- The full report has been divided into subsections, entitled
- Attacks and Threats,
- Detentions and Arrests,
- Trials Concerning Freedom of Press and Expression,
- Corrections and Legal Redress,
- Censorship and Reactions to Monopolisation,
- European Court of Human Rights, and
- Implementations of RTÜK (the Radio and Television Supreme Council)
Attacks and Threats
The Turkish Journalists’ Society (TGC) has condemned the fact that Lig TV’s cameramen Ümit Kül and Ali Demir were exposed to police violence at a Fenerbahce-Trabzonspor match at a stadium in Istanbul. Kül said in his statement to the prosecution: “At the end of the match, those going to the meeting walked towards the press entrance. The riot police came and said, “Do not stay here, go back.” We went back a bit. They pushed us. When they pushed my cameraman colleague, I held his arm. One police officer came and started kicking from behind. They hit my camera. In order to protect my camera, I put out my foot. Our arms were held by two police officers each. They walked us around the stadium for half an hour, and while we were walking, they hit us. At the back of one stand, they sprayed pepper gas in my mouth.”
The trial related to the “Hope Operation”, which among others concerns the murders of journalists Ugur Mumcu and Ahmet Taner Kislali, of Prof. Dr. Muammer Aksoy and Assistant Prof. Dr. Bahriye Ücok, continued on 14 December. After the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the court decision for a second time, the case was heard again by the Ankara 11th Heavy Penal Court. The defendants and their lawyers were given time to prepare their defense. Public Prosecutor Salim Demirci repeated the deliberations as they stood before the overturning of the decree. He demanded that Ekrem Baytap be sentenced to a life sentence with severe conditions for “attempting to force constitutional change”, that Mehmet Ali Tekin and Hasan Kilic serve up to 18 years and 9 months in prison for “leading an armed terrorist organization with special duties”, that Abdulhamit Celik, Fatih Aydin, Yusuf Karakus and Mehmet Aydin be sentenced to 12 years 6 months imprisonment for “membership in an armed terrorist organization”. In addition, the prosecutor opposed the application of the Law on Resocialisation because “no congruent information on the positions and activities of the organization” was given.
On 10 December it emerged that the Ankara Police Department has assigned protection to Hürriyet journalist Bekir Coskun. The newspaper supplied Coskun with an armoured car whose windows cannot be opened. Coskun stated that the authorities had asked him to request protection. Although he did not ask for protection, he was assigned a police officer to guard him. Coskun said: “The police must have a reason. They did not tell me why. I receive threats every day. After the Prime Minister said “Go”, there has been an increase in threats. Some newspapers publish pictures of me and my family and turn me into a public target.”
Emrullah Özbey, owner of the local Mus Haber 49 newspaper in the east of Turkey, said that he had been threatened for alleging that a school rector who did not give contracts to the nephew of the AKP province chair without a public bid was forcibly transferred by the Mus Educational Authority. The journalist said that after his article entitled “Exile for teacher who did not give AKP nephew contracts” appeared in the Günlük Evrensel newspaper on 1 December 2007, he was threated by Orhan Asik, a friend of the AKP province chair, who came to his office. Asik is said to have said, “You are going to change that news. We are not like the Yilmazes (people who threatened Özbey before), we will shoot you. Mus is a small place…we will find you. What will you do then?” Özbey filed a criminal complaint. After giving a statement to prosecutor Halit Tunc and leaving the court building, he said that he was again threatened with death by Asik. Özbey filed another complaint, citing his lawyer Nurettin Tanis, with whom he had left the building, as a witness.
At a DTP meeting in Van on 17 November with the “Enough”, some protesters unfolded a poster of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. The police intervened. When protesters reacted with stones and sticks, two police officers and Kanal D reporter Ihsan Yildiz were injured. 25 people were arrested at the event.
On 9 November it was announced that the Trabzon Chief Public Prosecution had opened a trial against two gendarmerie officers (O.S. and V.S.) for “negligence” in the murder of Agos editor-in-chief Hrant Dink. The prosecution sent the files of the two officers to the Trabzon Criminal Court of Peace, arguing that although they had been informed of murder plans, they had not acted on the information. Erdal Dogan, a lawyer for the Dink family, said that V.S. had been called to the Istanbul 14th Heavy Penal Court in order to appear as a witness. However, when the joint attorneys asked for him to be questioned later, the request was granted.
On 7 November, Sabah newspaper’s sports reporter Deniz Derinsu and photo reporter Oguz Yörük were held up and attacked by some fans after a match between Fenerbahce and PSV in Kadiköy, Istanbul. The Turkish Journalists’ Society (TGC) condemned the knife attacks and said that “we believe that the perpetrators will receive their punishment.”
Mehmet Kara, the owner of the Istanbul Katilimci Maltepe newspaper, has become the target of the Martyr Mothers’ Solidarity and Mutual Aid Association for an article entitled “Is that acceptable?” In the article, which was published on 1 November 2007, Kara had condemned the attacks on DTP buildings and the looting of shops, saying: “The people cannot provide the participation in the ‘Meetings against Terrorism’ and ‘Republican Rallies’”. He added, “one cannot help but wonder why they do not target the US consulate or the (American) Incirlik Military Base.” Kara stated that before this article he had been threatened by a group of up to twenty people, who had stormed his office and told him to leave the district. On 28 November, so Kara, another group, accompanied by dozens of police officers, came to his office, threatened him and left a two-page statement.
On 5 November, Andreas Rompopoulos, a correspondent for the major Greek TV Channel Mega, correspondent of Greek daily newspaper Eleftheros Typos, and editor of the newspaper Hxo, which is published for the Greek minority in Turkey, was attacked by unidentified assailants. He suffered injuries to his head, hands and other parts of his body. None of the injuries were life-threatening. The European Federation of Journalists said that this attack is the latest in a series of attacks against journalists by nationalistic elements in Turkey. It condemned the attack and called for an immediate investigation. The journalists’ Union of the Athens Daily Newspapers (JUADN) also called upon authorities’ to immediately identify and arrest all persons responsible and deliver them to justice “in order to prevent similar incidents in the future.” The attack was also condemned by the Turkish Journalists’ Society (TGC) and the Contemporary Journalists’ Association (CGD).
On 30 October, 20-year old Mert Sahin’s trial for threatening journalist Necati Abay with death began. Abay, a publisher and spokesperson for the Platform of Solidarity with Imprisoned Journalists, had written an article entitled “Another journalist has been murdered, the ‘Good Kids’ killed Hrant Dink” on the eve of Hrant Dink’s murder on 19 January. The Sultanahmet 8th Penal Court rejected demands that the defendant be tried for “using the intimidating power of real or putative criminal organizations in order to threaten” and “obstructing the freedom of belief, thought and opinion,” arguing that the Sultanahmet Chief Public Prosecution had to decide on the charges. The court case will continue on 6 February 2008.
On 29 October it emerged that an objection to the Trabzon regional administrative court had been unsuccessful. The objection had been against the refusal of the Trabzon Governor’s Office Province Administrative Board to allow the prosecution of seven police officers, who had been accused of negligence before and after the Hrant Dink murder. The court decreed that there would be no trial of Ramazan Akyürek, chief of the police intelligent department, Resat Altay, the former chief of police in Trabzon, police officers Engin Dinc, Faruk Sari, Ercan Demir, Özkan Mumcu and Mehmet Ayhan, as well as officer Muhittin Zenit, who, in a conversation with murder suspect Erhal Tuncel said about Hrant Dink, “if he has snuffed it, then he has snuffed it.” Fethiye Cetin, lawyer of the Dink family, said that the possibilities for effective requests to the judiciary were continuously narrowing.
On 25 October, three French journalists, Guillaume Perrier, Estelle Vigoureux and Marc de Banville who had been detained during border pass into Northern Iraq were released after thirthy hours. Perrier of the Le Monde newspaper was released "with an apology", after it was found that "he had nothing to do with the accusations." Vigoureux and Banville, working for the Capa Agency, who had been accused of "recording in a military area without permission", too were released a few hours later. The journalists had recorded and made interviews in Hakkari, Sirnak, and several other places and were heading to Northern Iraq by car when they were stopped at the Habur border gate at around 9 am on 24 October. They were detained upon refusing the officials' request to view their video recordings. When cameraman Banville refused to hand over his camera, he was treated violently. His glasses were broken and his camera was seized.
On 21 October, Zaman newspaper’s Erzurum reporter Oguz Selim Karahan was attacked by police and private security officers when he went to the Erzurum Numune Hospital in order to cover a news story. He had been told that some people in hospital had been beaten by the police. When he was filming in the emergency department, he was hit with a truncheon, and the police sprayed pepper gas. He was surrounded by police and as a result of the beating, he had to be treated in another hospital.
On 14 October, it was reported that despite the demand of the Istanbul 14th Heavy Penal Court, Istanbul Governor Muammer Güler refused to identify the two intelligence officers who had been with vice governor Ergun Güngör and warned the journalist. In Güler’s two-page reply to the court, sent on 27 September 2007, he said that the two people, alleged to have “put Hrant Dink in his place”, warned the journalist of public reactions.
Emin Bal, reporter for the Dogan News Agency (DHA), had covered the funeral of a PKK militant in Beytüssebap. On 8 October, the Criminal Court of Peace ordered that his office be searched and recordings be confiscated in order to identify those shouting slogans supporting Abdullah Öcalan. The police raided Bal’s office and confiscated CDs. This event was the fifth violation of the protection of news sources encountered by Bal and other journalists in the district since July 2006.
On the night of 3 October, there was a tip-off about a bomb attack on the Gündem newspaper office in Taksim, Istanbul. The police went to the office, but found no one there. For security reasons, they waited in front of the building until morning. When Salih Sezgin, working for the administration of the newspaper, came to the office at 8.30 am, he did not let the police enter the building, arguing that they did not have a search warrant.
On 1 October, the second hearing in the Hrant Dink murder trial took place at the Istanbul 14th Heavy Penal Court. O.S., the suspected triggerman, said at the hearing: “Yasin Hayal forced me to do this. I was so frightened I did not know what happened, I shot Hrant Dink. When I was aware of my surroundings again, I was at my uncle’s place. I could not sleep that night. I regret it; I did not know that he had family. Had I known, I would not have shot him.” O.S. claimed that Tuncay Uzundal and Yasin Hayal had organized the murder and that he had attempted to stop it. He added that Hayal had given him two ecstacy tablets in order to give him courage, and that he had smoked marihuana and then taken the pills on the morning before the murder. The Dink family filed a complaint about the conversation between Muhittin Zenit and Tuncel. The trial of Halis Egemen, Yasar Cihan, Erhan Tuncel, Yasin Hayal, Zeynel Abidin Yavuz, Ersin Yolcu, Ahmet Iskender, Mustafa Öztürk, Tuncay Uzundal, Salih Hacisalihoglu, Alper Esirgemez, Irfan Özkan, Osman Alpay, Erbil Susaman, Numan Sisman, Senol Akduman, Veysel Toprak and Hayal’s brother-in-law Coskun Igci will continue on 11 February 2008.
The prosecution of two officers in relation to the pictures taken of Hrant Dink’s murder suspect O.S. and gendarmerie and police officers began o 28 September. Officers had taken photos of O.S. and officers with a Turkish flag in the tea room of the Samsun Anti-Terrorism Police Department. When the first hearing was not attended by Metin Balta, the acting director of the Anti-Terrorism branch, and police chief Ibrahim Firat, the hearing was postponed in order to take their statements and evaluate demands. Bahri Bayram Belen, a lawyer for the Dink family, demanded that the case against the two officers be combined with the main murder case at the Istanbul 14th Heavy Penal Court. In addition, Belen asked for the Dink family to be accepted as third-party plaintiffs.
It emerged that the killing of Kasim Ciftci, owner of the Hakkari Province Voice newspaper, in Van on 22 September was motivated by personal reasons rather than being related to his journalistic activities. A few days after the killing, A.B. and G.A., an engaged couple and said to be acquainted with the journalist, were arrested for the murder.
On 19 September, nationalist singer Ismail Türüt and composer Arif Sirin (also known as Ozan Arif) arrived at the Sultanahmet Law Court in order to make statements to Press Prosecutor Nurten Altinok. An investigation has been started into the song "Plan, Don't make a plan", composed by Sirin and sung by Türüt. It is said to include references to and praise of the suspected murderers of journalist Hrant Dink. In addition, the song was put on the Internet website YouTube with a video clip about the murder.
