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 February 2022 with the assistance of the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
68 students stood trial in February for protesting against Melih Bulu
In February, MLSA monitored 50 hearings of 49 trials in 12 different cities with 15 court monitors. In 26 hearings out 50 monitored in February, MLSA was the only institution monitoring the hearing in a systematic manner and in the context of the right to a fair trial.
In 49 trials monitored in February, 409 people stood trial among which there were 121 journalists, 76 students, 63 activists, 31 politicians, 20 attorneys, 6 authors, 4 academics and 1 doctor.
68 of 76 students who appeared before the court in February were those who were taken into police custody in several protests against the appointment of Melih Bulu as the Rector of Boğaziçi University.
News stories and social media posts cited as evidence for terrorism charges
Except for the suits for damages against journalists Çiğdem Toker and Hazal Ocak, 407 people who were tried in 47 cases monitored in February, faced a total of 74 charges in 14 different categories.
42% of the charges individuals faced in February was terrorism-related charges. 84% of the terrorism-related charges were “membership in a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charges which are leveled against journalists, activists and politicians. In 6 cases out of 10 in which the “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge was among the charges the defendants faced, the defendants were journalists. In 12 cases out of 16 in which “membership in a terrorist organization” charge was among the charges the defendants faced, the defendants were journalists. The “disclosing and/or publishing the identity of individuals on anti-terror duties and/or identifying those persons as targets” charge which constituted 7% of the terrorism-related charges, is leveled only against journalists.
20% of the evidence cited for terrorism-related charges the defendants’ news reports, articles, photos and statements on a television show while 15% was social media posts. Among the evidence cited for terrorism-related charges, the ratio of journalists’ phone conversations with their news sources was 11%.
In February, “insulting the president” charge constituted 7% of the charges. 75% of the evidence cited for this charge was social media posts and 25% was news reports, articles, photos and statements on a television show.
In January, 2 journalists, 4 politicians and 3 activists were sentenced to 515 months in prison. Additionally, journalist Rojhat Doğru was sentenced to life in prison for “disrupting the unity and the integrity of the state.”
In February, 2 journalists and 1 author were sentenced to 112 months and 14 days in prison.
You can read the full report here.