The full report highlights the struggle and prosecution of 373 people in the context of violations of freedom of expression. It has been divided into subsections, namely Attacks and Threats, Detentions and Arrests, Trials Concerning Freedom of Press and Expression, Corrections and Legal Redress, European Court of Human Rights, Reactions to Censorship and Implementations of RTÜK (the Radio and Television Supreme Council).
Rather than giving a complete account, the report intents to give an insight on the density and diversity of applications in the field of press freedom and freedom of expression.
Attacks and Threats
Lawyer Mebuse Tekay received death threats via electronic mail from the Turkish Revenge Brigade (TİT) and declared to file a criminal complaint against the organization. Tekay commented, “This is nothing to comprehend or to accept. We presented a legal application, what is therein?”.The lawyer added, “Chief of General Staff İlker Başbuğ does not need this sort of protection”. In the course of the religious holiday after the fasting month of Ramadan, Başbuğ went to the province of Mardin in the southeast of Turkey and gave a speech at the Sınırtepe Police Station. He was quoted as saying: “Especially people from this region, our citizens, including eastern Anatolia, these people support the aghas [village clan chiefs]. If we are at this point today, this is one of the basic foundations. Those who have suffered from aghas are now suffering from political and terrorist aghas. One of the basic questions is how to free our people from political and terrorist aghas”. Istanbul Independent MP Ufuk Uras and activist Cengiz Algan filed a complaint against Chief of General Staff İlker Başbuğ. The petition was also signed by Oya Baydar, Baskın Oran, Ahmet İnsel, Mithat Sancar, Mebuse Tekay, Aydın Engin and Sezgin Tanrıkulu. The prosecutor transferred the petition to the Military Prosecutor’s Office, saying that it “exceeded his authority”.
On 24 September the Siirt High Criminal Court Prosecutor Erdal Bozoğlu requested heavy prison sentences for detained defendants Feyzi Aldemir, Hamit Kurt, Feyaz Aldemir and Tahir Aldemir over allegations of assaulting and seriously injuring journalist Diya Yarayan. Prosecutor Bozoğlu requested heavy prison sentences for the defendants on the grounds of a “deliberate attempt to kill a person”. Upon the prosecutor’s final request Bozoğlu summarized the incident, saying that on the day of the assault the police was informed about a fight in front of Selami Değer High School. The people who had injured Yarayan escaped in a car and ignored orders to stop. The car’s plate could be identified. The people in the vehicle threw 2 sticks out of the rear window when they tried to escape from the scene. After the car was stopped, two people with ski masks got out of the car. Bozoğlu placed on the record that the Forensic Medicine Report confirmed mortal danger for Yaranyan resulting from the injuries from the assault. The court decided to hear the statements of the witnesses of the defendants. Sedat Çakmak, Abdulhakim Siper and Mahmut Uğur unanimously stated that they did not know who assaulted the victim. This also concurred in the defendant’s statements.
Owner and editor-in-chief of the Batman GAP newspaper Mansur Obut filed a complaint against Governor Ahmet Turhan. The journalist accused the governor of attacking him in his office after publishing a news article on 24 September entitled “No interest in Bayram”. Bayram is the religious holiday in the end of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. The news item went as follows: “Especially regarding the official institutions, Ramadan Bayram has passed extremely cold and quietly. This year for the first time the celebrations happended only in the garden of the governorship and were not crowded at all. The lack of people at the celebration and people not joining the Bayram vistis are a result of governor Turhan’s mismanagement and his not integrating the people”. Obut claimed that when the article was published he was called to the governor’s office. The journalist explained, “After insulting me very badly, Turhan pushed me against the wall and started to punch me with his fists on the pit of the stomach and on the chest. He said that he would not let me lead my life in Batman and that he would give instructions to all institutions to deny entry to me and my newspaper”.According to the statement from the governor’s office, Obut as the president of the ‘GAP Media in the Development of Social Society Press Support Association’ applied for a “Women’s Rights Awareness Project” called SODES. He allegedly showed this kind of behavior because the project had been found inadequate and thus was rejected by the State Planning Agency (DPT). The journalist replied to the governor’s office’s allegation by explaining that this project belongs to the previous governor’s term in office.
Yakup Önal, owner of the local ‘Sesi’ (“Voice”) newspaper, was assaulted when he took pictures of a bus that had tipped over after an accident on 9 September. The incident happened in the Şarköy district of Tekirdağ, a city west of Istanbul. 3 bus drivers from the Istanbul ‘Seyahat’ (“travel”) Company attacked the journalist. Önal’s back was injured as a result of the assaults. The journalist complained at the district’s Police Department. The journalist explained what happened after the assault: “Under the surveillance of the police I came to the emergency room of Şarköy State Hospital. Several tests were made and I was kept there for three hours under observation. Then I was taken to Tekirdağ State Hospital where I had done a tomography since the severe hits on my back could have caused inner bleeding. I was kept under observation for some more time and then was released from hospital. I cannot work right now because of the pain resulting from the assaults”. The bus drivers that had attacked the journalist were arrested. After having taken their statements, the public prosecutor released the aggressors.
The GAP Journalists Association condemned the attack of journalist Ömer Pınar from Doğan News Agency (DHA). On 7 August Fakıbaba visited tradesmen in the Tarihi Hanlar region. Pinar expressed his compassion for the knife attack Fakıbaba had escaped and upon asking him questions about the incident, the mayor kicked the journalist. The nearby factory staff members stepped on the journalist. The Contemporary Journalists’ Association and the Photo Journalists Association condemned Fakıbaba’s attitude towards journalists as well. The GAP Journalists Association criticized, “Press freedom is not a freedom only used in connection with the press and press institutions. In democratic countries the freedom of the press is perceived as the people’s freedom to be informed. And in order to make free news about individuals in an age of communication, the ruling people should claim press freedom, watch and protect it”. As far as Fakıbaba was concerned he stated that the news published did not reflect realtity.