Türüt and Sirin arrived with a 20-strong body guard. When they left the building again, Radikal reporter Serkan Ocak asked, "Are these people your body guard?" Ocak was pointed at and threatened by a guard, who said, "Be careful!" Journalist Ali Bayramoglu, who had written about the clip, has been threatened, and yesterday Türüt and Sirin's lawyer Ömer Yesilyurt chose the same tone in front of the law court: "The ink on Elif Safak's novel has not dried. I call on all columnists who are burying their heads in the sand when people say "Armenians were murdered". We will continue to say what we know. Everyone should know their limits."
On 20 September, Sirin threatened Yeni Safak journalist Ali Bayramoglu on Fox TV. Bayramoglu had been the first journalist to draw attention to the song and the clip on Youtube. Sirin said, “I am surprised at Ali Bayramoglu’s attitude in this case. What is such a writer doing in such a climate? The community has to monitor this writer.”Bayramoglu has been threatened before. On 4 July 2007 he wrote an article entitled “Our Life is in Danger”, in which he emphasized the importance of solving Hrant Dink’s murder. He then received an anonymous email which read, “If you continue writing like this, you will end like Hrant Dink.” Bayramoglu took the note to the prosecution.
The lawyers of the Dink family have objected to the Trabzon Governor’s Office refusing permission for the questioning of police officers suspected of negligence in the Dink murder. The lawyers based their argument on the report prepared by the investigators attached to the Ministry of the Interior and have demanded the investigation of Ramazan Akyürek, the president of the police intelligence branch, Resat Altay, the former Trabzon chief of police, as well as officers Engin Dinc, Faruk Sari, Ercan Demir, Özkan Mumcu, Muhittin Zenit and Mehmet Ayhan.
“Radikal” journalist Türker Alkan wrote that he used to receive threats before 28 February 1997, a date commonly remembered as a “postmodern coup” in Turkey. He said that threats by email had resumed since the general elections of 22 July. Writing on 6 September, Alkan said: “After 22 July, angry and threatening communications have again shown themselves. In a recently received communication, someone claiming to be a police officer said that I was a ‘traitor’ and that s/he would ‘shoot into my head twice.’” Alkan added, “Who knows, was that person really a police officer? But even if s/he was not, what do you think it means that someone with such a mentality has appropriated the role of police officer?”
Prime Minister Erdogan criticised “Hürriyet” columnist Bekir Coskun heavily for writing about Abdullah Gül, “He Will Not Be My President”. In the Arena programme of Kanal D, which Erdogan attended on 20 August, he responded to the column by saying: “Unfortunately there are those who do not know propriety. Those who say such things should first give up their citizenship of the Turkish Republic.” In his editorial comment, Oktay Eksi of the “Hürriyet” newspaper then replied: “The honourable Prime Minster has to be asked by someone: ‘Are you kicking Bekir Coskun off your father’s farm?” Orhan Erinc, president of the Turkish Journalists’ Society (TGC) evaluated the PM’s comments as “unfortunate and misplaced”. Prime Ministerial spokesperson Akif Beki replied that the Prime Minister had not criticised Coskun, but the attempts at making the issue [of the presidential elections] personal.
Reporter Ahmet Ün of the local “Kulp News” newspaper in Diyarbakir filed a criminal complaint in August, saying that he has been receiving death threats and insults from mayor Mahmut Zengin after criticising him for not solving a water problem which was causing illnesses.
The “Tunceli Emek” (Labour) newspaper, which had reported that a petrol tanker belonging to the state-run village services had emptied its petrol into the petrol station of former mayor Hasan Korkmaz, was subsequently visited by a man called Hasan Cakici on 3 August. He threatened newspaper employees. It has been said that after he was removed from the office with the help of others, Hasan Korkmaz’s brother came to the office and hurled threats.
Aris Nalci, the news editor of the weekly Turkish-Armenian “Agos” newspaper has said that although there has been a decrease in email threats, they do continue. High school student R.D. was arrested on 2 August for sending the newspaper a threatening email one day after editor-in-chief Hrant Dink’s murder. In his first statement R.D. said, “I sent that message in a moment of ignorance.” He was then sent to Bayrampasa prison in Istanbul.
The daily “Bölge” (Region) newspaper in Adana was attacked by a group for writing that those who “made efforts to ensure that no one voted for the CHP (Republican People’s Party) thus did not have the right to criticise the CHP”. Around 20 people came to the newspaper office to speak to editor-in-chief Nevzat Ucak. They reacted to an article published on 29 July, which said that “the gathering in front of the head office was a fiasco” and to an article criticising them as “The Children of Soros” on 30 July. The CHP opponents insulted newspaper employees and when they reacted, the intruders harrassed them further. Ucak said, “We wrote that those who had said ‘Do not vote for the CHP’ and who had hung up posters, put adverts in newspapers and had generally worked towards that goal, did not have the right to call for CHP chair Baykal’s resignation; they stormed our office.” The Cukurova Journalists’ Society condemned the attack with a statement.
Sinan Tekpetek, journalist and editor for the “Özgür Hayat” (Free Life) newspaper and the “yüzde 52 Öfke” (52 percent Anger) magazine, has stated that he was forcibly taken away by a police car in Taksim (central Istanbul) on the evening of 26 July, brought to a desolate place, continuously exposed to insults, death threats and violence, and then thrown out of the police car near Karaköy. The international Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reacted to the incident by saying: “It is not clear yet whether the journalist was exposed to violence because of his professional activities as a journalist or because of a court case related to his objection to police violence.” In a press statement which he read at the Istanbul branch of the Human Rights Association (IHD), Tekpetek said that he did not know the reason for the attack, but that it may either be the activities of the magazine or a court case opened against him after he had witnessed police violence in 2005. Tekpetek gave a statement to prosecutor Enver Dikilitas on 31 July, but there has been no development in finding the perpetrators.
On 13 July, the Professional News Camerapersons’ Association condemned the physical attack by AKP supporters on the news group of the Kanaltürk channel when filming an election campaign with 500 cycling children in Ankara. Cameras were broken and film cassettes confiscated. Reporter Duygu Kayacik and cameraman Müjdat Genc were targeted, too. In its statement, the association said: “We demand that those responsible for the attack on democracy and free publishing during the election campaign, one of the greatest gains of democracy, be brought to trial.”
On 13 July, lawyers of the Dink family appealed against the decision of the Samsun Public Prosecution to dismiss proceedings against police and gendarmerie officers who formed close relationships with Hrant Dink’s murder suspect O.S. after his arrest.
In a press briefing on 3 July, one day after the first hearing in the Hrant Dink murder trial, lawyer Fethiye Cetin called for the trial of all the gendarmerie and police officers whose relations with the murder suspects have emerged, and who did not prevent the murder despite knowing about it. Cetin cited Article 83 of the Penal Code, which deals with “related crimes”, and demanded that these officers be tried as part of the murder case.
In the Hrant Dink murder trial, joint attorneys appealed against the decision of the court to release four of the eighteen detained suspects, Salih Hacisalihoglu, Osman Alpay, Irfan Özkan and Veysel Toprak, from detention at the first hearing of the case on 2 July. In the appeal to the 9th Heavy Penal Court in Istanbul, it said: “Basic and critical issues which are needed to shed light on this case are to be found in the actions of the released suspects.”
The international Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reacted to a report by the Police Department, which said that the murder of journalist Hrant Dink was organised by “a group based on friendship”. RSF said, “This report is attempting to clear the security forces. The question that really needs to be answered is why the warnings of Erhan Tuncel were ignored. The police said that ties with Tuncel were cut in November 2006, but he said at the hearing, ‘I told the police that an attack against Hrant Dink would be organised.’”
At the first hearing of the Hrant Dink murder trial at the Istanbul 14th Heavy Penal Court, the release of detained defendants Salih Hacisalihoglu, Osman Altay, Irfan Özkan and Veysel Toprak was decided. Defendant O.S., tried for being the suspected gunman, used his right to silence. Erhan Tuncel, tried for incitement to murder, said: “I served the state. I do not know why I am here.” Defendant Yasin Hayal said: “Tuncel deceived us. He planned the murder. It was him who built the bomb that was thrown at Mc Donald’s [in an earlier incident in Trabzon].” The first hearing lasted all day. All eighteen defendants were questioned and the demands of the defense and the joint attorneys were listened to. Requests of both sides to widen the investigation were accepted. The court case was to continue on 1 October.
A busload of journalists who were following Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to a party rally in Nigde on 26 June, claim that they were stopped by prime ministerial bodyguards, who held a gun to the bus driver's head and stopped the bus from following the prime minister's vehicle. Journalists Yalcin Bayer (Hurriyet newspaper), Hadi Ozisik (Star newspaper) and Sedat Simsek (Bugun newspaper) were witnesses of the threats. The Prime Ministerial Press Centre rejected their accounts and said that the journalists had ignored warnings and were acting threateningly themselves.
Omer Perperik, founder and columnist of the local Ekspres newspaper in Mudanya (a district of Bursa, western Turkey), was punched by Mudanya mayor Erol Demirhisar at a municipality meeting. The Mudanya Journalists' Association condemned the attack.
In May, Dogan News Agency head clerk Ahmet Ertan was trying to film a wedding convoy in Edremit (a district of Balikesir, western Turkey). Erhan claims that police stopped him from filming, insulted him in a police vehicle, and forced him to delete recordings. The Balikesir Journalists' Society has condemned the incident as a "blow to the freedom of speech".
Mehmet Eser, licence holder of Bingöl's local Ab-i-Hayat newspaper, and editor Faysal Sonakalan, are suing the regional director of education Mehmet Ali Hansu for threatening them at his office. They say the threats stem for their article on a local primary school which is not earthquake proof. Bingöl, in the east of Turkey, has witnessed the deaths of many children in earthquakes.
Many journalists observing the trade unions' 1 May rally in Taksim, Istanbul, claim they were targeted by police although they were obviously journalists. Alper Turgut, Vedat Arik, Aynur Colak and Berat Guncikan of the Cumhuriyet newspaper were injured or affected by tear gas. Bulent Ergun of the Vatan newspaper was attacked and threatened with arrest. Demet Bilge Ergun, Timur Soyka, Umay Aktas, and Ismail Saymaz of the Radikal newspaper and Ihsan Yildiz of television channel Kanal D were also attacked. A camera of Su TV was broken.
In Izmir, the office of local newspaper Yeni Asir was attacked and damaged by football hooligans (supporting Goztepe football club) on 17 April. One person was later arrested.
Yuksel Mert, a TV presenter at the local Akdeniz TV station in Adana (southern Turkey), and his guest, Zeki Kizilkaya, editor of the regional Cukurova Merhaba newspaper, were attacked by three people after they discussed corruption in a programme aired on 14 April. The three attackers, said to be involved in corruption, were later arrested for the attack.
Dogan Sönmez, reporter for the Venus radio station in Manavgat, Antalya (southern Turkey), was attacked by an unknown person who came to the station on 11 April. An investigation is underway.
Turkan Pampal, reporter for the 4 Temmuz newspaper in Karamursel (district of Kocaeli, western Turkey), claims that she has been threatened by leaders and members of the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) youth branch after criticising the government's health policy. She has had no reply to her complaint to the prosecution, and water supplies to her home have been cut. Furthermore, a cafe owned by the newspaper's owner, Salih Kandir, has been visited by fiscal inspectors every day since the threats.
On 6 April, the Day of Murdered Journalists, the president of the Turkish Journalists’ Society (TGC) Orhan Erinc made a statement at teh grave of Serbesti journalist Hasan Fehmi, the first journalist to be killed in Turkey, in 1909. Erinc said that like other journalists’ associations they were calling on not only the perpetrators but also the planners of Hrant Dink’s murder to be brought to justice. Erinc called on the government and the relevant ministries to take urgent steps to safeguard the lives of journalists, pointing out that there had been an increase in threats received by journalists expressing their opinions and thoughts.
Journalists working for the Diyarbakir branch of Kürdistan TV, which is based in Northern Iraq’s Kurdish region, have complained that their work facilities are limited in a random manner, and that they are being pressured and threatened. At the end of March, the channel’s Diyarbakir representative Mehmet Eren said that the channel had carried out the legal procedures for their Diyarbakir branch in 2006, but that they were being obstructed: “Most of the time, they do not allow us to enter evetns, and if they do, we are subjected to long identity checks. Most of our news items relate to the Kurdish issue. When we prepare them, we are met with different obstructions and condescension.
The Turkish Revenge Brigade (TIT), which gave rise to the attack on Akin Birdal, president fo the Human Rights Assocation (IHD) in 1998, sent Özgür (Free) Radio a threatening email on 27 March. The message threatened those working at the station with death and said, “Stop your separatist broadcasts. We are watching you. We know who lives where. We warn you for the last time.” The radio station took the threats to court. Ever since the murder of Agos editor-in-chief Hrant Dink, there has been an increase in death threats against activists. Other people who have been threatened include academics Prof. Dr. Baskin Oran, Prof. Dr. Ibrahim Kaboglu, human rights activist Eren Keskin, Publisher Necati Abay and singer Ferhat Tunc.
