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 March 2022 with the assistance of the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
117 people stood trial for attending peaceful demonstrations
In March, MLSA monitored 49 hearings of 48 trials in 14 different cities with 11 court monitors. In 33 hearings out of 49 monitored in March, MLSA was the only institution monitoring the hearing in a systematic manner and in relation to the right to a fair trial.
In 48 trials monitored in March, 277 people stood trial among whom there were 117 activists, 48 journalists, 38 students, 14 attorneys, 11 politicians, 8 authors, 5 artists and 3 academics.
117 activists who appeared before a court in March were those who attended peaceful demonstrations like the gathering of Saturday Mothers/People or the Pride March or the protests against the government’s decision to withdraw from the İstanbul Convention.
At the hearings of 31 separate trials held in March, 48 journalists appeared before the court.
The evidence: News stories, social media posts, demonstration footage…
Except for the suit for damages brought against journalist Çiğdem Toker, in the trials monitored in March, 276 people tried in 47 cases faced a total of 72 charges in 16 different categories.
35% of the charges individuals faced in March was terrorism-related charges. In cases in which terrorism-related charges were leveled against the defendants, it was journalists, media employees and authors who were on trial. The ratio of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charges with the category of terrorism-related charges was recorded at 85%. The majority of these charges were leveled in cases in which journalists stand trial. In two cases in which journalists were the only defendants, they stood trial for “disclosing or publishing the identity of officials on anti-terrorist duties, or identifying such persons as targets” which constituded 8% of the charges.
22% of the evidence cited for terrorism-related charges was the defendants’ news reports, articles, photos or statements on a television show while 26% was social media posts. Among the evidence cited for terrorism-related charges, the ratio of journalists’ phone conversations with their news sources was 8%.
The “defying the Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies” constituted 13% of the charges in March. 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.
In March, 5 journalists, 4 authors and 2 media employees were sentenced to 38 years 9 months and 6 days in prison.
The Küçükçekmece 10th Civil Court of First Instance decided to accept the lawsuit for damages brought by the Turkey Technology Team (T3) Foundation against journalist Çiğdem Toker. The court ordered Toker to pay 30.000 Turkish Liras to the foundation for damages.
You can read the full report here.