Gerger Fırat newspaper owner Hacı Boğatekin was assaulted on 28 July when he tried to take pictures of a fire that broke out in a municipality waste dump at the edge of Gerger district of the south eastern province of Adıyaman. Newspaper owner and editor-in-chief Boğatekin was attacked by municipality staff when he wanted to take pictures of the forest fire. He underwent medical treatment in the Gerger Health Centre because he got injured in his face. Boğatekin stated that he had been assaulted by municipality personnel and mayor Arif Karatekin. The journalist’s camera was damaged beyond repair. Journalist Boğatekin filed a criminal complaint against mayor Arif Karatekin and the mayor’s brother İlhan Karatekin. The Gerger Fırat newspaper had published an article, entitled “Municipality Shocked by Confiscation”, concerning a trial against the municipality launched by workers who had been made redundant without receiving compensation payments. Newspaper owner Boğatekin said that one of the attackers addressed him before the assault, “You cannot make news out of us, you cannot take our pictures”. Boğatekin had been tried dozens of times for harshly criticizing the actions of the Greger officials. He served a 109 days prison sentence for being found guilty of connecting a prosecutor with the religious Fetullah Gülen movement. The Press Institute Foundation and the Press Council condemned the attack. The Council argued, “The actual assault was against the public’s right of being informed. We declare that we will follow the legal procedures and that we are particularly against any sort of struggle to undermine the right of the media to make news and the right of the public to be informed”.
On 24 July the Trabzon 2nd Magistrate Criminal Court decided to launch an investigation into activities of Yasin Hayal from the Trabzon Province Gendarmerie Command who is tried for hiring people before the murder of Hrant Dink. Hayal is one of the defendants in the case against 8 gendarmerie officers under allegations of negligence towards the murder. Former Provincial Gendarmerie Commander Colonel Ali Öz and 7 un-detained soldiers did not attend the hearing. The judge decided to acquire information and documents from various institutions to obtain new information. Joint lawyer of the Dink family Bahri Bayram Belen stated that in case the request will be accepted, the murder could be investigated from several directions. “Colonel Öz did not say anything clear about what he did. However, it is obvious that he brought it up in the weekly or more frequent provincial security meetings with Hayal and his collegues”, Belen said. The judge demanded to disclose the names of Hayal’s informants in the Gendarmerie Command of the Trabzon distirict of Pelitli where Hayal used to live prior to the murder. The judge decided to call these people to make a statement before the court. The court is going to ask whether incriminating information had been passed over the Gendarmerie’s notification line 156. The court furthermore requested a certified copy of the referring report including attachments of the National Assembly Presidency’s Parliamentary Sub-Commission concerned with the murder. Additionally, the court requested certified copies of any existing protocols or records from the Trabzon Governor regarding activities in public security meetings held by Hayal and his colleagues prior to the murder. The Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office demanded a copy of Veysel Şahin‘s statement he gave before the Malatya Public Prosecutor’s Office in the context of the “Ergenekon Case”. The prosecutor’s office claimed the acquisition of any proceedings concerned with Şahin. The case was postponed to 23 October. Besides Colonel Öz, another 7 people are tried under charges of negligence prior to the murder of Hrant Dink on 19 January 2007: intelligence branch officers Captain Metin Yıldız, non-commissioned officers Gazi Günay and Hüseyin Yılmaz, sergeant Okan Şimşek, specialist sergeants Veysel Şahin, Hacı Ömer Ünalır and Önder Araz. All 8 officers are facing a 2 years prison sentence.
Söke Gerçek newspaper owner Durmuş Tuna was beaten in front of his 8-year-old daughter and 11-year-old niece by 8-10 attackers with sticks on 6 July. He suffered fractures in his right arm. The attackers ran away when they were noticed by a by-passer. The journalist underwent medical treatment in a hospital. Tuna stated to the police that he had been attacked by 7-8 people he did not know. Tuna claimed, “It is our job to write what we think is the truth. And we do that within the framework of law and democracy. For whatever reason, this attack on my person and on my profession is beyond any understanding, I am sorry”. The Turkey Journalists Society (TGC) has supported Tuna in his call for the instigators to be found and prosecuted, “We are sadly observing a rising number of attacks and threats against the people and institutions that support the thriving of democracy in this country and against journalists working under very difficult conditions in the local media”.
At the tenth hearing of the Dink murder trial at Istanbul’s 14th Heavy Penal Court yesterday (6 July), the court warned the Istanbul police, the Ankara Telecommunications Directorate, the Police General Directorate and the Trabzon police to send the information requested by the joint attorneys. The court warned, “Send the information, or there will be legal proceedings against those responsible.” Defendant Yasin Hayal was described as a “good guy” by the Trabzon gendarmerie, according to the statement of Veysel Şahin, himself detained in Malatya prison but called as a witness. Şahin, who said that he himself sometimes worked as an “intelligence officer”, stated that he did not know Erhan Tuncel who is tried under allegations of persuading others to act on his behalf. Şahin told the court that Tuncel worked for the Trabzon Gendarmerie Command lead by Colonel Şinasi as an intelligence officer because he stayed in Chechenya and was fluent in Arabic. Şahin had been told by branch president Feridun Yüzdaşı about Hayal, “He is a good guy, he loves his country and nation.” When Hayal was asked about Şahin’s utterances, he said he did not recognize him. Tuncel requested to join a Witness Protection Program as soon as he was released since his name had been revealed which made him a target of terror organizations. Mesme Havva, supposedly the first person on the scene after Dink was murdered, turned to defendant Samast and said “This is probably the culprit. I cannot remember completely. Since it was winter their faces were obscured”. The court decided to invite witness statements of seven people, and to force those who had been called before to come to court, namely Mithat Alkan, Ergün Çağatay, Serkan İskender, Lerna Atan, Ayşe Pamiş, Şahabettin Şahin and Cemal Yıldırım. The judges further declined the demand for release of five detained defendants Ogün Samast, Erhan Tuncel, Yasin Hayal, Ersin Yolcu and Ahmet İskender. Ogün Samast, the young man accused of fatally shooting journalist Hrant Dink on 19 January 2007, threatened the Dink family and joint attorneys by saying “Only five more years…”, implying that he would then be released. The eleventh hearing will take place on 12 October. An unidentified witness will be heard, and it was demanded that the necessary technical preparations be made. Furthermore, the gun used to kill Hrant Dink will be brought to court. The court decided to again ask the Police General Directorate to send a transcript of a conference entitled “Missionary Activities in Turkey”, organised by Ergenekon detained defendant Sevgi Erenerol. Should the directorate not comply, the court will initiate legal proceedings. Joint attorneys had also complained about Ramazan Akyürek, head of the Police Intelligence Unit, and his unit, for not sending the documents and reports relating to the time prior to the murder. The court decided to request the relevant documents F3, F4 and F5 again.