Erhan Tuncel, a police informant accused of having planned the Hrant Dink murder, is said to have warned the Trabzon police about Yasin Hayal and the planned Dink murder not 4, but 17 times. This development was reported in the press on 23 March. In addition, the report by the investigators attached to the Ministry of the Interior have demanded that Istanbul Chief of Police be served a reprobation.
The Sirnak Beytüssebap Prosecution issued a search and confiscation warrant for the police to search the office of DHA reporter Emin Bal on 21 March in order to confiscate materials from the Newroz celebrations organized by the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP). The warrant was justified with the fact that people had shouted slogans in support of the PKK at the celebrations.
At a Newroz celebration organized at the Mimar Sinan Open Air Theatre by the DTP, DHA reporter Fatih Karcali and NTV reporter Hamza Gül, who were filming from the stage, were injured slightly when spectators threw stones at them. The reporters received ambulatory care.
Bahri Belen and Fethiye Cetin, lawyers for the Hrant Dink, who was murdered on 19 January, demanded on 15 March that the investigations of the Istanbul prosecution and those carried out outside of Istanbul should be joined. In a statement the lawyers said that there was a terrorist organization behind the murder and that its aim was to change the democratic structure of the country. The lawyers further demanded that those public officers who had displayed gross negligence, abuse of position or the covering up of the crime be investigated under Article 250 of the Turkish Penal Code.
The Haber X (News X) website, which had been disabled by hackers, returned to normal publication on 8 March. Representatives of the site said that they had wasted a month. Because the hackers damaged the data base and the software, the site was forced to publish on a single page for some time.
On 7 March, Ibrahim Tig, owner and editor of the daily regional Bölge News in Zonguldak’s Devrek district, filed a complaint against the wife of Aytekin Sur, head physician of the Devrek State Hospital, claiming that she attacked him. It is said that she attacked him because the newspaper reported the doctor’s transferal to another hospital.
On 6 March it was realised that the broadcasting cables for ASR, Radio Tek, Radio Life and Mert Radio, all stations in Adiyaman, had been cut. The sabotage caused a two-day broadcasting cut and damage to some equipment. The Adiyaman gendarmerie started an investigation. The president of the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) Journalists’s Society, Zeynel Abidin Kiymaz visited the Adiyaman prosecution on 14 March and demanded that light be shed on the sabotage. Burak Cansel, writer for the Adiyaman Olay newspaper and programmer for the Tempo Radio accused the leading personalities of the city of having ignored the event.
On 5 March, the Beytüssebap Chief Public Prosecutor Ahmet Bicer issued a warrant to confiscate visual material and news items from DHA reporter Emin Bal’s office. The prosecution was investigating whether “propaganda of an illegal organization had been spread” at a panel organised in the municipality building on 6 March. The panel was organized by the DTP, and three lawyers from the Sirnak Bar Association had been invited as speakers. The Southeastern Journalists’ Society said that Bal had been forced to hand over his tapes.
Two persons had attacked the office of the Özgür (Free) Kocaeli newspaper in Izmir in early February, objecting to the way the news of a murder had been covered. A night watchman, Mehmet Sümer, was stabbed. On 25 February, they attacked the office again and stabbed an employee, Yücel Sinan. Sinan was stabbed in the back and had to undergo an operation, but then recovered. Ismet Cigit, the owner of the newspaper, expressed his anger at the two attacks, saying: “These are two more examples of the excessive yobbish behaviour, of the disregard for the law, and of the derision with which the state is treated.”
On 11 February, the Contemporary Journalists’ Association (CGD) announced that infamous mafia leader Alaattin Cakici had threatened the association’s former member of the management board, Can Dündar. Dündar is the producer of the “Why?” programme on NTV. Cakici is in prison and from there sent Dündar a threatening letter after former Foreign Intelligence Branch Head Nuri Gündes spoke approvingly of the mafia leader on Dündar’s programme. The CGD condemned the attack, and Dündar was given protection.
On the night of 8 February, a laptop and the hard drives of the other computers were stolen from the Istanbul office of the Ankara News Agency (ANKA). The Beyoglu Police Chief Tugrul Pek who examined the site said that it did not look like a simple robbery. Anka’s Istanbul representative Lütfiye Pekcan said that the robbery may be a result of the debate on revealing sources after Bülent Orakoglu and Ceyhan Mumcu wrote about Erhan Tuncel, suspect in the Hrant Dink murder.
On 6 February, NTV cameramen Ibrahim Atesoglu and Mahmut Bozarslan, Sabah newspaper reporter Hüseyin Kacar and Star newspaper reporter Veysi Ipek are said to have been beaten by the security personel of the Diyarbakir Dicle University Medical Faculty Hospital. The reporters were trying to cover the condition of a survivor of a collapsing building but were obstructed by the hospital security personel.
On 29 January, the ww.aktifhaber.com news website was attacked by hackers who deleted the mainpage and then wrote “None of you are Armenian, you are all O.S.” referring to the murder suspect in the Hrant Dink case and writing his name in full. The website managers applied to the prosecution. The hackers used the names CodeCryer&Aspava.
Aziz Özer, owner of the North Culture Art and Literature Magazine and the Call for a New World newspaper received a death threat by email on 24 January. Özer, who is appealing to the European Court of Human Rights against his conviction under Article 301, said: “These threats show us clearly that we have to take them seriously and deal with them.”
Necati Abay, spokesperson for the Platform for Solidarity with Imprisoned Journalists (TGDP), wrote an article entitled “The ‘Good Guys’ killed Hrant Dink” on the day that Dink was murdered. He announced that he was sent an email containing death threats on 22 January. He filed a complaint and was allocated protection by the police. However, the journalist said that this was no solution and rejected the guard.
On 19 January, Hrant Dink, editor-in-chief of the weekly Agos newspaper was shot dead in front of his office in Istanbul. Many national and international journalists’ associations condemned his murder. Joost Lagendij, co-chair of the delegation to the EU–Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, said: “Dink was a person with a political dimension who struggled for the freedom of expression; he played an important role in furthering discussion on the genocide in Turkey.” Ollie Rehn, EU Commissioner for Enlargement, said he was “shocked and saddened by the brutal attack.” Günter Verheugen, vice president of the European Commission, said: “I condemn the act, but I congratulate Turkey on its stand against the attack.”
A Molotov cocktail was thrown into the central office of the twice-weekly “Peninsula’s Voice” in Mugla’s Datca district in the south-west of Turkey. Ali Geremeli, owner of the newspaper and reporter for the Anadolu Agency (AA) said that the Molotov cocktail was thrown at the area where the papers for the newspaper issues were being kept: “In the fire, the computer cables were damaged. We have no problem with anyone. I don’t understand why this happened.”
Detentions and Arrests
Erdal Güler, responsible manager of the Devrimci (Revolutionary) Demokrasi newspaper, who had been taken into custody after a five-month prison sentence and fines were confirmed, was arrested on 26 December.
On 22 December, Lig TV cameramen Ümit Kül and Ali Demir were exposed to police violence after a football match between Fenerbahce and Trabzonspor. The two reporters were taken into custody. When they were released they filed a complaint against the police. The police also filed a criminal complaint against Kül and Demir for resisting against the police.
Füsun Erdogan, the general broadcast coordinator of “Özgür Radyo” (Free Radio), who had been arrested together with 22 other people in an operation targeting members of the Marxist Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) on 12 September 2006, is to appear at the Istanbul 10th Heavy Penal Court on 26 October for the first time. Others accused of relations with the organisation are Atilim newspaper editor Ibrahim Cicek, who is being held in an F-type prison in Tekirdag, and Atilim publishing coordinator Sedat Senoglu, being held in an F-type prison in Edirne, former Atilim editor Ziya Ulusoy and Atilim journalist Bayram Namaz. In the 292-page indictment prepared by Public Prosecutor Ali Cengiz Haciosmanoglu, prison sentences ranging from 10.5 to 45 years are being demanded. Some of the defendants have been charged with “trying to change the constitutional order by force.”
On 25 October, three French journalists, Guillaume Perrier, Estelle Vigoureux and Marc de Banville who had been detained during border pass into Northern Iraq were released after thirthy hours. Perrier of the Le Monde newspaper was released "with an apology", after it was found that "he had nothing to do with the accusations." Vigoureux and Banville, working for the Capa Agency, who had been accused of "recording in a military area without permission", too were released a few hours later. The journalists had recorded and made interviews in Hakkari, Sirnak, and several other places and were heading to Northern Iraq by car when they were stopped at the Habur border gate at around 9 am on 24 October. They were detained upon refusing the officials' request to view their video recordings. When cameraman Banville refused to hand over his camera, he was treated violently. His glasses were broken and his camera was seized.
Yüksekova News reporter Ömer Oguz, IHA reporters Nevzat Tas and Kerim Kantarcioglu, and Yeni Safak reporter Müslüm Bayburs were briefly detained on 22 October after attempting to film the military movements on the border between Turkey and Iraq. They were taken into custody after filming a military convoy and held for two hours at a police station attached to the Yüksekova District Gendarmerie Command. After an identity check they were released.
On 26 September, Idris Akboga, the editor of the Özgür Halk (Free People) magazine, was arrested when he went to the Istanbul 11th Heavy Penal Court to give a statement regarding the September issue of the magazine. He was then taken to Bayrampasa prison in Istanbul, but is now in a F-type prison in Tekirdag. He stands accused of “praising a crime and a criminal”, “printing and publishing texts of a terrorist organisation”, “committing a crime through helping the members of an illegal organisation or spreading propaganda”. Erdinc Bolcal and Fethullah Erkan, the owner and responsible manager of the magazine respectively, were arrested when they went to give statements on 23 October. Accused of “spreading PKK propaganda”, they were sent to the Edirne F-type prison.
Mehmet Cevizci, reporter for the Dicle News Agency, who was taking part in a news workshop organised by Press Now and the IPS Communications Foundation, was arrested by gendarmerie coming to his room at the Mavi Göl hotel at 5am. He was released at around 2pm after giving a statement. Cevizci said that he had been arrested at a protest against “criminal gangs and prostitution”, which ended in disturbances after a banner saying “Amed [the Kurdish name for Diyarbakir] is honour, protect your honour” was opened. The police had been looking for Cevizci since then.
Four people who had been in detention for more than 10 months after the “Gaye” operation targeting the Marxist Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) in 21 September 2006 were released on 7 August. One of them is Emin Orhan, the editor of the “Dayanisma” (Solidarity) newspaper. The case, in which 32 people, nine of them still in detention, are being tried for “membership in an organisation”, will continue on 6 December. The Istanbul 9th Heavy Penal Court decided to continue the detentions of Yusuf Demir, Yunus Aydemir, Erdal Demirhan, Ali Haydar Keles and Günes Senyüz.
Issues of the weekly “Coban Atesi” (Shepherd’s Fire) newspaper in Gaziantep were collected and confiscated after an article in the issue of 3 August 2007 said, “Antep is an industrial city in Northern Kurdistan.” A week later, Yasin Yetisgen, owner and editor of the newspaper, was arrested when he went to the Gaziantep 1st Peace Court of First Instance to give a statement regarding the notification of the confiscation. The newspaper’s publishing board said in a statement: “Our newspaper, which supports real freedom of expression, will continue its struggle against all kind of legal, administrative and political decisions and practices which mean an attack on the freedoms of thought and expression.” The board also protested against the “precautionary arrest” of Yetisgen. Yetisgen was released after three weeks in detention. There has been an arrest warrant issued for writer Hursit Kasikkirmaz of the same newspaper.
Durmus Sahin, a student of the Ankara Gazi University Education Faculty, was arrested on 11 July when he refused to shake hands with Minister for Health Recep Akdag. Sahin had said, “I do not shake hands with those in government who do not provide services to the citizens”. After five days detention, he was brought before the Olur Criminal Court of Peace. There Sahin said, “Although I did not want to shake hands, the minister persisted in wanting tos hake my hands. Because I did not give my hand, he sent me to prison.” Sahin was released from detention but will be tried. A prison sentence from six months to two years is being demanded.
Sinan Kara, the owner of the “Datca News” newspaper was arrested when preparing a book about the city of Batman and its environs. He was arrested on 3 February under the charge of “insulting through the press”. He was released on 3 July, after spending more than four months in an M-type prison in Batman, and then 20 days in a prison in Mugla.
Sait Bayram and Firat Avci, the news editor and reporter of Diyarbakir-based “Söz TV and Newspaper” were arrested after claiming that judge Mehmet Yücel Kurtoglu was transferred because he had been taking bribes. The two reporters were released a month later, on 20 July. They had been sent to Diyarbakir’s Closed Prison under the charge of “insulting through the press”. The relevant article had been published on 18 June 2007. The court case will continue on 31 October.
