The report comprises the cases and struggles of 695 people related to violations of freedom of expression. The report is organized under eight headings, namely “Murdered Journalists”, “Attacks and Threats”, “Arrests and Detentions”, “Cases related to Press Freedom and Freedom of Expression”, “Corrections and Legal Redress”, “Reactions to Censorship”, “European Court of Human Rights”, and “Penalties of the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK)”. The report cannot be a complete documentation of all incidents – it rather gives an idea about the variety and density of current implementations that target press freedom and freedom of expression.
■ “Tawhid-Salaam Jerusalem Organization”: On 4 March, the Ankara 11th High Criminal Court continued the trial against four members of the “Tawhid-Salaam Jerusalem Organization”. The organization is held responsible for the killings of lawyer Bahriye Üçok, journalists Uğur Mumcu and Ahmet Taner Kışlalı and a number of other attacks. The hearing was attended by Halil Sevinç, lawyer of the widow of journalist Mumcu, Vice President of the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TBMM) Şükran Güldal Mumcu.
Court president Hasan Şatır said that the arrest warrants issued for Ahmet Cansız, Selahattin Ei and Ali Akbulut could not be executed yet. In the indictment prepared on 18 December 2008 it is stated that defendants Cansız, Eş and Akbulut, residing in Iran, are alleged executives of the “illegal Tawhid-Salaam Jerusalem Organization” and that defendant Koral, who lives in Switzerland, is an alleged member of the organization. The defendants face imprisonment of 22 years and 6 months.
Bilge Emeç does not believe that the caught murderer is the real perpetrator. Bilge Emeç is the widow of killed journalist Çetin Emeç, then general publication director of Hürriyet newspaper. He was killed 21 years ago, on 7 March 1990, in front of his house in Suadiye (Anatolian side of Istanbul). Bilge Emeç said in an interview given to Sanem Altan from Vatan newspaper on 13 February, “It is not very important to find the murderer. I do not believe that the caught murderer is the real perpetrator. They supposedly caught the triggerman. He got married in prison. […] It has still not been solved who is behind all this”.
Bilge Emeç furthermore stated, “I am a Kemalist, I support the army and I am a patriotic women. That is why it suited my book when they said that the assassination had been carried out by Iran, I guess”. Islamic Movement organization executive İrfan Çağrıcı and four of his friends stood accused of the murder of Çetin Emeç, his driver Sinan Ercan, writer Turan Dursun and Iranian dissident Ali Akbar Gorbani. The five defendants received various prison sentences including aggravated life sentences.
■Hrant Dink Murder Case / Trabzon: On 16 April, the 2nd Magistrate Criminal Court of Trabzon (eastern Black Sea coast) will continue the case against eight defendants accused of negligence related to the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. Dink, then chief editor of the Turkish-Armenian Agos newspaper, was shot dead in front of his office in Istanbul on 19 January 2007. The hearing on12 February was postponed upon the plea of the Dink family lawyers.
Lawyer Hakan Bakrıcıoğlu announced that preparations were in progress for presenting a speech on the substance of the matter. On 25 December 2009, the court heard two of a total of six informants on duty in the town of Pelitli who had claimed that the Trabzon Gendarmerie Command planned the murder. The court refrained from taking the statements of the remaining four officers.
The Gendarmerie Command announced that three of the staff members are still on duty. Ogün Samast set off from the town of Pelit in the province of Trabzon to go to Istanbul. He killed journalist Dink despite all notifications issued to the gendarmerie and the police beforehand.
Ali Öz, then Trabzon Gendarmerie Regiment Commander Colonel, intelligence branch official Captain Metin Yıldız, Military Officers Gazi Günay and Hüseyin Yımaz, Command Sergeant Major Okan Şimşek, Specialist Sergeants Veysel Şahin, Hacı Ömer Ünalır and Önder Alraz stand accused of simple negligence instead of the offence of “negligence causing death” and face imprisonment of up to two years each.
■ “Social Memory Platform”: 23 families of victims of political murders established the “Social Memory Platform”. On 11 February, 19 representatives of the platform urged TBMM officials for legal amendments related to the lifting of the statute of limitation for this sort of cases.
Meryem Türkmen, sister of journalist Metin Göktepe who was killed in police custody, read out the following joint statement:
“We did not come with the request to settle old scores but to communicate face to face. We have to find answers to the remaining questions in a joint effort. We know that such crimes will be committed again and again if we do not take that effort. These files will not be closed until we advance to the chain of command and expand into all crimes concealed”.
Türkmen finished the statement with a quotation of Prosecutor Doğan Öz who was killed in the course of investigations related to unsolved murders. As Ankara Deputy Prosecutor he had said “We are here to show the situation in its entire clarity and bitterness”.
The delegation talked to MP Bekir Bozdağ from ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Prof. Dr. Zafer Üskül, Head of the Parliamentary Human Rights Commission, Kemal Anadol, Deputy Chairman of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), a group of CHP MPs, President of Parliament Mehmet Ali Şahin, deputies of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Democratic Left Party (DSP) and officials of Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).
MHP chair Devlet Bahçeli stated, “We will not meet with representatives of a prejudiced mentality who have shown efforts for years to destroy our party and subvert party members and who constantly and intentionally show our party as a target at every opportunity”.
The delegation included Filiz Ali, daughter of Sabahattin Ali; Sezen Öz and Bengi Heval Öz, the wife and the daughter of prosecutor Doğan Öz;Neşe Bulut Erdilek, wife of Necdet Bulut; Nükhet İpekçi, daughter of Abdi İpekçi; Abid Dursun, son of Turan Dursun; Nilgün Türkler, daughter of Kemal Türkler; Canan Kaftanoğlu, wife of Ümit Kaftanoğlu; Meryem Türkmen, sister of Metin Göktepe; Denis Tütengül, daughter of Cavit Orhan Tütengül; Özge Mumcu, daughter of Uğur Mumcu; Hosrof Dink, brother of Hrant Dink; Şengül Hablemitoğlu, wife of Necip Hablemitoğlu;Dicle Anter, daughter of Musa Anter; Mine Yavuz, wife of Orhan Yavuz; Yeter Gültekin, wife of Hasret Gültekin; Eren Aysan, daughter of Behçet Aysan and Ülker Yurdakul, wife of Cevat Yurdakul.