General publications coordinator Nadiye Gürbüz from Izmir Democratic Radio was released by the Istanbul 9th High Criminal Court on17 September after the second hearing of her case. Gürbüz had been arrested in the course of an operation against the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) and was kept in detention for more than 8 months.The journalist’s trial will continue but without Gürbüz’s being in detention on 26 January 2010. Gürbüz was arrested in a raid on her home in the Izmir district of Balçova on 4 February. Three days later on 7 February she was taken to court and got detained. The radio journalist was brought to the Bakırköy Women’s Closed Prison on Istanbul’s European side.Gürbüz’s first hearing took place on 27 August when her request for release from detention was rejected. Mine Özalp and Sakine Solmaz, who were detained together with Gürbüz, were released after the first hearing. Gürbüz is tried under charges of membership of the MLKP and conducting the organization’s financial affairs. The court rejected the claim for Gürbüz’s acquittal.
Former chief editor of the Kurdish newspaper Ayadiya Welat Vedat Kurşun will be kept in detention at least until 2 December because of news and articles about the Kurdish question and the PKK organization. He had been arrested on 30 January 2009 at Atatürk Airport in Istanbul on the grounds of his refusal to testify in a court case before the Diyarbakır 6th High Criminal Court. He was detained and transferred to the Diyarbakır D type prison later on. Kurşun was taken to the Diyarbakır court on 10 September for the first time since he has been arrested. Kurşun called for his release, emphasizing that he had been in kept detention for a long time and that he became a victim. The court decided not to release Kurşun but extended his detention instead. Kurşun’s lawyer Servet Özen declared in the hearing that the news in the paper were made within the context of freedom of the press, aiming to inform the people. Özen explained: “The news and articles were published in the opinion that they did not carry elements of crime. The issue of discussing the democratic initiative is a topic currently being printed and discussed in the entire press regarding the topic of the PKK and Adullah Öcalan as interlocutors. So why do these publications account for a crime as far as my client’s newspaper is concerned?” Pointing out that some columnists in the national press even discuss the “interlocutor” issue, lawyer Özen underlined in the hearing that his client merely conveyed the events without making additions on his own behalf. More than 20 trials have been filed against the journalist. Kurşun is under charge of “helping and concealing the PKK organization by campaigning for the PKK” and of “glorifying crimes and criminals” in the news published in numerous issues of the Kurdish daily newspaper. If the court should conclude that the propaganda was made in a systematic way, Kurşun can additionally be trialed under the accusation of “membership of an organization”.
The 104th hearing of the first Ergenekon trial took place on 24 August before the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court. The case of the State Council attack in Ankara on 17 May 2006 was merged with the Ergenekon trial. Ferit İlsever, member of the Workers’ Party (İP), said: “Those who accuse me and (İP party leader) Doğu Perinçek of meeting with PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in the indictment now put all of Öcalan’s utterances onto the front pages. The waves of Ergenekon arrests have worn out the Turkish Armed Forces, and have oppressed the people, particularly universities, the judiciary and all state organs. At this point, an alliance of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the PKK has put the ‘Kurdish initiative’ onto the agenda. I want to hear former Justice Minister Cemil Çiçek to illuminate the Talatpaşa Committee’s efforts abroad”. Prof. Dr. Yalçın Küçük is prosecuted within the scope of the third indicitment of the Ergenekon case under charges of “establishing or directing an armed terror organization”, “the attempt to abolish the Turkish National Assembly or prevent it from doing its duty” and “the attempt to abolish the Turkish Republic or prevent it from doing its duty”. On the grounds of Küçük’s notes the indictment suggests a conneciton between the Ergenekon organization and the PKK. According to the indictment, Küçük directed the organization together with another suspect called Mehmet Haberal, concluding from the writer’s notes that Küçük shared the “same organization house” with Haberal and İlhan Selçuk. Selçuk is defined as the intellectual leader of the organization in the indictment. Cumhuriyet newspaper Ankara correspondent Mustafa Balbay is tried in detention under charges of the “attempt to alter the constitutional order by armed force” in the context of the Ergenekon case. He claims that the notes mentioned in the indictment do not belong to him.
The Istanbul 10th Heavy Penal Court continued its hearing in the trial against 23 people accused of membership in or leadership of the illegal Marxist Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) on Friday, 26 June. Those detained include Füsun Erdoğan, the broadcasting coordinator of the Istanbul Özgür Radyo (“Free Radio”) station, and editor of the Atılım newspaper, İbrahim Çiçek. The defendants were arrested during the so-called “Gaye” operations in around 10 provinces on 8 September 2006. They face up to 40 years imprisonment, some of them standing accused of “attempting to change the constitutional order by force”. The documents presented as evidence by the Istanbul Police Directorate were discussed controversially. The court released Erkan Salduz and Arzu Torun. Statements of another 4 people were taken during the hearing, among them Ocaklı village chief Ali İhsan Demiralay from the district of Aydin in the west of Turkey who witnessed the police raid of the home of Naci Güner. The witnesses referred to Güner as “Ali Taş” and to his wife as “Mrs Taş” respectively, knowing them to have lived in the village for more than 10 years and making a living from agriculture. They were described as helpful people that did not give reason for any suspicions. Joint attorneys argued that their clients have been held for 2 years and 8 months. They accused the police of deliberately trying to draw out the case, as four officers called to the hearing did not appear. The next hearing was scheduled for 6 November.
