Diken’s former editor Tunca Öğreten, closed Dicle News Agency (DİHA) News Director Ömer Çelik, BirGün daily newspaper staff Mahir Kanaat, DİHA correspondent Metin Yoksu, Yolculuk newspaper Editor-in-Chief E. S. and ETHA Managing Editor Derya Okatan were detained on December 25, 2016 by police raids in İstanbul, Ankara and Diyarbakır due to their reports on Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Berat Albayrak’s emails that were leaked by Redhack.
Trial of six journalists who have been tried due to reporting on Redhack leaking emails of Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Berat Albayrak has been continuing since October 2017. Social meda accounts, their postings and articles are included as evidence in the indictment prepared by Public Prosecutor Yakup Ali Çelik. Six journalists are standing trial because of their journalistic activities on charges of “acquiring personal data through illegal means and/or publishing them”, “hindrance or destruction of an information system, deletion or alteration of data”, “membership to a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.
Journalist Ömer Çelik lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights claiming that his right to liberty and security of person, right to fair trial, right to freedom of speech was violated and he was subjected to violence and ill treatment, after being detained for 147 days without an indictment. The indictment was issued on the 6th month of the trials and Çelik was released on 24 October 2017. Öğreten, Kanaat and Çelik have been deprived from their liberty for 304 days. Yoksu, Okatan and Saygın were released on probation on January 18.
Arrested as part of the same investigation, the cases of Die Welt reporter Deniz Yücel’s and Fatih Yağmur’s were separated.
At the second hearing, the court decided to continue the ban on foreign travel by removing the obligation of signature of ETHA responsible Derya Okatan, the Editor-in-Chief of the Journey Newspaper, E. S., DİHA news manager Ömer Çelik and DİHA reporter Metin Yoksu. At the hearing held on March 20, 2017, the court lifted judicial controls on Okutan and Kanaat but did not change the international travel ban order.
At the hearing of September 3, 2018, the court refused to lift the overseas ban on journalists and refused to request the return of digital materials.
At the hearings held on January 8 and April 16, following the lawyers’ defense statements, the panel of judges ruled to await for the expert report on digital materials, which has been awaited for some time now, and for the continuation of the judiciary control measure.
At the hearing on February 6, the accused journalists and lawyers submitted their statements regarding the defense. The court decided to lift the overseas ban of Derya Okatan and E. S.. It was decided to request the case file from the Istanbul 32nd Assize Court, where journalist Deniz Yücel is standing trial to be examined. The hearing was adjourned until 25 June.
At the 9th hearing held on June 25, the court decided the continuation of the international travel bans of Tunca Öğreten, Mahir Kanat, Ömer Çelik and Metin Yoksu, and adjourned the hearing until 15 December (25 June).
At the hearing held on December 15, 2020, the court has rejected the requests for lifting the international travel bans on the journalists and exempting them from attending the hearings. The court has ruled that the case file shall be sent to the prosecutor’s office so that the opinion as to the accusations can be prepared. The next hearing will be held on May 5, 2021 (December 15).
In its judgement about the imprisonment of journalists Tunca Öğreten and Mahir Kanaat in 2017, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) concluded that their right to personal liberty and security and freedom of expression were violated (May 18).
At the hearing held on July 9, 2021, the prosecutor demanded that the investigation be extended. The court board accepted the request and adjourned the trial. The next hearing will be held on December 9 (July 9).
The prosecutor’s office pronounced its final opinion as to the accusations on December 8, 2021. The office demanded that BirGün journalist Mahir Kanaat, Diken news website’s former editor Tunca Öğreten, closed Dicle News Agency’s (DİHA) News Director Ömer Çelik, reporter Metin Yoksu, Yolculuk Newspaper Managing Editor E. S. and Etkin News Agency (ETHA) Managing Director Derya Okatan be penalized for “giving or obtaining data unlawfully”. Citing their social media messages, the office also requested that Okatan, S., Yoksu and Çelik be penalized for “repeatedly propagandizing for an organization”.
At the hearing held a day later, on December 9, the lawyers requested additional time for defense statements and lifting of the judicial control measures. The court handed down its interim judgement and rejected all requests, except for the one for additional time. The next hearing will be held on December 31 (December 9).
At the final hearing held on December 31, 2021, the İstanbul 29th High Criminal Court ruled that BirGün journalist Mahir Kanaat, Diken news website’s former editor Tunca Öğreten, shutdown Dicle News Agency (DİHA) News Director Ömer Çelik, reporter Metin Yoksu and Yolculuk newspaper’s Managing Editor E. S. should be sentenced to 1 year, 8 months in prison on charge of “obtaining data illegally”.
The court ruled that ETHA Managing Director Derya Okatan should be acquitted. All journalists have also been acquitted of “propagandizing for a terrorist organization” (December 31).
On January 5, 2022, Ahmet Özel, the lawyer of Berat Albayrak, appealed against Okatan’s acquittal of all charges, including “obtaining data unlawfully”, at the hearing held by the İstanbul 29th High Criminal Court on December 31, 2021 (January 5).
On February 18, the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office took the first instance court’s verdict against Çelik, Okatan, Yoksu and S. to the appeals court. In its petition of appeal, the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office argued that Okatan, who was acquitted of “giving or obtaining data in an unlawful manner”, and the other three journalists should have been penalized for “propagandizing for a terrorist organization” (February 18).
The penalization of journalists Ömer Çelik, Tunca Öğreten, Mahir Kanaat, Derya Okatan, E.S. and Metin Yoksu on charges of “membership of an organization” (TCK 314) and “giving or obtaining personal data in an unlawful manner” (TCK 136/1) was upheld by the appeals court. Upon the appeal of the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, the chamber reviewed the ruling of acquittal given to Okatan on charge of “giving or obtaining personal data in an unlawful manner”, argued that she had committed a crime by reporting on the documents sent to her as the Managing Editor of the Etkin News Agency (ETHA) and requested that the ruling be overturned and the file be sent back to the first instance court (November 24).
* The name of Yolculuk newspaper Editor-in-Chief E. S. has been censored upon his request.