The Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) has been running a trial monitoring program since 2018 in cooperation with numerous international civil society organizations. In the program, freedom of expression trials are monitored to ensure that the right to a fair trial, which has been determined as a fundamental human right by numerous treaties and conventions to which Turkey is also a party, is upheld and any violations are recorded.
The program continued in April 2022 with the assistance of the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Turkey Office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.
No freedom of expression for politicians either!
In April, MLSA monitored 38 hearings of 36 trials in 8 different cities with 9 court monitors. In 27 hearings out of 38 monitored in April, MLSA court monitors were the only ones monitoring the hearings following a clear methodology focusing on the right to a fair trial.
In 36 trials monitored in April, 364 people stood trial among which there were 92 students, 89 activists, 52 journalists, 36 politicians, 6 authors, 6 lawyers, 5 civil society employees, 5 artists and 4 academics.
In 23 separate trials, 52 journalists stood trial mostly on terrorism-related charges for which their journalistic activities were cited as evidence. In April, the ratio of terrorism-related charges among the charges was recorded at 32%. Journalists’ news articles and the statements of politicians were the most commonly cited evidence for the terrorism-related charges. Social media posts were also included in the indictments in which terrorism-related charges were leveled against journalists, politicians, media employees and artists.
The “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” charge constituted 12% of the charges in April. The majority of the evidence cited against those who exercised their constitutional rights and attended peaceful demonstrations and protests was the event itself and the footage of that event.
36 politicians appeared before the courts in 4 separate trials in April on charges such as “offenses against the government” and “offenses against the public administration” in addition to terrorism-related charges. The evidence cited against politicians were their statements, the peaceful meetings and demonstrations they had attended and their affiliation or alleged affiliation with institutions, organizations and political parties.
Gezi case was concluded: Aggravated life sentence for Kavala and 126 years of imprisonment for 7 people
On 25th April, the third Gezi case in which the most basic rules and principles of law were violated was concluded. The court which refused to hear any discussion on the evidence against the defendants, which was impatient with the defense and often interrupted the lawyers and the defendants and which did not pay attention to their statements announced its verdict at the hearing in which it was revealed that one of the judges was a prospective candidate of the ruling party in 2018 elections.
The court sentenced Osman Kavala who has been held in pre-trial detention for 4.5 years and who was not brought to any hearing of the trial to aggravated life in prison for “attempting by the use of force and violence, to abolish the government of the Republic of Turkey or to prevent it, in part or in full, from fulfilling its duties” (Article 312 of the Turkish Penal Code) while acquitting him of “espionage” charge on which Kavala was held in prison since March 9,2020 because there was no “sufficient and concrete evidence.” Along with the acquittal, Kavala was released from the prison only to be arrested along with the announcement of the verdict (Art. 312). Kavala was previously acquitted of Art.312 charge.
Sentencing Mücella Yapıcı, Çiğdem Mater Utku, Ali Hakan Altınay, Mine Özerden, Şerafettin Can Atalay, Tayfun Kahraman and Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi to aggravated life in prison, the court reasoned that their actions constituted “aiding” and abated their sentences to 18 years in prison. The court ruled for immediate arrest of seven defendants upon whom there was no international travel ban imposed, including Çiğdem Mater who had come from Germany to attend the hearings because the court considered them “flight risks.”
In April, the Press Consultant of the Diyarbakır Office of the Peoples’ Democratic Party Vedat Dağ was also sentenced to 10 years and 3 months in prison on three separate charges after a trial in which many violations of the right to a fair trial were recorded.
You can read the full report here.