Adem Özköse, a long-time foreign correspondent for the Vakit newspaper who then worked for the Gercek Hayat (Real Life) magazine, was taken into custody by officers from the Terrorism branch on 26 June. Hülya Sekerci, president of the Özgür-Der association said that many Muslims had been taken into custody in Bursa under suspicion of relations with al-Qaeda. Fourteen of them were arrested. Özköse was later released.
At the trial of 16 people accused of membership in the MLKP organisation, ten were released pending trial on 13 April. Among those in court for the first time and possible up for release from detention in seven months time were Istanbul’s Özgür (Free) Radio news director Halil Dinc and radio employee Sinan Gercek.
After reporting allegations of prostitution, beatings and insults from the police, Mustafa Koyuncu, responsible editor of the Emirdag newspaper in Afyonkarahisar was detained in prison for a week. 44 police officers have filed a complaint against him, and a six-year prison sentence and compensation claims of 440,000 YTL have been demanded. On 12 March 2007, Koyuncu had published an article entitled “Should we enter the EU like that? They abuse their authority.” He was arrested for “insulting via the press”, and was released after a week under the condition of printing a refutation.
Haci Orman, editor of the Art and Life magazine and chair of the managing board of the BEKSAV culture centre, was taken into custody by the Istanbul Anti-Terrorism Branch on 31 January. Many institutions protested against this “illegal detention”. Orman was later released.
Memik Horuz, editor-in-chief of the Isci Köylü (Worker Peasant) magazine had been arrested in 2001, accused of being a member of the TKP/ML TIKKO (Turkish Communist Party/ Marxist Leninist Turkish Workers' and Peasants' Liberation Army). After spending five and a half years in an F-type prison in Bolu, he was released on 30 January. Horuz said that despite the promises given to lawyer Behic Asci when he went on hunger-strike to protest against conditions in F-type prisons, there had been no permission for meeting in groups at Bolu prison.
Trials and Investigations Concerned with Freedom of Press and Expression
The Gaziantep 1st Criminal Court of Peace ordered the confiscation of the 32nd issue of the local "Coban Atesi" (Shepherd's Fire) newspaper after journalist Berkant Coskun wrote an article entitled "Mother, Don't Send Me to the Army". Coskun lives abroad, but the owner of the newspaper, Yasin Yetisgen, stands accused of "alienating the public from military service" (Article 318 of the Penal Code) and is also charged with breaching Law No 5816 on Crimes against Atatürk. The prosecution is demanding seven and a half years imprisonment for Yetisgen. The trial will begin on 9 May 2008. The journalist had written: “Unfortunately Turkey has been the arena of dirty wars throughout its history, starting from Mustafa Kemal [Atatürk] giving the order for the Dersim massacre…” and “If today’s Kurdish movement is called terrorist, that means that the movement started by Mustafa Kemal is no different. The only difference is that Mustafa Kemal was not arrested.”
The Ankara Chief Public Prosecution has sent a report to the Ministry of Justice, requesting the lifting of the immunity of DTP’s Mardin MP Ahmet Türk for “denigrating the state’s armed forces.” Ahmet Türk had reacted to the exclusion of his party’s MPs from the military reception on 30 August, Victory Day, by saying: “"It has become clear who is really being 'separatist', a word which they use continuously [to blame others]." Should Türk’s immunity be lifted and a case be brought, he could face a prison sentence of up to two years.
On 6 November, the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the sentencing of trade unionist Mehmet Hanifi Bekmezci, arguing that his utterances were "heavy criticism" and did not represent a crime. On 29 September 2005, when president of the educational trade union Egitim-Sen in Tunceli, Bekmezci had made a statement concerning the murder of Hasan Sahin in Tunceli, as well as the murder of taxi driver Hasan Akdag by a police officer. He claimed that the police started random arrests after the events and obstructed press statements relating to these murders: "On the command of the General Staff, civilian fascist powers were mobilised and the planned lynching attempts and attacks in several parts of our country are still fresh in our memory." Bekmezci was then sentenced by the Tunceli Criminal Court of Peace, which cited Article 301 and sentenced him to five months in prison, later converted to a legal fine. Bekmezci's lawyer Baris Yildirim appealed, citing decisions by the European Court of Human Rights. The Supreme Court of Appeals then overruled the local court's sentence.
The Supreme Court of Appeal’s 9th Penal Chamber overturned lawyer and human rights activist Eren Keskin’s punishment of 6,000 YTL on the grounds of procedure. Keskin had been convicted of “insulting the symbolic personality of the armed forces” after speaking of sexual torture perpetrated by the state in a speech made in Germany in 2002. Because Eren had not been given the right to additional defense, the decision has been overturned. Keskin has faced many trials under Article 301.
A trial against stand up comedian Murat Bagli for expressions used during his show, and against Edip Polat and Eren Keskin for the talks they gave at a panel entitled “Solutions to the Kurdish issue from yesterday to today” continued on 19 December. They have been charged with “inciting hatred and hostility”. The case, which is being heard at the Diyarbakir Penal Court, was postponed to 13 March 2008.
The trial of writer Osman Tiftikci, author of "The evolution of the army from Ottoman times until now", and Sirri Ozturk of Sorun Publications is to continue on 31 January 2008. They are being tried for "denigrating the army" (Article 301). Tiftikci lives abroad, and an arrest warrant has been issued. The trial was initiated by a complaint filed by the General Staff.
Sait Bayram and Firat Avci , news editor and journalist of " Söz " TV and newspaper respectively, were arrested in Diyarbakir on 18 June and released on 20 July. They had published an article claiming that judge Mehmet Yücel of Diyarbakir's first criminal court of peace had been transferred because he had accepted bribes. On 18 June 2007, the two journalists had published an article entitled "He has been transferred to Diyarbakir for taking bribes". They had been arrested for "insulting local authorities in print". The journalists were kept in prison until their first hearing. They are now being tried by a penal court in Diyarbakir. Editor-in-chief Ömer Büyüktimur said at the time of their arrest, "We are saddened, we made news and we stand behind our news." The next hearing will be on 28 February 2008.
Singer Ferhat Tunc’s latest trial was opened for an article on Leyla Zana, which he wrote for the "Yeniden Özgür Gündem" newspaper on 19 January 2004. The trial has been going on for four years. Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code has been applied to charge the singer with "insulting and deriding the court" in the article entitled "A Revolutionary Leyla and a Song". In the article, Tunc wrote about the denial of release for Zana and the other DEP MPs. He said that he was not suprised by this decision, arguing that the result had been predictable, and that the trial was not legal but political. Ever since, Tunc, as well as Mehmet Colak, the responsible editor who lives abroad, have been on trial at the Beyoglu 2nd Penal Court in Istanbul. At the latest hearing on Wednesday, 12 December, the trial was postponed until 8 May 2008. An international organisation named Freemuse, dedicated to the freedom of expression in the music sector, has started a campaign to support Ferhat Tunc. As part of the campaign, the organisation has sent letters to Prime Minister Erdogan and former Minister of Justice Cemil Cicek, asking for the trial to be dropped.
On 13 December, the Tunceli Criminal Court of Peace acquitted DTP province chair Murat Polat of any crime under Article 301. Polat had said in a press release on 20 October 2007, “The provocations organized by civilian fascists, manipulated by the police, and supported by the bourgeois media aim at creating conflict between peoples. The police, who is using lynching as a kind of weapon, can even threaten revolutionary protesters against unfair detentions with lynching.” The court decreed that the statement represented “heavy criticism” but no denigration of the police force. Two years imprisonment had been demanded in the case.
The trials of Irfan Ucar, journalist for the Ülkede Özgür Gündem newspaper, and Umur Hozatli, film director, both on trial under Article 301, continued on 12 December; the hearing will continue on 22 May 2008 at the Beyoglu 2nd Penal Court. Ucar is on trial for criticizing the punishment the Aram Publishers received for publishing a book on missing journalist Nazim Babaoglu called “They say you are missing.” His article was entitled “Number 301” and was published on 13 December 2005. Hozatli is on trial for an article entitled “Lorin – The Good Father at Work” which was published on 16 September 2006. In the article Hozatli criticized the bomb attack in a park in Diyarbakir which also led to the death of children.
The court case againstEmrullah Özbey, owner of the mus Haber 49 newspaper, continued on 11 December. He is on trial for writing that the Mus acting Director of Education, Yaviz Icyer organized his own transfer. Icyer is demanding 10,000 YTL compensation for the article entitled “This is neither a diet nor pickled cabbage” which appeared on 5 January 2005. The court has demanded that therebe an administrative investigation of Icyer. The case will continue on 24 January. The writer is also on trial before the Mus Penal Court for the same article.
On 10 December, the prosecutor of the Izmir 8th Penal Court demanded four and a half years imprisonment for Prof. Dr. Atilla Yayla, arguing that he had violated Law No. 5816 on Crimes committed against Atatürk. On 18 November 2006, Yayla participated in a panel discussion along with Ali Bulac, a journalist with the "Zaman" daily newspaper, and Zekeriye Akcam, an MP with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The event was organised by the AKP's Izmir City Youth Group. The discussion topic was "social reflections on the EU process". The newspaper "Yeni Asir" later declared Yayla to be a "traitor", and focusing on two sentences he used. The first was his referral to Atatürk as "this man" (a transcription of the voice recordings of the meeting later proved that he did not use that phrase); the other was that he said that "'Kemalism' was reactionary". (Mustafa Kemal, known as "Atatürk" or "Father Turk", founded the modern Turkish Republic.) The prosecutor argued that the utterances went beyond academic explanations and contained insults to the memory of Atatürk. The next hearing of the case is on 28 January 2008.
On 10 December, a case against Ismail Besikci, Ferzende Kaya and Mehmet Ali Izmir was dropped by the court. Sociologist Ismail Besikci had written an article entitled "We did not talk, we were suppressed" for the December 2005 issue of the "Popüler Kürtür Esmer" ("Popular Kurture Dark"), a pro-Kurdish magazine published in Turkish and Kurdish. Besikci as well as magazine owner Ferzende Kaya and editor Mehmet Ali Izmir were then charged under Article 216 of the Turkish Penal Code, i.e. "inciting hatred and hostility". Sentences of 4 years and six months each were being demanded. Ironically, the case was dropped on Human Rights Day yesterday (10 December) because a case was not opened within the stipulated 2 months from the date when the issue of the magazine was delivered to the prosecution. The court case had been initiated by a criminal complaint by the General Staff.
A court case against Osman Baydemir, mayor of Greater Diyarbakir, continued on 6 December. Baydemir stands accused of “inciting dangerous hatred and hostility” under Article 216 after saying in an interview with Tempo magazine that “Turks and Kurds cannot live together.” Defense lawyer Özcan Intas has argued that the words of Baydemir and DTP Siirt province chair Murat Avci were mixed up and asked for correction. The court granted this demand.
Ali Riza Vural, accused of “violating the secrecy of an investigation” was to appear in court, the Bagcilar 2nd Penal Court in Istanbul, on 6 December 2007, but his hearing has been postponed to an unknown date as the Bagcilar court is closing. The next hearing will be at the Bakirköy court.
The Bagcilar 2nd Penal Court has decreed lack of jurisdiction in the case against journalist Abdurrahman Dilipak and has sent the file to Bakirköy’s 2nd Penal Court. Dilipak wrote an article entitled “My country is something else”, published in the Akit newspaper on 27 April 2001. In the article, he discussed the effects of the military coups and warnings on the country’s economy and peace. Dilipak has already been acquitted, together with responsible editor Mehmet Özmen, for two articles entitled “That was going to happen” and “Where do we stand on 28 February?” Dilipak has a previous conviction for “insulting the President.”
On 5 December the trial against publisher Rapip Zarakolu of Belge Publications continued. Ragip Zarakolu, owner of Belge Publications, has been on trial for two years for publishing the Turkish translations of Prof. Dr. Dora Sakayan’s “Accounts of an Armenian Doctor: Garabet Haceryan’s Izmir Diary” and George Jerjian’s “The Truth Will Set Us Free”. Zarakolu has been charged with “insulting and ridiculing the state and the Republic” and “insulting the memory of Atatürk”, with 7.5 years imprisonment being demanded. While Zarakolu has been acquitted in the trial concerning Sakayan’s book, the translator Atilla Tuygan is still being tried. At the last hearing at the Istanbul 2nd Penal Court, a letter of support by Jerjian was presented to the court. In the letter, which Jerjian sent from London on 1 June 2007, it said: “I grew up in a family which was protected by a Turk, and it was thus unthinkable for our family to have any bad intentions or thoughts towards Turks.” He added that he wrote the book himself using information from Dr. Vahakn Dadrian, Dr. Taner Akcam and journalist Stephen Kinzer. “I used their data to develop a new understanding of history between Turks and Armenians.” The next hearing of the case is on 31 January 2008.