■Statement of Secret Witness-1: On 23 August 2008, the “Secret Witness-1” gave his/her statement related to the murder of journalist Hrant Dink. The witness stated that apart from prime suspect Ogün Samast also Yasin Hayal was at the scene of crime and shot the journalist. His brother Osman Hayal kept watch, according to witness’s statement.
Journalist Nedim Şener from Milliyet newspaper reported that the secret witness testified in Turkish to the Istanbul Public Prosecutor Firkre Seçen. According to Şener, the record of the statement did not reveal any information about the identity of the witness such as gender, nationality, age or residence.
Samast is tried at the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court as the triggerman suspect, Yasin Hayal stands accused of incitement to murder.
The investigations carried out by the police and the prosecution did not confirm that Osman Hayal was in Istanbul on 29 January 2007 when Dink was killed. Only the Dink family lawyers claimed that it was clear from the mobile phone records included in the file that Hayal was in Istanbul on the day of the murder. When the case was opened against Osman Hayal and another 19 defendants, the court did not deem it necessary to take Hayal into detention.
■Hrant Dink Murder Case, 12th Hearing: The 12th hearing of the Hrant Dink murder case was held at the 14th High Criminal Court in Istanbul on 8 February. The joint attorneys requested to investigate allegations related to the so-called “Cage Operation Action Plan” which was supposedly worked out as a coup plan by the Naval Forces, targeting non-Muslims and aiming to charge them of their religious beliefs. The plan was found on a DVD in the office of retired Naval Commander Levent Bektaş in March 2009.
The document, saved on a DVD, contains “classified” paragraphs. The paragraph with the heading “Situation” was quoted as follows: “After theoperations related to Priest Santoro, the Malatya Zirve Publishing House and Hrant DINK, the public opinion was shaped in a way that reactionary non-Muslim groups living in Turkey were being targeted. However, AKP [ruling Justice and Development Party], supported by the opposing media, will spread intense propaganda that the mentioned incidents were organized by ERGENEKON”.
The court decided to keep defendants Ogün Samast, Erhan Tuncel, Yasin Hayal, Ersin Yolcu and Ahmet İskender in detention because of the “risk of flight, since the factual criteria showing highly possible crime suspicion is still valid in the existing file and because of insufficient protection precautions”. The next hearing is scheduled for 10 May.
Lawyer Fethiye Çetin presented the lawyers’ requests in an 18-pages petition with nine paragraphs. The lawyers demanded to launch an investigation into a group of people that played a vital role in the process of showing Dink as a target and to initiate a further investigation into the connections between the murder and the organization responsible for the Cage Action Plan. However, the court declined the request made by the joint attorneys as well as alleged instigator defendant Erhan Tuncel to take the statements of intelligence officers in charge, in particular that of Head of Intelligence Department Ramazan Akyürek and Muhettin Zenit.
The court reiterated the request made to the Telecommunications Communication Presidency (TİB) regarding the acquisition of a full list of telephone conversations and SMS in the vicinity of the scene of crime from the morning of 19 January 2007 until after the murder. Two weeks after the murder of Dink, witnesses Turan Meral, Orhan Özbaş and Kaan Gerçek had testified at the police that they drove around Istanbul with murderer suspectOgün Samast. He had allegedly shown them his weapon and said “I came to kill somebody”. The witnesses had furthermore recalled a phone call with Samast on the day of the murder when he said “I killed that person, I will go now”. They claimed that they had been too afraid to go to the police.
In the 12th hearing though the witnesses stated Samast just wanted to show off and that they did not take him seriously. Two of the witnesses retracted the statement that they saw the weapon. The joint attorneys had reason to assume these persons as part of an organized structure and requested to file a complaint with them on the grounds of “false testimony”. However, the court told the lawyers to apply to the prosecution in this matter.
A report from the Intelligence Office Presidency sent to the court on 25 September 2009 revealed information about the people who met Samast at the Istanbul Bus Terminal when he arrived.
The court is going to wait for a reply from TİB concerning telephone and SMS communications between Özbaş and Meral. A writing will be sent to the Şişli Mayor’s Office regarding documents and the license of an internet café in Şafak Street used by Samast. Moreover, the Istanbul Police will be asked once again what was being done at a certain office at the time of the murder.
Defendants Erhan Sevil and Mehmet Ali Temelocak will be taken to the coming hearing under compulsion.
Camera records of Şafak Street and of the Akbank brach ATM camera were shown during the hearing. Defenanant Samast allegedly escaped via Şafak Street after the murder. According to the presentation made by joint attorney Deniz Tuna, a person in a black jacket can be seen at 11.16 am prior to the murder. Footage of the Akbank camera reveals that this person is waiting outside the branch till 2.39 pm, talking to an elderly person who has got a mobile phone. Afterwards, the person walks towards the office of Agos newspaper. The Dink familiy lawyers took efforts to identify this person, who talks on the phone at 2.53 pm. After the murder at around 3.00 pm, this person checks whether Samast, who is getting away from the scene, was being followed. The person gets out of view when s/he enters a building on Şafak Street together with another person.
The expected “secret witness” could not be heard since s/he had not been summoned to court. Information about the identity in the record of the hearing and the comment “The secret witness does not know Turkish very well” made by president judge Erkan Çanak raised concerns about the safety of the witness’s life. The protocol includes sentences such as “An interpreter for Armenian should be ready”.
Elsa Vidal form the European Desk of the international Reporters without Borders (RSF) organization commented: “Unfortunately, the murder is quite irrelevant in the eyes of those who are competing in the prosecutions related to Dink and freedom of expression. Vidal emphasized that the important questions that accumulated over the past three years should be answered, “The judges needlessly contributed to cover the truth and justice, we expect them to comprehend the severity of this murder”.