Erdal Güler, owner and editor-in-chief of Devrimci Demokrasi (‘Revolutionary Democracy) newspaper, could be released in December as long as he will not be convicted because of the new files. Güler was detained on 26 December 2007 under allegations of “spreading propaganda for the PKK and MKP (Maoist Communist Party)”. After his arrest Güler had been taken to the Amasya Prison, having pending more than 30 cases against him. He was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment and a fine of more than 60,000 TL (approx. € 27,300). Güler is tried under charges of “praising crime and criminal offenders” on the grounds of an article published in the Özgür Düşün (‘Free Thought’) magazine issue of March-April 2005 saying “We respecdtfully remember Mahir Çayan and his comrades”. Another trial was opened because of Gülers commemoration of İbrahim Kaypakkaya in the 1-16 May issue of the “Revolutionary Democracy for the people” newspaper. Lawyer Ümit Sisligün voiced his hopes for Güler’s release on 11 December 2009, conceding that the pending trials might prolong the duration of the sentence. Güler will appear before the Istanbul 11th High Criminal Court on 11 December and before the 13th High Criminal Court on 29 December.
The Erzurum 2nd High Criminal Court started the prosecution of Youth Federation members İlker Ekiz, İbrahim Karataş, Mustafa Doğan and Elbil Çınar on 18 August. The group was arrested after having organized a caricature exhibition in the Sivas branch of the Education and Science Workers’ Union (Eğitim-Sen), entitled “America is the Common Enemy”. The 5 men are detained in the Sivas E Type prison (central Anatolia). The court accuses them of “Opening a caricature exhibition”, “reading the ‘Attitude’ magazine” and “membership of the Youth Federation”. They are charged with “membership of an illegal organization”, “spreading propaganda for an illegal organization” and “opposition to the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations”. Lawyer and member of the Contemporary Lawyers Association Taylan Tanay argued that they were arrested after an attack at university and after reactions of democratic mass organizations. The case was postponed to 5 November.
Gazetevatan.com publishing director Aylin Duruoğlu was taken into custody on 27 April and arrested three days later, following the operation against an organisation called “Revolutionary Headquarters“. A militant member, a police officer and a young bystander were killed during part of the operation in Bostancı, Istanbul. Duruoğlu was arrested by decision of the Istanbul Duty 12th High Criminal Court and sent to the Bayrampaşa Women’s Prison in Istanbul. Other journalists have protested against her arrest by gathering in front of the Vatan newspaper’s office. On the 15th day of her detention Duruoğlu’s friends and colleagues took pictures of a banner saying “We love you, Aylin, and we support you”, sending the pictures to Duruoğlu’s circle of friends for moral support. Lawyer Naime Kılıç said that Duruoğlu had studied in the Political Sciences Faculty at Istanbul University with Orhan Yılmazkaya, the militant who was killed in the shoot-out in Bostancı on 27 April. She had met with him because he had written a book called “Turkish Hamam”. She added that her client had no knowledge of Yılmazkaya’s links to any illegal organisations and that she had made a detailed statement to the police. Kılıç claimed in her application, “The file lacks any proof and circumstancial evidence. Nothing esle is documented but the meal she had in the Astoria shopping centre next to the newspaper office. My client is a victim. Evreybody who touched or saw Yılmazkaya is declared guilty. Organizational crime is a very serious criminal offence. My client will be acquitted. There is no need to try her in detention”. At the same time, Revolutionary Movement magazine employee Mehmet Yeşiltepe‘s organizational relations were descirbed as “conspiracy”. The trial of Duruoğlu and Yeşiltepe will begin on 23 February 2010 at the Istanbul 9th High Criminal Court.
Gün TV general publishing director Ahmet Birsin from Diyarbakır is in prison since 14 April after he was taken into custody in the context of a PKK operation. The journalist is detained in the Diyarbakır F Type Prison. After 5 months, there is still no indictment concerning Birsin or the other detained defendants. The Diyarbakır Chief Prosecutor’s Office announced that the operation concerned “the Turkey coordination Unit’ consisting of 8 members of the PKK” and was conducted after 1 year of technical surveillance, telephone tapping and observation of bank account movements. The police searched the Gün TV office on behalf of a search and confiscation decision issued by the Diyarbakır 6th High Criminal Court. The operation was also carried out in cities like Istanbul, Ankara, Batman, Mardin, Adana, Elazığ, Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa.
Abdurrahman Gök, reporter for the Dicle News Agency (DİHA) was first harrassed and then taken into custody when covering the Newroz celebrations in Siirt, southeastern Turkey. The beginning of his trial is scheduled for October. Gök is accused of terrorist propaganda because he had written down the slogans shouted and written down on placards and because he had been linked to Roj TV. On 25 March, he was taken to the Siirt Public Porsecutor’s Officed which ordered his arrest and sent him to Siir Magistrate Criminal Court. He was taken to the Siirt E-Type prison. Another reporter from DİHA who was at the Newroz celebrations in Siirt, Celal Kalpak, witnessed the following: “When Gök was taken into custody, we were at the exit of the celebration area. The police harrassed him and then took him into custody. When I objected, a police chief said, “Your friend has thrown stones at the police.” I told him that that was not credible, that Gök was just covering the event as a reporter, and that the detention was arbitrary”. Kalpak said that there were different accusations levelled at Gök all the time. “First they said that he had thrown stones at the police. When that was not credible, they said that he had manipulated the crowd; finally, they said that he was taken into custody for terrorist propaganda because he had written down the slogans shouted and written down on placards and because he had been linked to Roj TV.”
DİHA news agency announced that agency employees Ali Buluş, Mehmet Karaaslan, Faysal Tunç and Behdin Tunç are imprisoned under allegations of “connections to the PKK”. However, it is not confirmed yet whether the detentions are linked to “journalistic activities”.
On 30 September, the Ankara 11th High Criminal Court decided to take the statement of DTP Istanbul MP Sebahat Tuncel by force. Tuncel is going to be interrogated about her announcements regarding the Kurdish question. Tuncel and another 23 members of the DTP Women Parliament are tried under charges of “praising a crime and a criminal” defined by article 215 of the Turkish Criminal Code. The court decided to force Tuncel to make her defence applying articles 146 and 199 of the Criminal Procedure Law. With this decision the court referred to the decree of the Court of Appeals 9th Criminal Office dated 15 October 2008, which ruled that “the crime of violating the indivisible unity of the state and the nation was constituted” as defined in article 14 of the constitution. The Ankara Court decided to issue a warrant to the Ankara Bar Association Presidency in order to assign a lawyer to defendants Tarık Yıldırım and Meryem Demir. The following hearing was scheduled for 30 December. Deputy prime minister Bülent Arınç commented, “In my opinion the DTP MPs should not be prosecuted. However, it would be a very nice gesture of them to give their statements”.
The Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court found lawyer Erin Keskin, theater actor Murat Batgi and author Edip Polat guilty of “inciting hatred and hostility” and handed down a 1 year prison sentence to each of them on 29 September. The accused had been trialed because of using the terms “Kurdistan” and “Kurds” in a speech on the occasion of the 6th Culture and Art Festival in Diyarbakır three years ago on 31 March 2006. Furthermore, the court decreed to deprive Keskin, Batgi and Polat of their rights to the assumption of a public office, to do duty for institutions and organizations, the right to vote and be elected, and the right to manage structures such as associations, foundations, companies, unions and parties.
The Police General Directory claimed to become joint plaintiffs in the case against wirter Nedim Şener. The author faces up to 8 years imprisonment because of his book “The Dink Murder and the Lies of Intelligence”. However, the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance rejected the claim, saying that it denounced the Police Gereral Directorate’s file and the indictment, reasoning that there was no immediate damage inflicted. Şener recounts the negligence of police, gendarmerie officers and MİT prior to the murder. He stands accused of revealing classified information, of turning people on duty against terrorism into public targets, and of attempting to influence the judiciary. The trial was continued on 29 September. The court declared that it received an an answer of the Prime Ministry Inspection board and postponed the case to 2 February 2010 to review the report and evaluate the requests in the meantime.
Despite the parliamentary immunity the Ankara 11th High Criminal Court decided to bring convicted co-chair Emine Ayna of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) and Diyarbakır MP Selahattin Demirtaş to court by force. A new notification will be issued to DTP president Ahmet Türk. The Kurdish MPs have been prosecuted because of the contents of speeches they have made. The court adjourned the case on 26 May this year. It was postponed till 29 September because the MPs’ statements were to be taken with a court notification. Ayna explained that she is not going to testify in the continuation of the court proceedings on 29 December either. Member of the Marmara University Law Faculty Prof. Dr. İbrahim Kaboğlu said that after a pending of the case for more than 3 months this situation can be solved by removing the exception related to article 14 concerning “terror crimes” as mentioned in article 83 of the constitution about “constitutional immunity”. The Diyarbakır 5thHigh Criminal Court asked the Ankara court for taking the statement of Diyarbakır MP Selahattin Demirtaş, for Türk it is the Istanbul 9th High Criminal Court and for Ayna it is the Adana 8th High Criminal Court.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office of Çıldır in the province of Ardahan (northeast of Turkey) set a precedent with the decision not to prosecute the journalist. Governor Öner Çan had lodged a complaint against journalist Fakir Yılmaz from kuzeyanaldolugazetsi.com (‘northern Anatolian newspaper’). The governor asked for prison sentence for the journalist, accusing him of “defamation”. Reason for Çan’s complaint was a news article published on 11 January 2009 on the newspaper’s website and in that day’s issue of Taraf newspaper. Yılmaz had reported about Çan’s order to surround military tents on the frozen lake of Çıldır with a barrier of snow, piled up by a bulldozer of the local authorities. Headline of the article was “Authorities of Ardahan must have gone crazy”. [The Turkish word for ‘crazy’ is identical with the place’s name ‘Çıldır’.] The prosecutor’s office stated: “Regarding topics of general interest or topics attention should be drawn to it is the duty of the press to objectively and truthfully illuminate these issues to the people, to trigger public discussions from different points of view, to issue accurate and truthful information about social and political structures, to criticize authorities, to warn and to control within these means, and moreover to raise individual awareness of the society’s and the people’s problems”. Journalist Yılmaz was notified of the decision on 24 September. As a result, there is no need of starting an investigation on Yılmaz under charges of article 125 (Defamation) of the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK).
The Gaziantep 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance continues the case against weekly Çoban Ateşi (‘Sheperd’s Fire) newspaper editor-in-chief Yasin Yetişgen on 1 October. He is tried for an article entitled “Mother, don’t send me to the military” written by Berkan Coşkun and published on 8 November 2007. Prosecutor Mahmut Yalçın Arı demanded Yetişgen’s prosecution under law No. 5816 on Criminal Offences to the Disadvantage of Atatürk and under article 318 of the Turkish Criminal Code regarding “alienating the public from military service”. According to prosecutor Arı, crimes were constituted by the following parts of the article: “The greed of gain in the escalating war must be laid out and regarding military service the conscience must reject being a part of this dirty war” and “Mustafa Kemal himself gave the order for the Derism massacre”. The court had granted Yetişgen additional defence in the previous hearing. Reviewing Yetişen’s criminal record, the journalist has to appear before the court on 18 Feburary 2010 on the grounds of the article “Gaziantep and Çoban Ateşi” published in 2007 and containing the statement “Gazianep is an industrial city of Northern Kurdistan”. Author of the article Hurşit Kaşıkkırmaz is accused of “inciting hatred and hostility”. An arrest warrant was issued for Kaşıkkırmaz who is living abroad.
The Diyarbakır 6th Criminal Court of First Instance continues the case against Sur Mayor Abdullah Demirbaş, deputy mayor Hüseyin Kaya, purchase deputy manager Resül Baran and manger of cultural affairs Mehmet Ali Altunkaynak. The municipality employees are on trial for providing services in the Kurdish, Armenian and Syrian languages other than Turkish. The court prosecutor had demanded prison sentence of 3 years and 6 months for the un-detained defendants on 25 May. The prosecutor applied TCK article 257 on “harming the public by misconduct of duty” and article 222 regarding “acting in contradiction with the hat and Turkish letters” on the grounds of disuniting municipality activities. The case is to be continued on 30 September. Demirbaş commented, “If we are punished or not, it will not change the fact that there are many ethnic identities, many cultures, many beliefs and many languages in Turkey. The government sees itself right and us as criminals. If I spoke Kurdish, this court would have to provide an interpreter. I am accused of allocating sources from the municipality budget”.