On 4 December, journalist and writer Perihan Magden was handed a suspended prison sentence of one year and two months by the Istanbul 2nd Penal Court. An article published in the weekly Aktüel magazine on 7 February led to her trial under Article 125 of the Penal Code, for "those ascribing a concrete action or fact of a nature which can injure someone's honour and respectability, or those fabricating facts or swearing". Magden was thus tried for insulting district governor (Kaymakam) Aytac Akgül, then the Kaymakam of Yüksekova, in the southeastern province of Hakkari. Magden wrote an article entitled "The (Arrogant) Woman is the Wolf, the Fox, the Turkey of Women: She Eats and Finishes", in which she described what people told her of Kaymakam Akgül when she visited the area.
On 4 December the trial of lawyer Erdal Dogan began. Dogan, a joint plaintiff in the Hrant Dink murder case, is on trial for his comments on lawyer Fuat Turgut, defense lawyer for murder suspect Yasin Hayal. When the Dink murder trial began on 2 July, Turgut said to the murdered journalist's family, "How many Armenians there are here!", following which the two lawyers argued. Now Dogan is on trial for remarks he made in the Aksam newspaper on 9 April 2007. In the article, entitled "The Big Brothers Use the Law Well", Dogan said: "What should be on trial is the targeting and threatening of Hrant Dink and the obstruction of a just trial; when a murder suspect works as a lawyer, that is when there is nothing left to say legally." Based on these words, Fuat Turgut filed a criminal complaint against Dogan. A trial, in which 5,000 YTL compensation are demanded, was opened at Sariyer 2nd Criminal Court of Peace. Dogan's lawyer Ercan Kanar argues that the court is not authorised to hear the case and that the Beyoglu Criminal Court of Peace should be in charge. The case was adjourned until 5 February 2008 in order to await a decision on who has jurisdiction.
On 4 December, the Ankara 4th Criminal Court of Peace acquitted Serpil Köksal, Murat Dünsen and Ibrahim Kizartici of "putting the public off military service". Köksal was present at the hearing, and the other two defendants were represented by lawyer Suna Coskun. The reason for their trial had been a press statement which Köksal read at support gathering for conscientious objector Halil Savda in Ankara on 8 April, and banners saying "Don't Become a Soldier" which Dünsen and Kizartici are said to have carried. The trial had begun on 20 September. The fact that the defendants were aquitted means that there is no chance of applying to the UN Human Rights Committee or the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on the issue of conscientious objection. Köksal's lawyer Senem Doganoglu told bianet that an application to send Article 318 to the Constitutional Court has been rejected in court. "I believe that a crime like 'putting the public off military service' has no place in the Turkish Penal Code", said Doganoglu and added that the court decision would be published in the next days.
On 30 November it emerged that reporter Ufuk Akkaya of the weekly Aydinlik magazine has been given a suspended sentence of one year imprisonment for defamation under Article 267/1 of the Penal Code. Akkaya had written an article entitled “Ali Dibo’s Money went to the AKP headquarters”, published on 5 November 2006. In the article, which was an interview with a Harun Özkan, Akkaya asked him who had threatened him. It was recorded that despite receiving a vague answer, Akkaya wrote “Hayati Efendi directly threatened him.”
On 30 November the Tunceli Criminal Court of Peace opened a trial against Gökhan Türkan, Sancar and Zeki Saraca, following a tip-off from the Tunceli police. The Tunceli prosecution has demanded that they be punished for making a press statement and carrying posters in memory of student revolutionary leaders Deniz Gezmis, Yusuf Arslan and Hüseyin Inan on 6 May 2007. They stand accused of “praising crime and criminals” (Article 215). Their lawyer Baris Yildirim said, “People can commemorate Adnan Menderes [the Prime Minister who was executed in the 1960s]. No trials are opened. The name of General Mustafa Mugla, who summarily executed villagers in 1943 can be given to a military barracks. Nobody opens a trial there.”
On 29 November, prosecutor Ergün Tokgöz of the Diyarbakir 4th Heavy Penal Court demanded that Diyarbakir MP Aysel Tugluk from the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) and Diyarbakir province party chair Hilmi Aydogdu be imprisoned for "spreading propaganda of a terrorist organisation". At the hearing on 29 November, Tokgöz presented his deliberations. He argued that Tugluk's parliamentarian immunity should be lifted, citing Articles 14 and 83/2 of the constitution. According to Tokgöz, Tugluk "has accepted the terrorist organisation PK as a peaceful and democratic solution", has "spoken of the state's imposition on Kurdish citizens who are citizens of the Turkish Republic", and "has spread propaganda in front of the participants by presenting the terrorist organisation PKK as pacificists and democrats." The two defendants are being tried under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terrorism Law and five years imprisonment are being demanded. Tugluk and Aydogdu's lawyer Fethi Gümüs argued that his client Tugluk was an MP and could thus not be tried. He called for the trial to be dropped. Court president Judge Cengiz Coban set the next hearing for 25 December in order for the defense to prepare.
On 2 December, the 2nd Administrative Court in Diyarbakir has refused to follow the demand of the Governor’s Office to stop the “multilingual services” of the Sur municipality in Diyarbakir. Abdulla Demirbas, the former mayor of the Sur municipality, was dismissed from his office by the State Council, following the appeal by the Ministry of the Interior, which had claimed that “multilingual services violate the constitution”. The Diyarbakir 2nd Adminstrative Court acknowledged that the Sur municipal council had not presented its concept of multilingual municipal services to the governor for approval, but only to the Greater Diyarbakir Municipal Mayor’s Office. The court argued, however, that there was no clear and obligatory administrative process that was supposed to be followed, and thus dismissed the case.
After a support visit to the imprisoned mayor of the Yakapinar municipality in Diyarbakir, Osman Keser, two court cases with three seperate charges were opened against the visitors. Ethem Acikalin, branch president of the Human Rights Association, Yurdusev Özsökmenler, the DTP Diyarbakir Baglar municipality mayor, Emrullah Cin, mayor of the Viransehir municipality, Cihan Sincar, mayor of Kiziltepe, Muhsin Kunur, mayor of Silopi, and Leyla Güven, mayor of Kücükdikili, face a total of 8 years imprisonment for “attempting to influence the judiciary.” The defendants had said, “This detention is an unlawfulness,” and “All Kurds are unhappy about this situation. They want these kind of events to stop. We want to live on this soil and we support all of our friends.”
On 29 November the court case against Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal continued at the Silivri 2nd Penal Court (in the province of Istanbul). In July, the prosecution had demanded acquittal fort he defendants who stand accused of "degrading Turkishness, inciting hatred and hostility" and "collecting data illegally" (Articles 301/1, 216/1 and 135/1). However, Kemal Kerincsiz, a nationalist lawyer of the Great Lawyers' Union, and ten other lawyers had joined the case as third-party plaintiffs and demanded a change of judge. Under judge Neset Eren no witnesses had been heard, but the court will now hear 12 witnesses, most of whom are gendarmerie officers who took part in taking the two defendants into custody. The court case will continue on 13 March 2008.
A case in which retired judge Zekeriya Dilsizoglu is claiming 100,000 YTL compensation from Nurgün Balcioglu, the editor-in-chief of the Gaziantep Sabah newspaper, continued on 29 November. Balcioglu had criticised Dilsizoglu’s claim that “in nine out of ten murder cases a woman is involved.” The Bakirköy 8th Civil Court of First Instance adjourned the case until 14 February 2008 because information on the financial situation of both sides had not been received. Balcioglu had written an article entitled “Is that juge THAT judge?” on 15 February 2007. She had criticised the former judge as a mysogynist, giving as an example the fact that a death notice for his brother published in newspapers did not include the names of either of his two wives. Dilsizoglu then sued for compensation from Balcioglu, as well as newspaper owner Ayten Kale and responsible editor Fethullah Kapkapci for “heavy insult of a person.”
The case or Birgün newspaper’s report Gökhan Gencay and responsible editor Ibrahim Cesmecioglu was setn to the Istanbul Heavy Penal Court. Gencay had interviewed conscientious objector Erkan Bolot and the article was published in the Sunday supplement on 30 October 2005 under the headline “Let us dry out the human resources for war.” The journalist and editor are on trial for “alienating the public from military service.” The case was initially heard by the Beyoglu 2nd Penal Court, which had decided to drop the case against Cesmecioglu. However, when changes were made in laws, there was a disagreement about jurisdiction.
The case of reporter Birgül Özbaris from the Ülkede Özgür Gündem, also charged with alienating the public from military service in her articles, continues at the heavy penal court, too. An article entitled “Don’t Shoot at your brothers”, published on 24 April 2006 and an article entitled “Conscientious objector Savda: Don’t do military service”, published on 9 April 2006 were cited. On 27 July, the same court acquitted Perihan Magden, who had written an article entitled “Conscientious objection is a human right”, published in December 2005 in the Yeni Aktüel magazine.
On 28 November, the Istanbul 11th Heavy Penal Court refused the request to join the cases of Ahmet Zeki Okcuoglu, former owner of Doz Publications, and Ali Riza Vural. They are both on trial concerning the two-volume book “Barzani and the Kurdish National Freedom Movement” by Mesut Barzani. The court has decided to continue Okcuoglu’s trial on 28 March 2008, after his address has been found out. Okcuoglu, translator Vahdettin Ince and Bedri Vatansever, owner of the Can Printing Press, are on trial under Article 312/2 of the former Penal Code for “inciting to hatred and hostility” and Article 8/1-3 of the Anti-Terrorism Law for “separatist propaganda” (which has now been abolished) because the publication date was February 2003. It is not clear yet on which basis Okcuoglu will be tried. When the book was printed a second time in May 2005, Vural was put on trial on 5 October 2005, under Article 301/2 of the new penal code. Up to two years imprisonment have been demanded fro Vural for the charge of “insulting the Republic in printi” and he was expected to appear at the Beyoglu 2nd Penal Court on 28 November. However, because of the request for the merging of the two cases, there was no hearing. The Penal Court will decide when editor Vural will have his next hearing. While Okcuoglu is on trial for expressions such as “Kurdistan”, “Hakkar, a Kurdish province….” and “Turkish Kurdistan”, Vural faces trial because of the following exerpt: “The Kurds revolted again and again, and stood up against imperialists and the regional states depriving them of their rights. All revolts were suppressed with violence. In Turkey, Mustafa Kemal [Atatürk] very seriously oppressed the Kurds.”
On 27 November, following the overturning of its first sentence by the Supreme Court of Appeals for procedural reasons, the Istanbul 2nd Penal Court handed out the same sentence to Emin Karaca, writer for the “Write in Turkey and in Europe” magazine. Karaca had been tried under Article 301 for criticising the army for the execution of student revolutionary leaders Deniz Gezmis, Yusuf Aslan and Hüseyin Inan in 1972. Karaca, Dogan Özgüden and Mehmet Emin Sert had been sentenced to a prison sentence converted into a 900 YTL fine in September 2005. Because there was a signature missing on the record of decision, the Supreme Court overruled the sentence. Then, Sert was aquitted and Özgüden’s file separated from Karaca’s.
Yalcin Ergündogan, the editor-in-chief of the sesonline.net website wrote an article entitled "The disciples have rebelled against Haydar Bas", which was published in the "Birgün" newspaper on 26 April 2005. Haydar Bas, chair of the Independent Turkey Party (BTP) then demanded compensation. The Beyoglu 4th Civil Court of Peace has sentenced Yalcindogan to paying 1,500 YTL (around 850 Euros). The criminal trial which was opened following Bas's complaints, and in which three years imprisonment are demanded, started at the Beyoglu 2nd Penal Court on 26 December. Because requested information about Bas had not been received by the court, the next hearing was set for 14 May 2008. Journalist Ergündogan had announced that he will appeal against the court decision and said: "Is it not a news item that disciples who spent a long time with Haydar Bas, the chair of a party, have left the sect and have published their reasons on an Internet website [entitled: 'The real face of Haydar Bas']?" Ergündogan has also been taken to a court for intellectual and industrial property rights, where there is a compensation claim of 15,000 YTL against him. That case will continue on 4 June 2008.