The Dink family was supported by the Social Memory Platform, namely by the presence of the daughter of writer Sabahattin Ali, the wife and daughter of prosecutor Doğan Öz, the daughter of journalist Abdi İpekçi, the son and daughter-in-law of writer Ümit Kaftanoğlu, the daughter of unionist Kemal Türkler, the son and daughter of journalist Uğur Mumcu, the son of musician Nesmi Çimen, the daughter of poet Metin Altıok, the sibling of archaeologist Yasemin Cebenoyan, the brother and sister of journalist Metin Göktepe, and the family of journalist Cihan Hayırsevener. The writing read out aloud during the meeting held before the hearing was signed by the families of Cevat Yurdakul, Musa Anter, Behçet Aysan, Hasret Gültekin, Turan Dursun, Sevinç Özgüner and Cavit Orhan Tütengil.
The joint announcement of the Social Memory Platform can be summarized as follows:
“We came here to make our voices heard to the ones carrying the official capacity, addressing the ones in responsible positions. We are not addressing the people in despair who are sensitive about this issue. We came here to be together with Rakel Dink and our friends Arat, Delal and Sera. We are interveners in this trial as well and today we will follow up that the list of demands submitted by the lawyers will be taken into account by the court”.
The Democratic Judiciary Group declared on 8 February that the murder of Hrant Dink was aimed at democracy and done by a “murder industry”. “This is a historic opportunity to throw light on the Dink murder to its full extend and to assure the future of the axis of democracy and freedom in Turkey. We remind the society and the agents of politics and of the judiciary of their responsibility”.
The investigation carried out by the Ministry of the Interior concluded “negligence and responsibilities” in the Hrant Dink murder, yet 19 police officers were exculpated, among them former Head of Intelligence Department Sabri Uzun and current Head of Intelligence Department Ramazan Akyürek.
The inspectors’ report consists of the replies related to the Prime Ministry’s report. By progressive stages, the report exculpated the Intelligence Department Presidency and afterwards the Presidency of the Istanbul and the Trabzon Police. The report justifies the acquittal because the notifications sent by Erhan Tuncel to the Intelligence Department, “were transferred to the office in order to record them in the archives. Additional notes were added and signed”. The Trabzon Police was acquitted by the reason that Tuncel “was not trustworthy and told lies”.
The report furthermore exculpated the Istanbul Police putting forward that the Istanbul Provincial Commission was responsible for the lack of protection for Dink. The report also referred to the claim that “Erhan Tuncel called the police to pass on the name of Samast. He even sent a message to the police five days prior to the murder; still no precautions were taken”. The claim is refuted by the comment that “Instead of sending a message, Tuncel could have easily gone to the police or could have called 155 to convey his information”.
The report exculpated former Intelligence Department Heads Sabri Uzun and Ramazan Akyürek, Deputy Heads Necmettin Emre and Vedat Yavuz who were responsible for the operations, former Manager of the Extreme Left Desk, Ali Fuat Yılmazer, former Vice Manager Osman Gülbel, Office Chief Yılmaz Angın, police officer Hüsamettin Yaman, former Heads of the Trabzon Police Directorate, Retaş Altay and Ramazan Akyürek, former Branch Manager of the Trabzon Intelligence, former Branch Manager of the Trabzon Intelligence, Engin Dinç, police commandersFaruk Sarı and Ercan Demir, chief inspector Hüseyin Yılmaz, inspector Özkan Mumcu and police officers Muhittin Zenit, Tefik Cantürk, Onur Karakaya, Mehmet Ayhan and Mehmet Uçar
■Mehmet Ali Ağca released: On the 31st anniversary of the death of journalist Abdi İpekçi, the International Press Institute (IPI) declared that the imprisonment of Mehmet Ali Ağca at the time did not mean that the murder case has been solved yet. Milliyet newspaper publishing director İpekçi was killed on 1 February 1979 in front of his house in Nişantaşı, Istanbul. His murderer Ağca was released from the Ankara Sincan prison on 18 January this year.
In reference to the IPI Unsolved Murders Campaign initiated against journalist murder cases closed on prescription and unjust detentions of journalists, IPI Board Member Ferai Tınç stated, “We, as Turkish journalists, see the İpekçi murder as an unsolved case”.
İpekçi’s daughter Nükhet İpekçi showed the blood-stained shirt of her father in a program on the Turkish news channel NTV hosted by Can Dündar and said, “Some people see a murderer where other people see a hero”. Minister of the Interior of the time, Hasan Fehmi Güneş, said that İpek was chosen to become the victim of a murder that was aimed at creating a stir and even chaos in society:
“The state should have been able to answer all questions asked by the fathers and children of the murdered persons. The state was responsible for this. I am a person who served in the state at the time. It is burdensome that this responsibility could not be fulfilled. A certain path was stroke to solve the incident. This path has been cut, I revolt against this”.
Necdet Üruğ, Istanbul Martial Law Commander of the time, plainly commented that he ‘used his authority’ when he did not keep Ağca in detention for an additional 15 days. Military Prosecutor Ahmet Koç interrogated Ağca and said, “It was unfavourable to keep Ağca in police custody”. Ağca himself stated, “The capital punishment you handed down to me is not enough. A pardon will be granted in 1981, I will get out of prison then or escape”. When he was asked why he did it, Ağca replied, “To protect the system”.
16 families of who lost relatives to political murders made a joint statement when Ağca was released. “What makes us really sad is the glorification and the monetary and moral support for the triggerman”, the families said. The statement was signed by the families of Hrant Dink, Uğur Mumcu, Abdi İpekçi, Doğan Öz, Metin Göktepe, Kemal Türkler, Musa Anter, Behçet Aysan, Cavit Orhan Tütengil, Cevat Yurdakul, İlhan Erdost, Metin Altıok, Nesimi Çimen, Onat Kutlar, Sevinç Özgüner, Turan Dursun and Ümit Kaftancıoğlu.
On 18 January, the Prime Ministry Inspection Board (BTK) replied to the inspector’s report which turned out positively regarding the alleged negligence of police officers in the Hrant Dink murder case. The BTK indicated in its reply that the Ministry of the Interior “exceeded their authority”. Based on a source within the ministry, Radikal newspaper mentioned that the government was determined to solve the Dink murder by focussing on the forces behind it. Thereupon, the BTK said in a written statement that they found the report superficial and that they ‘did not agree’ with a broad section of the evaluations.
According to the news from 25 February, the BTK objected to the report of the Ministry of the Interior because of its ‘superficial evaluations’, keeping the report previously prepared by the BTK in the background. The Ministry of the Interior took a step back and said that a new report was to be worked out. The BTK had prepared a report upon the application of Rakel Dink after the murder of her husband and Agos newspaper chief editor Hrant Dink.