The İskenderun 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance tries DTP İskenderun Provincial Chairman Mahmut Aydıncı and Demorkat İskenderun newspaper owner Ersen Korkmaz under charges of “glorifying crime and criminal offenders”. Aydıncı is tried because he referred to PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan as “respectable” and Korkmaz because he published Ayındı’s words. They appeared before the court on 18 September because of the article entitled “Ending the Imrali Prison and the implementations related to it should be taken seriously for the great contribution it will have for the social peace” published on 18 November 2008. Korkmaz argued, “The current discussions regarding the Kurdish initiative abolish the legal and social basis of this trial”. The case was openend on 24 December 2008 and is to be continued on 9 December 2009. The 2 defendants face prison sentence under the application of TCK article 215. Korkmaz is also being tried under article 159 of the former TCK for a news item entitled “The Kurdish leader has been caught and handed over to the fascists” he had written after following a TKP (Turkish Communist Party) panel. Korkmaz and TKP official Necmettin Salaz face prison sentence of up to 3 years under allegations of “insult and ridiculing of the military and police forces”. This case was opened by the former mayor at the Magistrate Law Court. The journalist faces 10,000 TL (€ 4,500) of compensation fines. The next hearing is scheduled for 21 October.
Star newspaper journalist Şamil Tayyar received a 2,610 TL (€ 1,200) monetary fine for charges of “insulting” journalist Güler Kömürcü “via the media” in September. He was also handed down a 1 year 6 months prison sentence by the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance for “violating the confidentiality of communication and private life”. Due to good conduct the sentenced was reduced to 1 year 3 months and postponed of 5 years. Tayyar will be subject to judicial supervision during this time and will have to go to prison if he commits any criminal offence. Kömürcü filed a criminal complaint against Tayyar on the grounds of his articles “Have a nice working day, Mr. Tuğrul” from 12 September 2008 and “To whom Ergenekon is left” issued on 17 September 2008. Apparently, it was mentioned in the article that the telephone conversation between Kömürcü and Turğrul Türkeş, which was not related to the investigation, was included in the indictment. The decision is also important since it qualifies the conversation included into the Ergenekon indictment by the prosecutors as a “violation of private llife”.
The Diyarbakır Metropolitan Mayor Osman Baydemir was acquitted by the Diyarbakır 6th High Criminal Court. Baydemir had been on trial under charges of “spreading propaganda for a terror organization” because of referring to the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as the “armed Kurdish opposition”.
On 17 September, the Istanbul 10th High Criminal Court prosecutor Savaş Kırbaş demanded prison sentence for Journalist Hakan Tahmaz, Birgün daily manager Bülent Yılmaz and editorial manager İbrahim Çeşmecioğlu for a published interview with Kurdish rebel group PKK’s Murat Karayılan. Tahmaz, Yılmaz and Çeşmecioğlu are tried under article 6/2 of the TCK for “publishing PKK announcements” in the interview entitled “Unilateral Ceasefire Amplifies the Problem”, published on 9 August 2008. Tahmaz and Çeşmecioğlu face up to 3 years imprionment, Yilmaz a heavy monetary fine. The prosecutor will hold his plead on 17 December. During a four-page interview, it read “Karayılan, who met with Tahmaz in Kandil Mountain [PKK’s base] in Northern Iraq, stated that people on streets no longer want to witness violence but they’re determined to continue a ‘legitimate defense war’, in his words.” Emphasizing, “they don’t want to establish a separate state but react to the denial of the Kurdish solution”, Karayılan said that the Democratic Society Party (DTP) is regarded as a spacer but they want to pursue politics as PKK and this isn’t in contradiction with the ongoing armed struggle.
In the first and only session of the case on 15 September the Adana 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance decided to pass sentence of 11 months and 20 days’ imprisonment to Sevda Turaçlar from Ekspres newspaper because she published an anecdote about Turkish president Abdullah Gül. The penalty will be executed only if Turaçlar will commit an offence of the same kind within the coming 5 years. Turaçlar said she would not file an appeal against the decision: “We respect the decision of the law. I am working in journalism for 20 years and this is the first time I am experiencing something like this. I received support from all over Turkey. I thank everybody”. She explained, “I am working at the newspaper in the technical service department as an IT operator. The anecdote came to me via email and I did not check it before I used it. I had used anecdotes about former president Süleyman Demirel and former Prime Minister Yıldırım Akbulut before. I was not aware of committing a crime”.
Milas Önder newspaper journalist and chief editor Kemal Kaşkar is tried before the Milas 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance in Muğla on the grounds of insulting Prime Minister Erdoğan and president Gül by calling them “dishonest” in an anecdote. Kaşkar faces prison sentence of up to 2 years 8 months under charges of “insult of the prime minister via the media”. The case will be continued in November. The Milas Önder newspaper publishes anecdotes sent in by its readers every Saturday. The daily’s publishing director Çoşkun Efendioğlu recalled, “This is indeed not a part of our publishing policies and we are careful about it. Even if it slipped our attention, there was no reason to open a trial because of this anecdote. It is actually a nice anecdote. If we should be convicted and would not reach a result at the Court of Appeals, we will apply the European Court of Human Rights”, Efendioğlu said.
The case against Sel Publishing owner İrfan Sancı was opened at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 16 September. Sancı is tried under the allegation of “spreading obscenity” regarding his publishing of the books “The Fairy’s Pendulum” by Ben Mila, “The Amorous Exploits of a Young Rakehell” by Guillaume Apollinaire and “Letters of a Well-Mannered and Knowledgeable Bourgeois Women” by French writer P.V. The Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into the Erotic Books series in January 2009, only omitting the “Book of the Cuckoos” written by Juan Manuel de Prada. Sancı faces prison sentence of up to 3 years. He objected to an expert report prepared by Istanbul Commerce University and requested the books to be reviewed by another expert committee. The court decided to have “The amorous exploits of a young rakehell” and “Letters of a well-mannered and knowledgeable bourgeois women” reviewed by experts appointed by a platform from the Galatasaray University Faculty of French Language and Literature and Faculty of Law. As far as “The Fairy’s Pendulum” is concerned, it will be reviewed by experts appointed by the Istanbul University Faculty of Turkish Literature. The trial was postponed to 15 December in order to allow time for the new expert reports and the presentation of new evidence. Sancı argued, “When the expert committee of the Commerce University claims that these books are not works of literature, will that negate the status of these internationally read books as works of literature? Will world-famous poem and writer Apollinaire become a writer of pornography?”