On 22 November, a trial began against a reporter, a human rights activist and a villager. Because they claimed that "village guards use state bombs to hunt fish", reporter Rojda Kizgin of the Dicle News Agency, Ridvan Kizgin, former president of the Bingöl branch of the Human Rights Association (IHD) and the inital person making the claim, Dogan Adibelli, have been taken to court at the Criminal Court of First Instance in Bingöl, southeastern Turkey. Following the complaints filed by seven people, initially the Bingöl Criminal Court of Peace tried the three under Article 301/2 for "denigrading the state of the Turkish republic and the army and police forces". Between six months and two years imprisonment were demanded. Defense lawyer Servet Özen from the Diyarbakir bar association criticised the fact that a trial was opened under Article 301. He said: "Village guards are not part of the security forces. In addition, if there is something to be investigated, it is the claim that has been made." The Bingöl Criminal Court of Peace has decided to hand the case over to the Criminal Court of First Instance.
The Beytüssebap Prosecution has opened a trial against DHA reporter Emin Bal for “not informing the police” when pro-PKK slogans were shouted at a funeral he was reporting on. The journalist’s trial under Article 278, which foresees a punishment of up to a year imprisonment for neglecting to inform authorities of a crime committed, will start at the Beytüsebap Criminal Court of Peace on 17 January. Bal said: “I told the judge that I was fulfilling my duty as a reporter and did not do anything wrong.”The Turkish Journalists’ Society (TGC) pointed out that journalists could not be forced to make statements and inform on others. Press Council President Oktay Eksi said: “We hope that the people who ignored our warnings when creating these laws will now be shamed by such events.”
On 16 October, the Penal Court in Viransehir, province of Sanliurfa in the southeast of Turkey, convicted human rights activist and lawyer Eren Keskin of “incitement to hatred and hostility”. for saying, “If we look at the state statistics on perpetrators of sexual violence in Turkey and Kurdistan, then soldiers are in the majority; the reason there are so many is the war in Kurdistan.” Keskin was informed of the sentence, which cited Article 312/2 of the former Penal Code, on 20 November. Hüseyin Ugurlu decreased the sentence to 10 months due to “the possible effects of the sentence on the defendant” and, based on Article 4 of Law No. 647, converted the sentence to a fine of 3,300 YTL. The court had decreed that the use of “Kurdistan” “incited hatred and hostility of one social group against another based on regional difference”. Ironically, in another investigation against the human rights activist in Bulanik, the prosecution decided that although the term “Kurdistan” was unacceptable, it represented an opinion and did not prosecute.
The 20 November saw the continuation of the trial against 56 mayors who, on 30 December 2005, had sent Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen a letter in which they asked for the Kurdish Roj TV channel to remain open. 54 of the mayors were of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) and two of the Social Democratic People's Party (SHP). The mayors are now on trial for "knowingly and willingly helping a terrorist organisation", or more precisely, for "helping the organisation by preventing the taking away of a visual propaganda medium of the terrorist organisation". The prosecution is asking for sentences of between 7.5 and 15 years for 53 mayors. The acquittal of three has been demanded. The defendants are being tried under Articles 314/3 and 220/7 of the Turkish Penal Code. Following the demand of the joint attorneys, the Diyarbakri 5th Heavy Penal Court has decided to evaluate the Turkish translation of the letter concerning the refusal to close Roj TV by the Danish Media Secretariate. The court case is to continue on 29 January 2008.
On 16 November, the Salihli 1st Criminal Court of First Instance acquitted Ayse Karakaya and 19 others of “praising a crime and a criminal” after they had gathered at the grave of Ertugrul Karakaya, a student representative who had been killed 30 years earlier at the Middle Eastern Technical University (ODTÜ) in Ankara. Last year, his 73-year old mother Ayse Karakya and 19 other people attending a memorial at his graveside in Salihli were charged with "praising a crime and criminal" under Article 215 of the Turkish Penal Code. The prosecution based its charges on a police record which said that Karakaya had died while "battling against gendarmerie". The slogan "Ertugrul has not died, the struggle continues", which was shouted at the memorial was thus construed as praise of a crime. The Chief Public Prosecutor has appealed against the aquittal, and the case has thus been taken to the Supreme Court of Appeals.
The Sarköy Penal Court has sent the file on Yakup Önal, writer for the Sarköy’s Voice newspaper to an expert witness. Yakup Önal, journalist of the "Sarköy's Voice" newspaper is charged with insulting the Justice and Development Party's (AKP) mayor Can Gürsöy and two municipal councillors. The Sarköy Penal Court in the province of Tekirdag in Thrace has decided that an expert opinion is necessary in order to decide whether the journalist's article entitled "Fairy tales for adults- Pinocchio and the nine dwarves" represents a crime. Court president Serkan Icöz has announced that the file will be sent to the Istanbul Duty Penal Court and the trial will be continued on 20 February 2008. The newspaper had started a series called "President Pinocchio and the nine dwarves" on 20 July 2005. The story started, "Once upon a time...in a country, there was a president called Pinocchio in a coastal town called Sarki. Pinocchio had nine dwarves who approved all of his decisions like a suction pump." The prosecution has demanded 10 years imprisonment, arguing that Önal has insulted the mayor and municipal councillors Olcay Yücel and Ercan Yücel.
Following an article in which he accused the police of being involved in prostitution, beatings and insults, editor Mustafa Koyuncu of the Emirdag newspaper was first taken to prison for a week. Then, 44 police officers filed a complaint against him, which has resulted in a trial in which 6 years imprisonment and 440,000 YTL compensation are being demanded. On 12 March 2007, Koyuncu had published an article entitled “Should we enter the EU like that? They abuse their authority.” He was arrested for “insulting via the press”, and was released after a week under the condition of printing a refutation. The case will continue at a court in Emirdag on 30 January 2008.
On 14 November, there was a hearing in the case against Ersen Korkmaz, owner of the local Demokrat Iskenderun newspaper. He is not being tried under Article 301, but under its predecessor in the old Turkish Penal Code, Article 159. After watching a panel organised by the Turkish Communist Party (TKP) and writing an article entitled "The Leader of the Kurds Has Been Taken and Delivered to the Fascists", Ersen Korkmaz, as well as TKP member Necmettin Salaz have been charged with "insulting and ridiculing the army and security forces", a charge which carries a three-year prison sentence.The panel took place in September 2002. At today's (14 November) hearing at the Iskenderun Penal Court, it was decided that the analysis of a CD with recordings from the panel would be waited for. The next hearing is on 14 March 2008.
On 13 November, the Istanbul 10th Heavy Penal Court increased the punishment for Sebati Karakurt, reporter for the Hürriyet newspaper, who had interviewed Kongra-Gel militants on the Kandil Mountain and is on trial for “publishing statements of an illegal organisation.” Prosecutor Savas Kirbas increased the fine, of which Karaurt had prepaid 455 YTL, to 20,000 YTL. The court case will continue on 26 February 2008. The feature in question, entitled "In Kandil feminism has gone beyond Kurdish nationalism", was published in the "Hürriyet" newspaper on 10 October 2004. At first Karakurt and Kilic were accused of publishing terrorist statements. Later, Kilic and Tatlican were also accused of spreading terrorist propaganda. Hasan Kilic and Necdet Tatlican, responsible editors at the newspaper, have been sentenced to paying two thousand and a thousand daily fines, amounting to 40,000 YTL and 20,000 YTL in advance payments.
On 12 November, Istanbul Press Prosecutor Nurten Altinok has decided to drop proceedings against journalist Umur Talu of the Sabah newspaper. Following a complaint of the General Staff, “Sabah” journalist Umur Talu had been investigated for an article in which he had expressed the dissatisfaction of sergeants within the army. In the prosecutor’s decision, it said: “[The author] had stated that as part of the journalistic profession and as a humane necessity, he had wanted to describe the situation of a group within the Armed Forces and to improve it.” The General Staff’s complaint was based on an article by Talu published on 12 June 2007 and entitled, "Are these impossible?"
Under Article 95/4 of the Military Penal Code, a sentence ranging from six months to three years was being demanded. The legal article also envisages an increment in the sentence because a published text was concerned.
On 8 November, the court trial against Abdullah Demirbas, former mayor of the Sur (City Walls) municipality of Diyarbakir, as well as 19 members of the municipal council and Osman Baydemir, mayor of Greater Diyarbakir, began. Abdullah Demirbas was forced from office by the State Council's 8th Chamber in June for offering municipal services not only in Turkish, but also in Kurdish, Armenian and Syriac. He had also been accused of "spreading propaganda for a terrorist organisation or its aims", but was acquitted in that trial. The twenty-one defendants are charged with "harming the public by abusing their position" (Article 257 of the Turkish Penal Code) and "acting in contradiction with the hat and Turkish letters" (Article 222). Punishments between 1 year and 2 months and 3 years and 6 months are being demanded. Demirbas, Baydemir and the 19 council members, all undetained, were present at the trial opening, as well as 12 defense lawyers. Lawyer Sezgin Tanrikulu, president of the Diyarbakir Bar Association, said: "Article 257 looks at damage to the public. Here it is not clear who has suffered in what way. I am not able to understand what kind of crime is supposed to have been committed." The court trial will continue on 29 February 2008.
On 6 November, Haci Bogatekin, owner of the Adiyaman Gerger Firat newspaper was in court again. Because he criticised state policies in an article entitled "Turkey Has Made Mistakes", published in his newspaper on 10 March 2007, he is on trial for "degrading Turkishness, the Republic, state institutions or its organs" - Article 301 once again. He had written: "The state made mistakes. When and where? Yesterday, in the East and South-East. then in Istanbul. In Maras and Sivas. Today in Trabzon, Istanbul, Mersin and in the South-East." A sentence of two years imprisonment is being demanded. The case will continue on 16 January 2008.
The Chief Public Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals has objected against the overturning of the acquittal of Prof. Dr. Ibrahim Kaboglu and Prof. Dr. Baskin Oran, authors of the “Minority Rights and Cultural Rights Report.” The prosecutor argued that there was no evidence of a “clear and present danger” to public order represented by the report. On 10 May 2007, the Ankara 28th Penal Court had acquitted Prof. Dr. Kaboglu, the former president of the Human Rights Advisory Board, and Prof. Dr. Oran, the president of the sub-commission, of any crime committed under Article 216/1. The court had used Article 216/1 because the Ministry of Justice had not given permission for a trial under Article 301 (“degrading Turkishness”). Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor Hüseyin Boyrazoglu had then filed an appeal against the acquittal, and the case had been brought to the Supreme Court of Appeal’s Eighth Chamber, which had overruled the acquittal. Now the objection of the Appeals Prosecution will be debated in the Supreme Court of Appeal’s Penal Board Meeting.
Tahir Elci is the lawyer representing the Kaymaz family in the case concerning the killing of Ahmet Kaymaz and his 12-year-old son Ugur Kaymaz by the police in Kiziltepe in Mardin. Elci is now on trial himself for “attempting to influence the judiciary”, but he has objected against two of the judges’ panels, the first because it was the same panel of the murder trial, and the second because panel president Nuran Berk was again part of the murder trial panel. On 30 October, following the objection of Elci’s lawyers, Nuran Berk was also taken off the case. The file has been sent to the Kütahya Heavy Penal Court in order for a new panel president to be selected. The court will then create a new panel. Elci is on trial for saying, “We want a neutral trial. We want justice to be done here.” His next hearing is on 31 January 2008.
Faruk Cakir, editor-in-chief at the Yeni Asya newspaper, is to be tried for two articles entitled "Council of State to Expand Case" and "Investigation of Council of State is Being Expanded". He is accused of violating the secrecy of an investigation. Bagcilar Public Prosecutor Ali Cakir has opened a trial against Cakir. The articles say that the Ankara 11th Heavy Penal Court is investigating possible links between the attack on the 2nd Chamber of the Council of State in Ankara in May 2006, in which a lawyer attacked the judges, killing one, and the finding of a weapons arsenal in a home in Ümraniye, Istanbul. The indictment of 25 July says that Cakir carries responsibility for the articles, as he has not revealed the names of the authors, and demands up to 4.5 years imprisonment for breaching Article 11 of the Press Law and Article 285/1-3 of the Penal Code concerned with the violation of secrecy. It is further said in the indictment that the articles, published on 23 June 2007, violate the secrecy of the investigation by quoting from statements from the investigation run by the Istanbul Public Prosecution.
On 24 October, the Bakirköy 2nd Penal Court opened a trial against the weekly Nokta magazine for an interview with security expert and journalist Lale Sariibrahimoglu. The interview, entitled “The military should not interfere in domestic security”, has led to a charge of “denigrating the state’s armed forces.” Reporter Ahmet Sik, who conducted the interview on 8 February, and Sariibrahimoglu are both on trial under Article 301, facing up to two years imprisonment. At the first hearing, at which Sik was represented by his lawyer Fikret Ilkiz, Sariibrahimoglu stated that some parts of the interview were in the style of a chat, and that the whole text needed to be considered as constructive criticism. The case will continue on 3 April 2008. The trial was instigated by the Gendarmerie General Command.