Because of alleged “negligence” put forward by the report, an investigation approved by Prime Minister Erdoğan was launched by the inspectors of the Home Office into 19 police officers, among them also Ramazan Akyürek, Head of the Police Intelligence Department. The investigation was completed on 9 November 2009. The report concluded that there was no need to take any action against the 19 officers from the Trabzon and Istanbul Police, among them Akyürek. However, the report of the Ministry of the Interior was criticized by the Prime Ministry.
Joint attorneys of the Hrant Dink murder case Çetin and Tuna argued that the case, which has been continuing for three years, would not be solved if it was handled this way. They claimed that the time before and after the murder has to be seen as a whole, “All files should be merged at the Istanbul 14thHigh Criminal Court, where the main trial is being conducted”.
The joint attorneys mentioned that vital information was conveyed by the “determination” not to protect Hrant Dink although it was known that he was going to be killed and by treating the murder suspect like a hero:
“For revealing this extremely professionally organized structure all embodied pieces of evidence must be gathered, every single part that might potentially be embodied must be put together, all hints which could decipher the organization should be assessed. This is also crucial for an efficient and effective investigation.
■Hayırsevener investigation: The investigation into the murder of journalist Cihan Hayırsevener on 18 January 2010 is still going on. Hayırsevener was an official of Marmara TV and publication director of the local Güney Marmara’da Yaşam newspaper in the city of Bandırma in the province of Balıkesir on the southern coast of the Sea of Marmara.
The journalist died of loss of blood after he was subject of an armed attack on the Atatürk Boulevard in Bandırma. Prime suspect Serkan Erakkuş(29) was arrested one week later in Edincik and detained in the Bandırma M Type Closed Prison upon the decision of the Bandırma High Criminal Court. Both suspects Tolga Ö. and Ali T. were released pending trial. The murder weapon was found. The police also found the rented cars uses for the murder, one was parked in the district of Susurluk and another one was in Bandırma. There is no solid information regarding the investigation due to a decision of confidentiality. Newspaper owner Ümit Babacan and Balıkesir Journalists Association President Ramazan Demir stated that Hayırsevener became a “victim of an organized criminal organization”.
■ Journalist attacked by body guards: Reporter Cenker Tezel, working for the magazine department of Hürriyet newspaper, was attacked by the body guards of Mutasim Gaddafi, son of Libyan leader Muammer al-Kaddafi, on the night of 30 March. Tezel had learned from the news editor of the nation-wide daily that Kaddafi’s son was in Istanbul at the time and having a night out at the Al Jamal, a restaurant that turns into a night club later at night. When the reporter tried to take a picture of Mutasim Kaddafi, he was assaulted by his body guards. Tezel suffered injuries in different parts of his body; his camera was broken.
Emrah Güner, camera man of privately owned Fox TV, was also attacked in the same incident. One of Kaddafi’s Lybian body guards, Nagielmas Bahi, was slightly injured on his head.
Reporter Cenker Tezel, who was the one attacked and injured, was taken to the Beşiktaş Police Station together with the bodyguards who assaulted him. Tezel complained about body guard Nagielmas Bahi and police officer Abudllah T., who was among Gaddafi’s body guards, and they complained about reporter Tezel in return.
Journalist Tezel was taken into custody under charges of assault and remained behind bars till the next morning. He was hand-cuffed when he was taken to court later on. In the meantime, he was restrained from talking to his lawyer and was kept waiting a long time for a report about the assault.
Tezel was released after he had given his statement to the prosecutor. The Turkish Journalists’ Society (TGC), the Press Council and the Magazine Journalists Association condemned the attack. The TGC stated that much to their regret, the officious attitude of the police shown towards the aggressors made the incident even worse.
“We urge the officials and members of the security in particular to review their attitude towards journalists”. The press council criticized that Tezel had been treated like a drug trafficker and condemned the fact that he was handcuffed during the transport.
Female journalists in Tunceli threatened by e-mail:The Provincial Directorate for Public Education of Tunceli (eastern Turkey) announced to have launched an investigation into threatening e-mails sent to the local Tunceli Emek newspaper by Süleyman Çakmak, Manager of the Provincial Public Education Branch. The local newspaper run by three women had received the e-mails sent under the alias of “striking cobra” (‘vurucu kobra’) after publishing the article entitled “Public education and a strange education” written by Dilek Karakoyun.
Karakoyun had criticized the public education system in her article. Right after the publication of the article on 6 August 2009, the newspaper received an e-mail in the evening hours of the same day sent from the address firstname.lastname@example.org. A municipality employee with the initials İ.E. from Samsun at the Back Sea coast sent another e-mail to the newspaper on 15 July 2009 containing threats and insults.
The message read as follows: “Is this your business? Of course not. There is only one thing you will do and that is to be smart and keep quiet, otherwise…” The investigation carried out by the Tunceli Public Prosecutor’s Office revealed that the msn address ‘striking cobra’ belongs to Çakmak as Manager of the Provincial Public Education Branch.
The law suit filed by the local newspaper with Çakmak and İ.E. on the grounds of insult and threat in the e-mail messages will start on 11 May. This was announced by the Directorate of the Provincial Public Education after Ali Ekber Ertürk from Akşam newspaper had brought the story to the national agenda with his article “The ‘striking cobra’ turned out to be the Public Education Branch Manager”.
■ Journalist attacked by supposed “secret informant”: Journalist Tamer Topçu was attacked by two un-identified persons on the evening of 23March. Topçu had previously criticized the Mayor of Buca Ercan Tatı in several articles. The journalist stated that a person he did not know asked for a meeting, saying that he was going to hand him a file about Mayor Tatı. However, they talked on the phone a couple of times but he never showed up at the places agreed on. Eventually, Topçu was heavily assaulted, supposedly by the same person.