The prosecutor of the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court asked for the acquittal of Adnan Demir, director of Taraf newspaper. Demir is tried for a prison sentence because he spoke of “military neglect” when reporting about the Aktütün police station where 17 soldiers lost their lives in a raid by PKK rebels. The prosecutor evaluated the publishing related to the raid as a part of freedom of the press. Therefore he asked for Demir not to be punished. The journalist is trialed because of “publishing classified documents of the General Staff”. In the hearing on15 September the court gave Demir and his lawyer Ergin Cinmen the opportunity to speak up for the journalist’s defense. The trial is to be continued on 20 October. Fikret Seçen, Istanbul Public Prosecutor, litigated Demir upon a complaint by the Genral Staff. Seçen demanded a 5 years prison sentence under article 329 of the Turkish Penalty Code (TCK). The publication ban imposed by the General Staff Military Court was related to the news of 14 October 2008 with the headline “We told you to confess about Aktütün… Now we are talking”. In the indictment it was reminded that the publication ban was imposed one day later. Reason for the trial were the newspaper’s issues dated 14-18, 26 and 28 October, publishing news related to the attack that happened on the evening of 3 Ocotber 2008.
Brigadier General Hıfzı Çubuklu, Legal Advisor of the General Staff, announced on 11 September that a court case has been opened against Journalist Mehmet Baransu from Taraf newspaper because of publishing documents about the “Anti-Reactionary Plan”. The “Anti-Reactionary Plan” lays out strategies to defame the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the religious Fethullah Gülen movement. Journalist Baransu is subject of an investigation by the Kadıköy Public Prosecutor’s Office because of his news item about an “Anti-Reactionary Plan” allegedly prepared within the army. Baransu said that if the investigation should be turned into a trial, he is going to present documents to the court which will prove the allegations wrong. Baransu had not obtained any information about a court case being opened against him: “The prosecutor’s office carrying out the investigation may have informed the General Staff” Baransu assumed. The journalist said that the file of the investigation conducted on the grounds of article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) was sent to the Ankara Ministry of Justice on 12 August.
Another hearing of the trial of the Ardahan 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance against Fakir Yılmaz, chief editor of the Kuzey Doğu Anadolu (Northeastern Anatolia) newspaper, daily owner Selmi Yılmaz and Son Vialet newspaper chief editor Nihat Yılmaz took place on 9 September. The journalists are tried under charges of “”inciting the public to hatred and hostility” on the ground of their coverage of the provocations experienced in Ardahan before and after the visit of Emine Ayna, co-chair of the Democratic Society Party (DTP) on 28 November 2008. The court postponed the trial to 4 November in order to complete paperwork. In another case, Ardahan judge Dilek Şen and prosecutor Emrah Unal are demanding 40,000 TL (around 18,300 Euros) compensation, claiming that they were insulted in an article entitled “Should I have demanded a change in judge?”, published on 14 May 2009. The compensation case will be heard on 30 September. The judge and prosecutor are also taking Selmi and Fakir Yılmaz to criminal court. The journalists are accused of “insulting public officials because of their duty”. This case will continue in November. In yet another case, the three journalists are on trial for an article reporting on the visit to the printing press of the father of Orhan Keskin, a revolutionary from Ardahan. The journalists had referred to Orhan Keskin as “the Ardahan revolutionary martyr who died in the Diyarbakır dungeons”. The prosecution is accusing the journalists of “inciting the public to hatred and hostility” and “spreading propaganda of an illegal organisation”. Fakir Yılmaz also faces a demand for compensation from district governor (Kaymakam) Önder Çan, whom he had criticised for taking a 20-ton bulldozer onto a frozen lake in order to clear the path for a military tent put up as part of a festival. The ice broke and the bulldozer was in danger for sinking. It took dozens of vehicles to finally rescue the bulldozer in the evening. The article reporting on this incident was entitled “Authorities in Ardahan Must Be Mad”, making use of the word “Çıldır”, which here refers both to the district and to “çıldırmış”, “mad”. The article was also published in the national Taraf newspaper on 11 January.
A trial against Haber 49 newspaper owner Emrullah Özbey has been opened under allegations of “insult” after publishing a news article entitled “A resignation full of speculations” regarding the resignation of Provincial Secretary General Ahmet Güngör. The first hearing was scheduled for 22 September at the Muş Magistrate Criminal Court. Özbey asked questions about Güngör’s resignation to the Muş Governor Erdoğan Bektaş who sent him answers to 15 of his questions. In another case, the Court of Appeals Law Office reduced a fine handed to the journalist from 1,200 TL to 1,000 TL (€ 450) in compensation. Özbey had reported about the “Signature Scandal” on 17 January 2005 concerned with the cancellation of an exam for disabled people with of a forged signature. In the meantime, the State Council decided to appoint the disabled employees to their former jobs. Özbey is going to apply to the European Court of Human Rights.
The Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office decided to drop the case against the parents of M.Ö. and the Diyarbakır Sur district Mayor Abdullah Demirbaş. Ten-years-old girl M.Ö. was under prosecution together with Mayor Abdullah Demirbaş on the grounds of giving Kurdish lessons to other children at home along with the municipality’s project “One story to each house” (Kurdish: Sere Şeve Çirokek). The project ”One story each night and turning every house into a place of education” was launched 3 years ago. M.Ö.’s parents previously made a statement at the prosecutor’s office that together with Mayor Demirbaş they had turned one room of their home into a class room in the course of the project. After the investigation the prosecutor’s office decided to close the case.
On 8 September, the Diyarbakır 6th High Criminal Court tried former MP of the closed Democratic Party (DEP) Leyla Zana who was convicted because of referring to Celal Talabani, Mesut Barzani and Abdullah Öcalan as the “3 leaders of the Kurds” during the Newroz celebrations in 2007. However, Zana was acquitted of allegations of “spreading propaganda for an illegal organization”. Zana was facing a 2 years prison sentence under charges of “praising crime and criminals” because she had said “Being tried because of my thoughts is a shame of the Turkish democracy in my opinion”. Zana’s lawyer Meral Danış Beştaş announced, “The courts are not a place to spread propaganda, because propaganda involves spreading a certain idea. Besides, the right to defence is universally guaranteed in the Constitution and in international law”.