On 18 October, the Istanbul 2nd Penal Court sentenced Kemal Bozkurt, the editor of the “The Only Way is Revolution Movement” magazine for “praising something counting as a crime.” In an article entitled “Certainly one day”, Bozkurt had spoken about the Kizildere event, which had taken place in order to prevent the execution of student revolutionary leaders Deniz Gezmis and his friends, as “legendary history.” Citing Article 218, Bozkurt was handed a one and a half month prison sentence, then converted into a 900 YTL fine. Erdal Dogan, Bozkurt’s lawyer, had cited ECHR case law, but had not been able to convince the court.
On 14 October, it emerged that the Chief Public Prosecution of the Supreme Court of Appelas has decreed the acquittal of Rahmi Yildirim, writer on the www.sansursuz.com (without censorship) website. Yildirm had written an article entitled “The job for the one in the know, the sword for the one girding it”, in which he had written, “the pashas (i.e. the generals) are the protectors, the pawns, the actors, the bit players of the capitalist order.” The General Staff instigated a trial under Article 301, arguing that the army was denigrated. The Ankara 12th Penal Court, where Yildirim was first tried, had argued that the expressions used were upsetting and hurtful, but that they needed to be evaluted within the freedom to express oneself. Should the Supreme Court’s ratification of the acquittal be overturned, Yildirm would face another trial.
On 11 October, the Sisli 2nd Penal Court sentenced Agos editor-in-chief Arat Dink, son of murdered journalist Hrant Dink, and licence holder Serkis Seropyan to one year imprisonment each under Article 301. The sentences were deferred. Lawyer Fethiye Cetin announced that they would appeal. The court case had been opened when recep Akkus, a member of the rightist-nationalist Great Lawyers’ Union had filed a complaint at the Sisli prosecution when Hrant Dink had given an interview to the Reuters News Agency. In the interview, Hrant Dink spoke of the events of 1915 as a “genocide” and had said, “We see that a people who lived on this soil for 4,000 years disappeared with what happened.” The Agos newspaper reported the fact that a trial had been opened and wrote about the interview in an article entitled “A vote against 301.” The Sisli Chief Public Prosecution opened a trial against Hrant Dink, Arat Dink and Seropyan, with charges against the former being dropped after his murder on 19 January 2007. In its twenty-page decree the court referred to the events of 1915, saying, "If what the defendants had accused the Turks of doing was a historical truth, then their actions would have been legal"; thus, the court found it necessary to study history books itself and create its own opinion of what happened in the past.
After saying, “The death of soldiers, and the death of Kurdish martyrs pains us”, Tunceli’s Province Chair of the Labour Party (EMEP), Hüseyin Tunc, was sentenced to three months imprisonment, converted into a 1,500 YTL fine. Tunc had uttered the words in a speech in Tunceli on 2 September 2006, saying: “There are battles in Sirnak and Silopi, and soldiers have died there. Believe me, our hearts are aching, when we think of their families. In the same way our hearts are aching, breaking apart because Kurds are going to be martyrs.” The Tunceli Penal Court had sentenced him for “praising a crime and criminals” (Article 215/1 of the Turkish Penal Code). Tunc’s lawyer Baris Yildirim said that because an appeal against the fine was not possible and because as a “person in a political position” Tunc should have more rather than less freedom of expression, they appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on 17 October. Yildirim said that they would base their appeal on Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as Article 2 of Additional Protocol 7, which deals with the right to a two-tiered judiciary process. Because of the same speech, Tunc was also tried, but acquitted, under Article 301. He had further said in the speech: “Those who speak of peace are hit on the head with truncheons, are sentenced to imprisonment; …those in the country who speak of peace are lynched…we strongly condemn this hypocrisy…" "If the state of the Turkish Republic and its government and its opposition do not accept Kurds, then they are liars, they are hypocrites, they are the enemy of the people, they are traitors.”
The prosecution has appealed against the acquittal of Ferhat Bayindir on 4 October, the head of the Human Rights Association (IHD) branch in Batman, in the south-east of Turkey. Lawyer Bayindir had taken on the case of Hasin Is, who had been killed in front of the Batman Municipality building two years ago. Bayindir himself was put on trial after a press statement he made on 16 June 2005. He was accused of "insulting the police force". While the Batman Heavy Penal court acquitted Bayindir, prosecutor Zeki Yalcin took the case to the Supreme Court of Appeals. Speaking at a hearing, Bayindir had said: "The press statement needs to be evaluated in terms of the freedom of expression and the right for defense. There was no criminal intention. I was defending my client's rights and the law."
On 3 October, the case of Mehmet Sevket Eygi and Selami Caliskan, journalist and editor of the Milli Newspaper respectively, continued. The Istanbul 14th Penal Court decreed that there was no element of crime and acquitted the two journalists. The two journalists had previously been sentenced to one year and eight months imprisonment for “inciting the public to hatred and hostility”, but the 8th Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals had overturned the ruling.
On 2 October, writer and film director Umur Hozatli appealed against a sentence. In an article entitled "Irritating Men", which he wrote for the "Ülkede Özgür Gündem" newspaper, Hozatli criticised the police and the judiciary. The article was published on 11 November 2006. The prosecutor quoted the following sentences from the article and argued that they needed to be punished: "The Turish police force is famous for not working with a police mentality, but for trying to spread fear for their personal benefits, regardless of whether people are innocent or guilty." "The men are bored, so they collaborate with likeminded prosecutors and judges in identifying people and groups whose ideologies they disagree with, people they find irritating, and arrest them, putting them away as terrorists, separatists and destructive people. The Turkish police, together with prosecutors and judges are working as an organisation which creates terrorists." Hozatli had argued in his article that a survey of public opinion or informal conversations would reveal that most people complained about the police and did not trust them. He had added that after the raids on dissident media organisations, such as the Atilim newspaper and the Özgür Radio, employees of these organisations were held on trumped up charges.
On 25 September, Prime Minister Erdogan lost his court case against “Cumhuriyet” writer Ilhan Selcuk, who had written an article entitled “There is No Language Particular to the Reactionary” published on 6 May 2007. Selcuk had written “The worst thing was how the reactionary gang who spoke in the name of the Supreme Allah, the Holy Prophet and the Holy Qu'ran became wild when they had come to power." Erdogan had demanded 20,000 YTL compensation, but judge Ahmet Metin Tözün at an Ankara court decreed that there was no criminal element in the words.
On 21 September, the Kocaeli 2nd Penal Court punished caricaturist Muhammet Sengöz to 11 months and 20 days imprisonment for a caricature entitled "Who's next, Mayor?" published in the "Free Kocaeli" newspaper. The sentence was converted into a 7,000 YTL fine. The prosecutor had called for an acquittal, but nevertheless, Sengöz was sentenced in the case brought by mayor Ibrahim Karaosmanoglu. Sengöz had reacted to billboards which Karaosmanoglu had put up around the city which praised his achievements. A constant theme on the billboards was a person asking, "What's next, Mayor?" In Sengöz's caricature, a man with his back to the reader and with his trousers down is asking, "Who's next, Mayor?" Suat Temocin, the caricaturist’s lawyer, has announced an appeal against the sentence.
Umut Karakoyun, owner of the local "Tunceli Emek" newspaper in Tunceli, eastern Anatolia, was being tried under Article 301 for accusing the judiciary of bias. Karakoyun has claimed that the Tunceli governor's office obstructed advertisements in an arbitrary manner and had written about the governor's press and PR manager Elif Polat. Karakoyun is also accused of "insulting a public officer through the media". On 21 September, the Tunceli Penal Court acquitted him on both accounts.
Sinan Kara, a journalist who has been imprisoned three times before, was acquitted in a trial under Article 301, concerning an article he wrote in which he joined EU Commission Turkey representative Hans Jörg Kretschmer's criticism of the army. The article was entitled "Barracks Party". At the hearing on 20 September, the Beyoglu 2nd Penal Court acquitted him. He is also on trial under Article 301/2 for an article entitled "Justice has become Militarism's Jester", published There was another hearing on 26 October, and the court case will continue on 20 February 2008. Kara is also on trial for an article entitled "Full-time killers", in which he criticised the state and the army in relation to a bombing in Diyarbakir in which 10 people died, eight of them children. Again, Article 301 has been cited, and the case will start on 26 October. Finally, Kara will face the Istanbul 14th Heavy Penal Court on 30 January 2008 for an article entitled "Isolation Knows No Limits", writing about isolation cells in prisons. The article was published in the "Ülkede Özgür Gündem" newspaper on 14 November 2006.
A case against “Nokta” magazine editor Alper Görmüs began on 19 September. The trial is related to the publication of parts of retired Navy Commander General Özden Örnek’s diaries. On 29 March, the magazine had published an article entitled “Sarikiz and Ayisigi in Suprising Detail. We had a narrow escape from two military coups in 2004!” Following a complaint by Örnek, Görmüs is now on trial. The case will continue on 29 February 2008 and up to six years and eight months imprisonment are being demanded.
On 13 September, the 8th Penal Chamber of the Court of Appeals decreed that "a new definition of minority will endanger the unitary state and the inseparability of the nation". The Chamber thus overturned the acquittal of academics Prof Dr Ibrahim Kaboglu and Prof Dr Baskin Oran. They have been on trial under Article 216/1 for the writing of the report of the Minority Rights and Cultural Rights Working Group. The two academics had suggested the term "citizenship of Turkey" (or literally "Turkey-ness", in Turkish "Türkiyelik") as a super-identity in their report. Since 14 November 2005 they have been on trial, with a sentence of between 1.5 and 4.5 years being demanded. An Ankara Penal Court had aquitted the two academics of "inciting hatred and hostility" on 10 May, but, following the appeal of Ankara Public Prosecutor Hüseyin Boyrazoglu, the supreme court overturned this decree.
A Recep Akkus and an Asim Demir have filed a criminal complaint against the “Radikal” newspaper for translating two articles into Turkish and publishing them. The articles in question are “New Evidence of Armenian Genocide” by the experienced Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk from the “Independent” newspaper and “How Sincere is the ‘Never Again’ Slogan?” by Jeff Jacoby from the “Boston Globe”. Radikal’s responsible editor Hasan Cakkalkurt may face a trial under Article 301 for “degrading Turkishness”. The complaint is still being investigated.
Fuat Turgut, the defense lawyer of Yasin Hayal, a suspect in the Hrant Dink murder trial, is demanding a total of 20,000 YTL compensation from “Radikal” columnist Perihan Magden, “Birgün” journalist Ahmet Tulgar and Dink family lawyer Erdal Dogan. The trial was opened on 12 September. In an article published on 5 July 2007, Magden had described Turgut as a “freak showman”. On the same day, Tulgar wrote of him as “mad and showy”.
Hikmet Erden, reporter for the Dicle News Agency (DIHA) is being tried for claiming that soldiers were trying to prevent people from voting for the “A thousand hope” candidates supported by the pro-Kurdish DTP party in the Karacadag region of Diyarbakir. Following a criminal complaint by the gendarmerie, the Diyarbakir Public Prosecution has opened a trial against Erden for “spreading slander in the press”, citing Article 267 of Law 5237 of the Penal Code and demanding between one and four years in prison. The case will start at the Diyarbakir 2nd Penal Court on 2 February 2008.
Yücel Sayman, former president of the Istanbul Bar Association, who accused Kemal Kerincsiz’s lawyers of influencing the judiciary at the first hearing in the trial against journalists from the “Agos” newspaper, is being tried for insulting those same lawyers. The hearing in question was on 10 May 2006, when editor-in-chief Hrant Dink, editor Arat Dink and licence holder Serkis Seropyan were being tried. Following a complaint by Kerincsiz, Sayman will have to appear at the Sisli Penal Court in February 2008. Article 125 of the Penal Code is being cited, and up to two years imprisonment are being demanded.
Cagri Karadag and Kemal Bozkurt, the owner and editor-in-chief of the “Revolution is the Only Way Movement” magazine were acquitted at a hearing at the Istanbul 14th Heavy Penal Court on 31 August. The trial had been opened because of two articles entitled "The Kurds are my brothers and the people in E-type prisons are your children" and "1 September World Peace Day". The articles were published in the eighth issue of the magazine in September and October 2004, and the two journalists had been on trial under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terrorism Law. In the first article it had said: "As those resisting become isolated, attacks increase. Let us unite our forces in order to create an effective resistance against the brutal attacks on the Kurdish movement, the systematic attacks on the revolutionaries and the torture.”