Topçu is known for his articles related to Buca and had made the headlines for his criticism of Mayor Tatı from the Republican People’s Party (CHP). He said that he expected this case to be solved by an independent judiciary. Topçu writes columns for the Gazetem Ege newspaper and is currently working at a press institution. He stated that two people got off a taxi and cut his way. He was not able to identify the number plate of the car. The journalist described the incident as follows:
“We were followed by a taxi when I went home from the bus station together with my wife. When we had reached street no. 120, I saw two people coming our way and I told my wife to stay back. One of them had a weapon, the other one was carrying an iron stick. They attacked me. While they were beating me, they threatened me by saying ‘If you write anything negative about our mayor once again, we will kill you'”.
■Erdoğan-Çandar: “Who are you?”: Prime Minister Erdoğan said in an interview on BBC that he could expel “illegal Armenians” from the country if necessary. He addressed journalist Cengiz Çandar, who expected an apology, without mentioning his name: “Who are you? Be honest for once. Advocate for the right thing”
Çandar replied with his article entitled “We did not get it wrong” published in Referans newspaper on 20 March 2010. Mehmet Ali Birand, general publication director of the Kanal D News television channel, also criticized the Prime Minister’s approach in his broadcast on 19 March. Author Yaşar Kemal condemned the threat of expelling Armenian workers from the country, saying “They should not do this, it is a shame, for God’s sake!”.
■ Another interview promised: On 1 May, Ahmet Mahmut Ünlü, a controversial Islamic preacher also known as “Cübbeli Ahmet Hoca” (‘Master Ahmet with the gown’), invited Taraf newspaper journalist Fırat Alkaç and photo journalists Celal Yıldız to his office of the Arifan magazine for an intervies and had allegedly threatened the journalist by his press advisor Barış Sezek and his bodyguards.
Alkaç said that he was taken to a room with a steel door which was opened with a remote control by the bodyguards. There, the journalist was supposedly surrounded by Ünlü, press advisor Sezek and the bodyguards and was exposed to an attempt to intimidate him.
In his article, Alkaç had written about the increasing competition within the İsmailağa Congregation. Ünlü had accepted the journalist’s request for an interview. However, when the journalist arrived for the interview, Ünlü apparently said, “I will not give an interview, I just called you to get to know you”.
■“Like Hrant Dink…”: Journalist Ramazan Pekgöz, news chief of the Turkish Günlük newspaper, received a death threat while he was walking to his office in the morning of 28 February. A person with the initials A.S. stopped Pekgöz on the side walk and said, “We finished Hrant Dink off. We will do the same to you”. Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was assassinated in front of his workplace Agos newspaper in January 2007. Pekgöz complained about the person who threatened him at the Taksim Police Station in central Istanbul. The suspect was arrested subsequently.
Journalist Pekgöz said that this person had followed him starting from Galatasaray High School close to the southern end of the popular Istiklal Avenue in Taksim (Istanbul). Apparently, the suspect was cursing on the way.
Pekgöz said that he asked the suspect why he was following him once he got close to him and he replied, “This is a street, I am just walking”.
Police officers of the Anti-Terror Branch, the Security Branch and the Intelligence Branch started an investigation into the matter upon Pekgöz’s complaint. It turned out that suspect A.S. has got a criminal record for theft. He was apparently born in Çanakkale (south of the Dardanelles) in 1977.
■ Columnists protest PM Erdoğan: On 26 February, the Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS) announced that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan once more disregarded the principles of the constitutional state in his statement about columnists. Erdoğan had implied to sack columnist that criticize the government’s accomplishments. In his speech Erdoğan had described the media as “provocative” and the columnists’ comments as “inappropriate and nasty”.
The TGS emphasized that it was in fact the Prime Minister’s announcement that was ‘inappropriate and nasty’. The journalists union announced that “In a democratic state there should be no such thing as the Prime Minister’s efforts to detain the expression of thoughts from journalists and columnists, to attempt to keep them in line with the government and to have them ask for “permission” for their comments. This kind of intervention, these attempts for censorship and auto-censorship do not correspond with the resolutions of the European Court of Human Rights related to press freedom and freedom of expression”.
Almost 30 journalists signed a letter of protest addressed to Prime Minister Erdoğan. They wrote: “We as the undersigned columnists think that Prime Minister Erdoğan’s statement that the newspaper bosses should control the columnists is contrary to obligatory press freedom and opposes the ideal of a ‘democratic Turkey’. We think this is a grave attitude and voice our protest against the statement”
Journalist who signed the letter are Avni Özgürel, Haluk Şahin, Ahmet Taşgetiren, Mümtazer Türköne, Cüneyt Ülsever, Mehmet Tezkan, Ferai Tınç, Hadi Uluengin, Yasin Aktay, Taha Akyol, Şahin Alpay, Ergun Babahan, Ayşe Böhürler, Ali Bulaç, Ahmet Hakan Coşkun, Cengiz Çandar,Yasemin Çongar, Abdurrahman Dilipak, Mustafa Erdoğan, Gülay Göktürk, Okay Gönensin, Nuh Gönültaş, Nazlı Ilıcak, Etyen Mahçupyan,Güngör Mengi, Nuray Mert, Yıldıray Oğur, Mustafa Mutlu, Semih İdiz, Ayşe Hür, Sivilay Abla, Hikmet Çetinkaya, Deniz Kavukçuoğlu, Ataol Behramoğlu, Güray Öz, Yalçın Doğan, Demiray Oral, Bülent Keneş, Melih Altınok, İhsan Dağı, Emre Uslu, Ruhat Mengi, Hadi Özışık, Hilal Kaplan, Orhan Kemal Cengiz, Kürşat Bumin and Abdullah Bozkurt.
■Arınç invited to more politeness: TGC and ÇGD invited deputy PM Bülent Arınç to more “politeness” after he had “spat” on the media for criticizing the search of the office of the chief prosecutor of Erzincan (north-eastern Anatolia). Arınç gave a speech in Istanbul about the “democratic initiative”. Concerning news entitled “The courthouse was searched”, Arınç said, “Shame on you. The chief prosecutor searched the [Erzincan] chief prosecutor’s home and office with a search warrant at hand. This is the language of law. But in the landloper’s language it is “raid”. They all got used to raid. They are coming from the tradition of coups”, Arınç argued.
ÇGD president Ahmet Abakay said, “We invite everybody to be responsible and serious. Arınç should stop giving advice to the press”. In a television program on the evening of 22 February, Arınç said, “I wish I had not said that. I really find the perspective of a part of the media, let it be printed or visual, very wrong and they even insist on their wrongdoing”.