On 8 September, the Aydın Juvenile Court dropped the case of a 13-year-old child who was trialed because of addressing Prime Minister Erdoğan with the curse “God damn you” when Erdoğan visited the city of Aydin (in the southwest of Turkey) before the local elections on 29 March 2009. The child was taken to Erdoğan by his bodyguards and he asked him why he talked to him like that. When M.S.Ö. answered “I do not like you”, Erdoğan squeezed the child’s throat. 13-year-old M.S.Ö. was convicted of “Publicly defaming a public official connected with the public service he provides”. The case was dropped at the first hearing. The court decided in accordance with the child’s lawyers’ defense that Erdoğan had visited the city of Aydin as chair of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), thus he cannot be considered as a public official in this context. If the case had been continued, the 13-year-old child would have been trialed under article 125 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) and could have faced 14 to 28 months imprisonment. M.S.Ö. cursed the prime minister because his father went bankrupt. The child’s lawyers filed a criminal complaint against Erdoğan with the allegation of “deliberately hurting people”. However, this complaint was dismissed. Lawyer Kemal Aytaç emphasized, “Everybody is protecting the prime minister but what is actually essential is the protection of the child. The indictment had been amended in contrary of the law and the court could accept it. The funny side of the story is that the prime minister himself did not complain”.
The Beyoğlu 1st Magistrate Criminal Court in Istanbul acquitted Labour Youth members Şerafettin Gökdeniz, Sercan Bakır and Ekin Can Kınık. They had been tried under allegations of insulting the prime minister because of organizing an event on 20 May 2008 after they had sent collected signatures to the prime minister in the context of the campaign “Life does not fit into a 3-hour exam”. An expert report sent to the court had indicated that no element of crime was constituted by saying “He was born in Istanbul and became an American, murderer Bush’s son Tayyip Erdoğan”. The 3 young people who had been taken into custody were also acquitted of opposing the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations.
The Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office has opened a trial against journalist Mehmet Baransu from Taraf newspaper. Baransu is accused of “communicating protocols” regarding an attack of the militant Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK) on the Aktütün police station which resulted in the death of 17 soldiers. The indictment prepared by Public Prosecutor Ercan Şafak on 27 August 2009 includes the following information: Mehmet Baransu’s news item entitled “Written Records” published on 13 April 2009 gives information about details such as the time of the attack, departure times of the aircrafts that bombed PKK camps, when the Prime Minister and the Presidency was informed and what time the Chief of General Staff came to the headquarters. 2 months after the publishing of the news the Military Prosecutor’s Office filed a criminal complaint against Baransu on 12 June. The complaint accuses Baransu of “disclosing information related to the state’s security and political efficacy which should have remained confidential”.Baransu’s trial will open on 18 November at the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court. Baransu is facing up to 10 years imprisonment applying article 329/1 of the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK) on the grounds that he “published confidential written records, and information and documents with a classified status that had not been removed or altered”.
The Istanbul 11th High Criminal Court will continue the prosecution of journalist Nedim Şener on 23 October. Şener is the author of the book “The Dink Murder and the Intelligence Lies” about the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, recounting the negligence of police and gendarmerie officers prior to the murder. The journalists faces prison sentence of up to 28 years under charges of “targeting people on duty to fight terrorism, supplying and announcing confidential information and attempting to influence a trial” concerning the contents of Şener’s book. At the hearing on 26 June, the Istanbul court accepted the demands of police officers Ramazan Akyürek, Muhittin Zenit and Ali Fuat Yılmazer to become third party plaintiffs. The court agreed that they had been damaged by the alleged “targeting” of the book; the court decreed that they had not been damaged under the other accusations. Şener said, “The complainants might also become defendants in the future. After the report of the Prime Ministry Inspection Board the 2 commissioned property inspectors are carrying out an investigation. These complaints were not made out of institutional but personal concern in order not to become a defendant later on. The murder held political dimensions and objectives. There is no way to clarify this murder without a crime to be committed. I did what was necessary for the public’s right to be informed and for the universal human rights”. Şener’s lawyer Şeyhnaz Yüzer argued, “We do not know which terror organization the complainant is fighting. In case of the Intelligence, Nobody can punish the one who is doing his duty. The European Court of Human Rights caselaw must be considered”.
Former Democratic Society Party (DTP) deputy chair Orhan Miroğlu received a 2 years 4 months prison sentence for saying “The PKK is reality in Turkey, Turkey has to face this truth. Do not search beyond the boarder” during the 2007 Newroz festival. The Ankara 11th High Criminal Court claimed “spreading propaganda for an illegal organization” in its decision taken in August. The file was forwarded to the Court of Appeals. Taraf newspaper journalist Miroğlu is tried under article 301 the Turkish Criminal Code (“Insulting the Turkish People, Republic of Turkey and Governmental Institutions and Bodies”) for his article entitled “Single Soldiers” published on 12 December 2007. In the article Miroğlu criticised a picture and article published by Sabah newspaper showing “single Turkish soldiers side by side with Kurdish women dressed in traditional clothes”. The Ministry of Justice approved the trial against Miroğlu. He gave a statement upon instruction before the Kadıköy (Istanbul) Criminal Court of First Instance. Based on the news entitled “Border Rangers Remain Single”, Miroğlu claimed that in the past women were kept in police stations for months for sexual abuse. He also brought the S.A. case to the agenda, in which Turkey was convicted by the European Court of Human Rights.
Artist Ferhat Tunç is being sued with “insult and ridiculing of the judiciary” on the grounds of his article entitled “A revolutionary Leyla and a song” published by Yeniden Özgür Gündem newspaper on 19 January 2004. The article mentioned the term of “abstruse judiciary”. The Beyoğlu (Istanbul) 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance demands prison sentence for Tunç and the then editor-in-chief Mehmet Çolak who currently lives abroad. In a separate case, Tunç is tried for a statement in his concert in Antalya/Alanya on 22 July 2006, saying, “Just as deceased soldiers are regarded as children of this country, each guerrilla that was killed is a child of this country too”. The İzmir 10th High Criminal Court acquitted Tunç of charges concerning “spreading propaganda for an illegal organization”. However, the prosecutor objected the decision and the file was forwarded to the Court of Appeals.