Last Week

Last week in free speech: Week of June 24 – 28

Several journalism and free speech trials were held last week. Below is a list of the hearings monitored by Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) last week:

Prosecutor requests up to 15 years imprisonment for journalist Beritan Canözer

Second hearing of the trial where Jin News reporter Beritan Canözer faces “membership in a terrorist organization” charges took  place before the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court. Canözer is tried for her reporting during the curfews announced in Diyarbakır’s Sur district in 2015. The public prosecutor delivered his opinion during this hearing and requested Canözer to be sentenced up to 15 years in prison.

Journalist Sertaç Kayar’s trial adjourned until December

The trial where journalist Sertaç Kayar faces up to 22.5 years in prison for “founding and managing a terrorist organization” charges based on the evidence that he attended 31 different marches, demonstrations and press conferences as a journalist in Diyarbakır between 2012-2014 resumed before the  Diyarbakır 10th High Criminal Court. The public prosecutor requested that Diyarbakır Chief Prosecutor’s Office be asked in writing whether the latest search at Democratic Society Congress (DTK) headquarters revealed any information or documents about Kayar’s involvement. The court, which accepted this request and decided to send a warrant to the Chief Prosecutor’s Office, adjourned the trial until December 4th.

Ayşe Çelik, who was prosecuted for saying ‘don’t let kids die,’ is acquitted

School teacher Ayşe Çelik had called a Turkish talk show on January 8th, 2016 while the military blockade and conflict in Diyarbakır’s Sur district were still ongoing and said “Don’t let kids die” on live TV. Shortly after this broadcast, a criminal investigation was launched against Çelik for “terrorist propaganda” charges and she was convicted as a result of the trial. After an appellate court upheld her sentence, Çelik had to go to prison with her newborn infant. Shortly after Çelik entered prison, the Constitutional Court reviewed her individual application and ruled that her right to freedom of expression was violated. Çelik was then released on May 10th, 2019. 

Following this ruling, the Constitutional Court sent the case-file over to Bakırköy 2nd High Criminal Court for the case to be reopened. First hearing of the reopened trial was held on June 26th, 2019 and Çelik demanded her acquittal. The court reached a verdict during the first hearing and ruled that the Constitutional Court decision shall be obeyed and decided to acquit Çelik. The court also noted that Çelik could file a complaint for compensation and reparations due to her unlawful detention.

Trial of Necmi Demir who voiced support for Academics of Peace adjourned

The hearings of 17 people against whom separate individual cases were opened, with indictments of “terrorist propaganda” due to their informing against themselves at the Prosecutor’s Office in solidarity with Academics for Peace which signed the petition “We will not be a party to this crime,” continue. The first hearing of economist Necmi Demir who was among these 17 people was held today at İstanbul 28th High Criminal Court. The court, which rejected the request for immediate acquittal, gave Necmi Demir and his lawyers additional time to study the case file and prepare their defense statements until the next hearing. The next hearing will be held on October 31st.

Constitutional Court rules that journalist Deniz Yücel’s rights were violated

Turkish Constitutional Court ruled that Die Welt Turkey correspondent Deniz Yücel’s year-long detention had violated his right to personal security and liberty, as well as his right to freedom of expression. Yücel’s application was filed by Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) Co-Director Veysel Ok.

CHP İstanbul chair Canan Kaftancıoğlu’s trial adjourned until July 18th

Due to content shared on Twitter, Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) İstanbul chair Canan Kaftancıoğlu faces charges of “defamation against the President,” “defamation against a public officer in relation to his office,” “openly insulting the Republic of Turkey,” “openly inciting hate and hostility,” and “spreading terror propaganda.” The first hearing of the trial took place before the İstanbul 37th High Criminal Court on June 28th, 2019.

Kaftancıoğlu noted that the time between the notification of the indictment against her and the hearing coincided with the election period and requested additional time for her defence, declaring: “Given my responsibilities during the electoral period, I could not even meet with my lawyers. In any case it would have been inappropriate to fill my time with personal matters at such an important time.” The court decided to grant Kaftancıoğlu extra time for her defense statement but emphasized that this extra time was given for one time only. The trial is adjourned until July 18th, 2019 — the same day as the Gezi trial’s second hearing is set to be held.

Verdict announced in Özgürlükçü Demokrasi trial, defendants released and convicted at the same time

Fifth hearing of the trial where 14 employees of Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper, among whom 3 are in detention, face “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorist propaganda” charges was held before the İstanbul 23rd High Criminal Court. The newspaper has been shuttered and its assets were transferred to the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF).

Hicran Urun, Reyhan Hacıoğlu and İshak Yasul were sentenced to 3 years 1 month and 15 days imprisonment for “aiding a terrorist organization without being a member.” Yasul was sentenced to an additional 1 year and 6 months for “terrorist propaganda” charges.

Mehmet Ali Çelebi was sentenced to 3 years and 9 months for “aiding a terrorist organization without being a member.” Given that Çelebi was convicted in another case, it is not expected that he be released from prison. İhsan Yaşar was sentenced to 10 months for arms possessions. Yaşar will also have to pay a judicial fine of 500 Turkish Liras. Pınar Tarlak, Ramazan Sola and Mizgin Fendik were acquitted of all charges.

Following the verdict, Reyhan Hacıoğlu and İhsan Yaşar were released from prison. They can appeal their sentences in the coming weeks. If their sentences are upheld, they will have to return to prison but it is unclear when their sentences would be enforced.

Court rules to release 5 detained defendants in Haydar Ergül’s trial

While 5 defendants were released in the trial in which 19 people, among which Democratic Modernity (Demokratik Modernite) journal editor Haydar Ergül, were being tried; it was ruled in relation to Ergül and some other defendants that the Court would await the answer to the warrant addressed to the forensic medicine institute concerning a vocal comparison. The next hearing will take place on December 26th, 2019.