■Life sentence demanded in “Kurdish song” murder case: Young man Emrah Gezer was killed by a former special operations police officer in a bar in Ankara in the course of a birthday party because he sang a Kurdish song. Detained defendant police officer Serkan Akbulut stands accused of “premeditated murder” at the Ankara 9th High Criminal Court. Un-detained defendant Sinem Ululdağ is tried for “incitement to premeditated murder”. Both defendants face life sentences. Additionally, the court demanded punishment for “malicious injury” and “insult”.
Moreover, the court requested prison sentences for Levent Akbulut because of “malicious injury”; for Ramazan Gezer on the grounds of “opposing Law No. 6136” (Firearms and Knives), “threatening three persons with a weapon” and “insult; and for Gülay and Tülay Türk by reason of “malicious injury” and “insult”.
Agos website hacked: On 12 February, a computer hacker posted a text on the website of weekly Armenian Agos newspaper which praised Ogün Samast, prime suspect in the murder case Agos founder Hrant Dink. In the writing put on the main page the hacker(s) said that the murder “was done on behalf of the Turkish flag and the Turkish Republic”. Moreover, a photograph of suspect Samast was posted.
The main page of the newspaper and pages containing news articles could not be accessed. Besides plenty of spelling mistakes, the text was full of insults and threats against people who are supporting the newspaper and the Dink case. At the bottom of the writing it concluded: “The game is over”. The Initiative against Discrimination and Nationalism protested the hacking on Beyoğlu’s Istiklal Avenue (Istanbul) and sold copies of the newspaper.
■ Cameraman injured: On 3 February, cameraman Ertuğrul Yılmaz from local television channel Kanal 48 was attacked when he was recording footage of rubble that had been dropped in a forest belonging to the İçmeler Municipality as a part of the city of Marmara on the western Mediterranean coast. 45-year-old Yılmaz was hospitalized due to the injuries suffered from the attack on 3 February. Akay Öztürk and Şenol Şahin had informed the television channel about the incident.
Yılmaz went to the area which lies within the scope or responsibility of the Marmaris Forestry Directorate together with Öztürk and Şahin. However, while taking pictures of the scene, he encountered the angry reactions of Osman Kaz and his son Ömer.
Aiming to prevent the recording, Osman and Ömer Kaz assaulted the cameraman. Şenol Şahin was attacked as well when he tried to stop the father and the son from attacking the reporter. Yılmaz and his two companions subsequently drove away from the scene to avoid further exposure to violence. As a result of the severe assault, the cameraman suffered from a broken nose, a broken rib and bruises all over his body. Furthermore his left eye got bruised and was severely swollen. Yılmaz underwent treatment in the Marmaris State Hospital.
Kanal 48 General Director Cemal Balcı filed a complaint with the two aggressors at the Marmaris Gendarmerie Command on the grounds of the attack against reporter Yılmaz. An investigation into the matter is being carried out. Democratic Party (DP) Mayor of İçmeler Zeki Eren stated, “We are going to investigate who dropped the rubble and will punish the responsible people accordingly”.
■ 27 journalists listed in “Sledgehammer” coup plan file complaint: 27 journalists filed a criminal complaint in the scope of the “Sledgehammer”coup plan, which was allegedly worked out by 1st Army Commander Çetin Doğan. A total of 36 journalists had been mentioned in the plan to be arrested, 27 of them filed the complaint after their according announcement in a press conference on 28 January.
The plan was published by Traf newspaper on 21 January. Upon strong reactions in the country, Chief of General Staff İlker Başbuğ and Secretary of General Staff Major General Ferit Güler had announced that the plan was not a coup plan but a “planning workshop”. They had also said that the leakage of information was going to be investigated. The plan labelled 137 journalists as “to benefit from”, whereas the names of 36 journalists were listed “to be arrested”. Spokeswomen journalist Nazlı Ilıcak stated in the joint announcement that the time of military coups started on 27 May 1960 has still not come to an end. “The documents brought to light one after another make clear that the military is still severely meddling with politics in the beginning of the 21st century”.
■ Chief of General Staff Başbuğ and the patience of the army: On 25 January, General İlker Başbuğ, Chief of General Staff, commented the “Sledgehammer” coup plan which made the news of Taraf newspaper since 20 January and said, “Also the army has only that much of patience”.
The “Sledgehammer” coup plan was plotted by a group of people within the armed forces in 2002/03. It was aimed at creating disorder in the country by bombings of mosques, crashing a Turkish jet plane and warplanes flying over the parliament, which should eventually lead to martial law and a coup.
■Ağca’s bodyguards: After the release from prison of Mehmet Ali Ağca, murder of journalist Abdi İpekçi in the 1970s, Ağca’s bodyguards threatened journalists when he left his hotel in Ankara. On 19 January, one of the bodyguards threatened the journalists as follows: “I will crush you, I will hit you and put you to sleep”. When Ağaç changed vehicles on his way from the Ankara district of Eryaman to the district of Sincan, his bodyguards cursed at the journalists, “Don’t come closer, damn you all, god damn it”. When Ağca’s brother Adnan Ağca was asked questions by journalists in the hotel lobby, he said, “Your capabilities do not improve. Compare yourself with the ones in Europe. Is there any need to read your news?”
■ Journalist attacked when he looked at a sign board: On 9 January, journalist Ozan Özhan was allegedly attacked by an anti-riot forces policeman when he was looking at a sign board on the wall of the former water depot reading “The Energy of 2010 spreads all over Istanbul” on Istanbul’s centrally located Taksim Square. Özhan filed a criminal complaint with the policeman. The journalist went to the Beyoğlu Prosecution on duty the following day to present a report that confirmed beating marks on his legs and his ear. Özhan said he would follow up his criminal complaint.
Apparently, a police officer told the journalist “Don’t wait, move on!” when he was looking at the sign board. Özhan replied, “I am a journalist and I live in Beyoğlu. What’s the problem with my looking at the sign board”. “It is a problem for your security”, the policeman responded. Özhan said, “If there is a situation that endangers the public security you have to tell me”. Hereupon, the policeman cursed the journalist and said, “What are you talking about, damn it!” He pulled Özhan inside the shutoff and punched his ear and kicked his leg. Another police officer introducing himself as an inspector came to the scene and told the policeman, “This is the centre of Istanbul, what are you monkeying about with”?
