initially sentenced to 18 years in prison for “founding and managing a terrorist organization” while he was tried in the KCK Main Trial; however, the Supreme Court had overturned his sentence last year. The indictment presents journalistic activities as evidence against Kurdish newspaper Azadiye Welat’s former Editor-in-Chief Temel. Temel was arrested on October 8, 2011 and remained in prison until July 1, 2014.
  • The seventh hearing of the trial in which journalist Cengiz Çandar whom MLSA represents in court and activist Kemal Işıktaş face “praising an offense and the offender” charge will be held in the İstanbul 30th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 09:50. The indictment presents a 2017 tweet in which Çandar and Işıktaş commemorated Ayşe Deniz Karacagil who died fighting ISIS. In the indictment, the prosecution claims that Karacagil died fighting for a terrorist organization in Raqqa and that praising her on social media would constitute an open threat to public peace.
  • The fourth hearing of the trial in which PEN Berlin’s Spokesperson and Die Welt correspondent Deniz Yücel faces “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” and “insulting the President” charges will be held in the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10:15. On July 16th, 2020, the İstanbul 32nd High Criminal Court had sentenced journalist Yücel to 2 years and 9 months in prison for “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.” In addition the prison sentence it handed down, the court had also ruled to file additional criminal complaints against journalist Deniz Yücel for “insulting the president” and “publicly degrading the Turkish Nation, State of the Turkish Republic, the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the judicial bodies” citing two separate articles he penned for Die Welt in late 2016. On June 14th, 2021, the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance ruled to merge the case where Yücel stands trial on “insulting the president” charge with the case where Yücel stands trial for “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.” At the second hearing on November 25, 2021, the court decided to issue a writ for rogatory letters so that the statement of Yücel can be taken.
  • The third hearing of the trial in which journalist Zübeyde Sarı whom MLSA represents in court, face “publicly inciting the public to hatred and hostility” charge will be held in the Bakırköy 24th Criminal Court of First Instance, at 10:35. The evidence in the indictment are 11 social media posts, which were gathered by the police via “virtual patrol”, a method which the Constitutional Court found to be unlawful. The posts cited as evidence include posts which contain phrases like “the Dersim Genocide” and “Kobani.”