Arrests and Detentions
Özgür Radion publication director Füsun Erdoğand and colleagues: On 26 March, the Istanbul 10th High Criminal Court continued the trial against detained defendants Füsun Erdoğan, publication director of Özgür Radio, İbrahim Çiçek, Atılım newspaper general publication director, and publication director Sedat Şenoğlu. The three journalists are part of a group of 24 defendants in total, 16 of them detained, who were detained after an operation against the Marxist Leninist Communist Party (MKLP).
In the ninth hearing of the case, the court heard the statements of the Aydın (Aegean coast) Police Directorate Anti-Terror Branch deputy manager,Nurullah Karaoğlan, who participated in the raids on private homes in the Nazilli Ocaklı village in the province of Aydın. Police officers Cemal Arslan and Faik Şaşmaz from the Istanbul Anti-Terror Branch gave their statements as well. Defendant Elif Almakça was released pending trial after 3.5 years in detention. The coming hearing is scheduled for 29 July.
Arrested for banner: Ferhat Tüzer and Berna Yılmaz, two of the three young people who displayed a banner saying “We want free education, and we will get it” during the “Romani meeting” were taken into detention, the third person, Utku Aykar, was released. The young people posted the banner during a speech of Prime Minister Erdoğan. They stand accused of “membership of an illegal organization”.
■ Destruction of a base station: On 5 March, the Istanbul 11th High Criminal Court rejected the release of Atılım newspaper journalists Çağdaş Küçükbattal and Tuncay Mat. Both journalists stand trial for allegedly participating in the demolition of a base station in the Gazi district on the European side of Istanbul. Küçükbattal and Mat are in detention since 11 September 2009. A total of eleven defendants are tried, six of them detained.
In the indictment, Public Prosecutor Kadir Altınışık demands to prosecute Küçükbattal and Mat over allegations of “reinforcing coercion, violence or threat in the course of the incident”, “membership of an armed organization”, “damaging public property” and “opposing the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations”. Küçükbattal and Mat stated for their defence that they followed the incidents as journalists.
Küçükbattal was doing an internship at Atılım newspaper at the time. He claimed, “I had a camera hung around my neck as you can see from the photographs in the file. It is very clear that the evidence presented are my notes for the news articles”. The trial will continue on 28 May.
■ 31 years in jail for three books: On 25 February, the Diyarbakır 6th High Criminal Court rejected the release of Bedri Adanır, the licence holder of Aram Publications and representative of the Hawar newspaper. Adanır was arrested on the order of the Diyarbakır Court after entering Turkey from Northern Iraq on 5 January. The publisher is detained in the D Type Prison in Diyarbakır since then. He stands accused of “spreading propaganda of an illegal organisation” in newspaper articles and three books, which include the defence of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, and of “praising a criminal”. He faces up to 31 years imprisonment.
Adanır faces a court case for a book of Öcalan’s speeches, entitled “On the Culture-Art Revolution”, which was not given a revenue stamp by the Ministry of Culture and thus not published officially. Two other books, entitled “Democratic Civilisation” and “Freedom Sociology” also form part of the accusation. The publisher faces two accusations of spreading terrorist propaganda, three accusations of “praising a crime and a criminal” and one accusation of membership in an illegal organisation.
■ Journalist Duruoğlu free: Aylin Duruoğlu, publication director of the GazeteVatan.com website, and Mehmet Yeşiltepe, employee of the ‘Revolutionary Movement’ magazine, were released pending trial by the Istanbul 9th High Criminal Court in the first hearing on 23 February. The trial is related to the so-called “Revolutionary Headquarters”. The organization which calls itself “Revolutionary Headquarters” assumed responsibility for an explosion at the Istanbul building of ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on 1 December 2008 which left ten people injured.
After ten months in detention, Duruoğlu said, “I was expecting a warning from the police instead of detention. My civic rights were violated”.
Dancer Ceren Sütlaş, ship operator Selim Öztürk, lawyer Nail Arıkan, news editor Abdülselam Sultan, cameraman Muhammet Çetin, cinema and TV productions supervisor Melek Seven, courier İbrahim Şimşek and advertisement editor Metin Akdemir were released pending trial. Cinema and TV productions supervisor Melek Seven and another five people were kept in detention. The case was postponed to 29 June.
In the course of a police operation against the terror organization carried out on 27 April 2009, a police officer, a bystander and alleged terrorist Orhan Yılmazkaya, member of the Revolutionary Headquarters Organisation, were killed. Journalist Duruoğlu stands accused for “membership of an illegal organization” and faces imprisonment between 7.5 and 15 years. Yeşiltepe faces a prison sentence of up to 36 years.
■ Telephone conversations and appearance on Roj TV: DİHA reporter Hatice Özhan was detained on 19 February. Özhan had been taken into custody in Diyarbakır and brought to Ağrı (north-eastern Turkey) in the context of an investigation launched by the Ağrı Public Prosecution. The journalist is in the Ağrı prison because of alleged “propaganda for an illegal organization”. The allegations are based on phone conversations with employees of the BDP Headquarters and on her attendance of a program of the Kurdish television station ROJ TV.
■ Kurdish artist Rojda: Kurdish artist Rojda, who was invited by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to attend a meeting on the “Kurdish initiative”, was arrested in her home in Istanbul on 9 February. Rojda was taken to the Istanbul Courthouse on the grounds of alleged “propaganda for an illegal organization”. The allegations are based on the Kurdish song “Heval Kamuran” the artist performed at a festival in Diyarbakır in the predominantly Kurdish south-eastern part of Turkey last year. The singer was released after she had given her statement at the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court in the presence of her lawyer Hüseyin Çalışçı.
The Diyarbakır Public Prosecution has filed a lawsuit against the artist on the grounds of the performed song. In an announcement Rojda said: “There are trials pending related to the songs I performed. We appear to be potentially guilty unless some laws are going to be amended. I will give my statements at all the trials. This time I was arrested because I did not receive a notification from court. I was not interrogated at the police station. I just made a short statement to the court”.
KCK operations: Dünya Radio broadcasting director Kenan Karavil and Seyithan Akyüz, Adana correspondent of the Kurdish daily Azadiya Welat, are detained in the Adana Kürkçüler Prison since 10 December 2009 on the grounds of alleged connections to a terrorist organization. The journalists were arrested on 7 December. They were imprisoned upon the decision of the Adana 8th High Criminal Court.
The police had raided the Adana representations of DİHA and Azadiya Welat. Karanvil was taken into custody in the Adana Gülbahçesi district. Gün TV broadcasting director Ahmet Birsin is in prison since 14 April under similar allegations. Birsin, Karavil and Akyüz have not been taken before a court since they were detained. Their lawyers can neither inspect the file nor the evidence because of a decision for secrecy.
No indictment has been issued yet concerning Birsin throughout the past year. The Diyarbakır Chief Prosecutor announced that the operation was aimed against an “eight members of the PKK as the Turkish Co-ordination Unit”. The operation was supposedly based on the results of a one-year technical follow-up.
Vedat Kurşun, former editor in chief of the Kurdish Azadiya Welat newspaper, has been imprisoned since 30 January 2009 in the scope of trials under charges of “spreading propaganda for an illegal organization”. The charges stem from news items related to the Kurdish question and the illegal PKK organization. Kurşun was arrested in the Atatürk Airport in Istanbul and taken to the Diyarbakir D Type prison. Kurşun stands accused of “assisting the PKK organization by spreading their propaganda and of handling stolen goods” and of “praising crime and a criminal” based on news items in several issues of the Kurdish daily.
■ Journalists involved in the Ergenekon case: The Ankara correspondent of Cumhuriyet newspaper, Mustafa Balbay, has been detained in the Silivri Prison (Istanbul) since 6 March 2009 because of alleged connections to the “Ergenekon terror organization”. Balbay is facing a two-count aggravated life sentence of between 16 and 80 years under charges of the “attempted change of the constitutional order by armed force”.
Balbay put forward that his notes were rearranged in a way that new evidence was created in the indictment. Balbay had stated at court, “I did not induce an armed uprising to the people, I did not even induce an unarmed uprising.” Journalist Tuncay Özkan, detained defendant in the scope of the First Ergenekon indictment, also faces a two-count aggravated life sentence under charges of “Membership of an illegal organization and a coup attempt”.
Aydınlık magazine writer, detained defendant Emcet Olcayto, is tried by the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court under allegations of “membership of an illegal organization”. The case began on 20 July 2009. Former 1st Army Commander retired General Hurşit Tolon and former Gendarmerie General Commander retired General Şener Eruygur stand accused of “leadership of the Ergenekon Organization and a coup attempt”. The prosecutor demanded for each defendant 1,047 years of closed confinement and a 14-count aggravated life sentence.
The 40th hearing held on 15 February was monitored by TGC President Orhan Dinç, Press Council President Oktay Ekşi, Turkish Journalists Federation (TGF) President Atilla Sertel, Izmir Journalists Association Vice President Ali Ekber Yıldırım and TGF (Journalists Federation of Turkey) Vice President Mehmet Ali Dim. Before entering the court room, Oktay Ekşi said, “We demonstrate our solidarity to our journalist friends”.
Balbay and Özkan expressed their gratitude to the journalist organizations, saying that the facts of the trial did mostly not match up with the news in the media. Adil Serdar Saçan, Manager of the Istanbul Branch against Organized Crime, was released after 16 months in detention. At the same time, the court dismissed Balbay’s and Tuncay’s objections against their detention once more on 14 January.
The G-9 Journalists Platform, consisting of eleven professional press organizations, demanded the release of Balbay. The Platform announced, “While Balbay has been in prison for one year, the ones who wrote the diary and who allegedly are the main actors of imputing the coup allegations, are free of the ‘suspicion of flight or concealing evidence'”.
Members of the G-9 Platform are the Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS), the Turkish Journalists’ Society (TGC), the Contemporary Journalists’ Association (ÇGD), the Parliament Correspondents Association (PMD), the Photo Journalists Association (FMD), the Economy Reporters Association (EMD), the Diplomacy Reporters Association (DMD), the Association of Professional News Cameramen (PHKD), the Turkish Representation of the Association of European Journalists (AEJ), and the Media and Communication Workers Union (Haber-Sen).
■ Conscientious objector Aydemir: Conscientious objector Enver Aydemir has been detained in the Eskişehir Military Prison (west of Ankara) since 21 January on the grounds of refusing military service because of his religious beliefs. His trial was continued on 9 February before the Eskişehir Military Court. The court handed a one-month disciplinary fine to Aydemir because he refused to wear prison clothes ever since he had not been provided with civil clothes for a hearing on 21 January.
Aydemir was initially arrested and detained on 24 December. Due to the disciplinary fine, he will not be able to see anybody but his lawyer for the duration of one month. The coming hearing was postponed to 22 April to hear statements of witnesses. At the same time, the investigation related to a criminal complaint filed by Aydemir based on torture allegations in the Maltepe Military Prison is being continued.
■ Releases: On 29 January, the Ankara 12th High Criminal Court released Arts and Life magazine publication director Hacı Orman, who is also the head of the Foundation for Science, Education, Esthetics, Culture and Arts Research (BEKSAV), Democratic Radio employee İsminaz Ergün and Solidarity newspaper employee Emin Orhan pending trial. The defendants were detained because of alleged connections to the MLKP.
Detained defendant Uğur Ok was not released since he is detained in the context of an additional trial. The case will be continued on 30 March. The 25 defendants, 13 of them detained, are tried on the grounds of “membership of an illegal organization” according to article 314 of the TCK and “spreading propaganda for an illegal organization” as defined in the Anti-Terror Law.
The defendants stand accused of attending the funeral of Kutsiye Bozoklar in Ankara on 28 July and shouting slogans. Bozoklar was a writer for the Atılım newspaper and head of the Publication Commission of the Arts and Life magazine. The defendants were released from the Ankara Sincan F Type Prison.
Arrests at solidarity actions: On 6 January, the police intervened against a group of demonstrators that expressed their solidarity with conscientious objector Enver Aydemir who is detained in the Eskişehir Military Prison.