Özgür Ulas Kaplan, the president of the Tunceli Bar Association, and Hüseyin Tunc, the province chair of the Labour Party (EMEP) were on trial under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terrorism Law for opposing military operations in a programme broadcast by Roj TV. They were acquitted on 16 August. Kaplan and Tunc said that they made a press statement at the Tunceli Municipality conference room together with political party representatives and municipality officials at the end of 2006. After the statement, a Roj TV reporter connected with them by phone and they told the TV channel that operations needed to stop.
On 3 August it was reported that the Supreme Court of Appeals ratified the decision of the Sisli Penal Court to drop its case against writer Orhan Pamuk. Pamuk had been on trial under Article 159 of the old Penal Code after saying in an interview with weekly Swiss magazine “Das Magazin” that “One million Armenians and 30,000 Kurds have been killed on this soil”. Up to three years imprisonment had been demanded, but when the Ministry of Justice had refused permission for trial, the Sisli court had dropped the case.
At the end of July, the Ankara 13th Civil Court of First Instance partially accepted the complaint of a Sükrü Elekdag against “Agos” writer and historian Taner Akcam and decreed that Akcam should pay compensation. Akcam had written an article entitled “Gündüz Aktan and the Saik Issue in the Genocide” and it was published in the weekly newspaper on 6, 20 and 27 January and 3, 10, 17 February 2006. Elekdag, an MP, had claimed that his personal rights were attacked and he was insulted. He had demanded 20,000 YTL compensation. It was decided that Akcam and the newspaper should pay 10,000 YTL and legal interest. Lawyers have appealed against the decision, arguing that it violates the European Convention on Human Rights.
On 27 July, the court case against the Vakit newspaper continued. An article entitled “The country where those who could [normally] not even become Corporal become Generals”, published with the pseudonym Asim Yenihaber on 25 Agust 2003, is said to have accused retired General Aytac Yalman and 311 generals. The court is investigating whether the article was sent to the newspaper by Mehmet Dogan, but has had problems accessing information about his IP address. The 4th Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals had overruled the compensation demand of 1 million YTL (which would be 1 billion YTL with interest) saying that first it had to be ascertained whether Dogan had sent the article.
Eren Keskin, lawyer and former president of the Istanbul branch of the Human Rights Association (IHD), will not be tried for “inciting to hatred and hostility” after a speech she made in the Bulanik district of Mus, in which she used the term “Kurdistan”. The Bulanik prosecution decreed that “however unacceptable it was, it consisted of expressing an opinion” and dropped proceedings. In the justification it said that the suspect had used the term Kurdistan to refer to the area mostly inhabited by Kurds. However, she will be tried for the use of the same term used at a panel entitled “Woman, Society and Family” at the Viransehir Culture and Arts Festival two and a half years ago. Keskin has said that there are 15 trials open against her under Articles 159 and 301.
Durmus Sahin, a student of the Ankara Gazi University Education Faculty, was arrested on 11 July when he refused to shake hands with Minister for Health Recep Akdag. Sahin had said, “I do not shake hands with those in government who do not provide services to the citizens”. After five days detention, he was brought before the Olur Criminal Court of Peace. There Sahin said, “Although I did not want to shake hands, the minister persisted in wanting tos hake my hands. Because I did not give my hand, he sent me to prison.” Sahin was released pending trial. A prison sentence from six months to two years is being demanded.
On 12 July, the Ankara 14th Civil Court of First Instance has rejected the complaint of Prime Minister Erdogan against “Sabah” columnist Hincal Uluc. After the murder of Hrant Dink, he had written an article entitled “Sects and Presidential Candidacy”, which was published on 7 February. Erdogan had demanded 20,000 YTL compensation for “serious atttack and slander”, but the court rejected the complaint. Uluc had claimed that the positions of Istanbul Police Chief Celalettin Cerrah and Minister of the Interior Abdülkadir Aksu were being protected after the murders of priest Andrea Santoro and journalist Hrant Dink because of their connections with religious sects and that the Prime Minister was closely linked to sects.
On 8 July, the Ankara 14th Civil Court of First Instance also rejected the 20,000 YTL compensation case which the KOZA gold mining company (which uses cyanide in its extraction) opened against the “Günlük Evrensel” newspaper. The complaint had been made when the newspaper reported on events which took place between KOZA goldmine employees and municipal officials on the one hand and the public on the other at the “Cyanide-Gold Environment Panel”. The Izmir 2nd Civil Court of First Instance had rejected two complaints of the same company against the “Birgün” newspaper’s editor Ibrahim Cesmecioglu and reporter Elcin Yagiz after the publication of two articles entitled, “Road of Acid” and “Closure Trial for Ovacik Gold Mine”.
Journalist Sinan Kara has been sentenced to 3 months and five days imprisonment and a fine of 522 YTL after Datca’s district governor (Kaymakam) Savas Tuncer had filed a complaint against him for “insulting him in the press”. The journalist was notified of the decision by the Datca Penal court, made on 4 July, on 23 July. In an article published on the website Memleketinsesi.com on 25 January 2005, Kara had claimed that Tuncer was turning a blind eye to and protecting the smuggling of historical artifacts. Kara said, “Now I go to prison without complaining. These are the days we live in.” Kara has spent a total of one year and three months in prison and there are 25 more cases against him. Should the court decision under Article 482/4 be ratified by the Supreme Court of Appeals, he will go to prison again.
Prime Minister Erdogan’s advisor Cüneyd Zapsu has opened a 10,000 YTL compensation trial against journalist Cüneyt Arcayürek for attacking his personal rights. Arcayürek had appeared on the “Politika Duragi” programme of the Kanaltürk channel and is said to have said, “Their insides and their outsides are lies. They are liars.” On 4 July it was reported that Zapsu’s demand for 10,000 YTL compensation from the “Milliyet” newspaper and editor Dogan Akin was rejected. the Istanbul 6th Civil Court of First Instance decideded on 28th June that the article written about Al Qaida operations and published on 3 July 2006 did not contain an insult to Zapsu. The complaint against the newspaper said a conscious slandering campaign against Zapsu had been initiated, wrong and misleading statements were made, and the impression was created in the public that he was connected to and supported terrorist organisations.”
On 2 July, the Ankara 5th Commercial Court of First Instance rejected the Army Mutual Aid Foundation (OYAK)’s 10 million YTL compensation claim from “Milliyet” journalists Güngör Uras and Metin Münir. They had criticised the fact that OYAK had bought the Erdemir iron and steel factories and then sold some of the shares to a foreign company. OYAK had also demanded a total of 25 million YTL compensation from Yigit Bulut, then writing for “Radikal”, Aydin Ayaydin from “Sabah” and Ibrahim Haselcin of the “Star Borsaci” magazine.
On 21 June, the Istanbul 9th Heavy Penal Court acquitted Hüseyin Aykol, editor-in-chief of the Ülked Özgür Gündem newspaper of “membership in an illegal organisation”, ruling that Aykol went to Kandil Mountain to do interviews with PKK/Kongra-Gel leaders. Based on the statements of militant-turned-informant Hakan Bazu, the journalist had been charged, and 10 years imprisonment had been demanded, citing Articles 314/2 and 53 of Law No 5237 of the Turkish Penal Code and Article 5 of the Anti-Terrorism Law No. 3713. The journalist was previously tried for the interviews under the Anti-Terrorism Law.
Former Transportation Minister Binali Yildirim had sued Birgun newspaper and writer Saruhan Oluc for "attacking personal rights" and had demanded 50,000 YTL compensation. The compensation was refused on 20 June by a civil court in Ankara. This was the third court to hear the case. The first had awarded 10,000 YTL in compensation, but a court of appeals had overturned the ruling. The final court decided to follow the ruling of the second court. On 13 August 2004, Birgun newspaper had published an article by Oluc entitled "Commercial Politics and Impudence".
Because of an interview he gave in the Tempo magazine, KURD-DER spokesperson Ibrahim Guclu is on trial together with reporter Enis Mazhar Tayman and responsible director Neval Barlas for "degrading Turkishness and the Republic" and "inciting the public to disobeying laws". The case against Barlas was dropped on 8 June as the author of the article was clear. The Bagcilar 2nd Penal Court has sent the file to the Bakirköy Penal Court and it is not clear when the next hearing will be.
On 7 January, the Cerkezköy Penal Court sentenced human rights activist Eren Keskin to one year imprisonment for saying on 20 February 2005: “The state has such a brutal attitude that it can kill a 12-year-old child, the Turkish Republic is a murderer with bloody hands. They have to be accountable to us and they need to apologise to us. Turkey’s history is a dirty history.” Citing Article 159 of the former penal code, the court decreed that she had “denigrated the Republic.” The prison sentence was converted into a fine of 4,380 YTL. If the punishment is confirmed, four more cases against Keskin which were suspended after an amnesty law may be reopened.
On 7 June, three representatives of the Human Rights Association (IHD) in Adana (southern Turkey) were sentenced to 2 years 8 months imprisonment for protesting against the "Return to Life" military operations conducted in prisons in 2000, in which many prisoners died, and for demanding the prosecution of those responsible. The sentences of Ethem Acikalin, Mustafa Bagcicek and Huseyin Beyaz were not deferred, "based on a consideration of the country's current situation". Another case against Acikalin began on 7 June in Adana. He had taken part in protests to find those responsible for the murder of 16-year-old Feyzi Abik and 11 people murdered in Diyarbakir. He is being accused of "degrading the state's police force".
At the beginning of June, the Iskender Chief Public Prosecution rejected a demand by mayor Mete Aslan for compensation from local newspaper owners Ersen Korkmaz and Erdal Yilmaz and journalist Dogan Suslu, arguing that the news was true, current and of public interest. The articles in question covered an attack on Suslu and two knife attacks on Korkmaz, arguing that all the attacks had happened during Aslan's time in office and that the perpetrators had not been found.
After an article in Guney Ege, a local newspaper in Mugla (Aegean part of Turkey), in which paper and carton company MOPAK was accused of polluting the environment and ignoring employee's rights, newspaper owner Hasan Karacelik, editor Nuri Timbil and columnist Yuksel Sari were tried for insulting, and a demand of 300,000 YTL compensation was made. The demand for compensation was rejected by the Ortaca Civil Court of First Instance on 31 May.
On 31 May, the prosecution of Erguder Oner, owner and responsible director of Dersim'de Iklim newspaper and editor Emrah Oner in Tunceli (eastern Turkey) started. After they published an article entitled "Ocalan Statement in Dersim" and used the term "leader of the Kurdish people", they are being accused of "praising crime and criminals" under Article 215. A sentence of two years imprisonment is being demanded.
The demand of Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan and daughter Zeynep Basutcu Unakitan for 40,000 YTL compensation from the Sabah newspaper was rejected by a civil court in Ankara on 6 June. On 23 February 2006 the newspaper had published articles relating to the daughter's visit to the TELSIM company, parts of which had been taken over by the Saving Deposits Insurance Fund (TMSF).
After Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had called PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan "esteemed" in a speech in Australia on 14 January 2000, 232 people had filed complaints against him for "praising crimes and criminals" and "inciting people to hatred and hostility". He was aquitted because the prosecution found no other evidence of praise or incitement in his speech.
On 24 May, the Malatya 3rd Heavy Penal Court acquitted human rights activists and journalists. The activists had formed a delegation in order to achieve the release of Private Coskun Kirandi, who had been taken hostage by the PKK two years ago. The court decreed that the initiative was based on “humane reasons.” The delegation had been made up of singer Ferhat Tunc, IHD regional representativ Mihdi Perincek, Diyarbakir representative Selahattin Demirtas, Tunceli province councillor Özgür Söylemez, and journalist Umur Hozatli. Journalists covering the event had been accused of “spreading propaganda of the organisation”, with five years imprisonment looming. DHA reporter Ferit Demir, AA reporter Haydar Toprakci, DIHA reporters Abdülkadir Özbeka nd Rüstü Demirkaya were all acquitted.
Hasan Cakkalkurt, responsible director of Milliyet newspaper, and owner Aydin Dogan and politician Mehmet Hatip Dicle were acquitted of spreading terrorist propaganda at a heavy penal court in Istanbul on 23 May. They had covered reactions on Kurdish websites to a speech by Dicle, co-founder of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP). The court found the coverage of public interest and and argued that there was no criminal intent.
On 21 May, the rejection of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's demand for 25,000 YTL compensation from the weekly caricature magazine Leman was announced. On the 6 July 2006 issue, Leman had written "Reco [Recep] the Kongo tick is making Turkey's mother cry", referring to the high petrol prices and high taxes in Turkey. The court in Ankara decided that as a politician, Erdogan had to accept criticism.
Former prosecutor Mustafa Turhan, who was expelled from his profession by the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors, found out in May that a trial under Article 301 has been opened against him. Turhan had said, “I have never trusted justice”, and stands accused of denigrating the judiciary organs,” facing from six months to two years imprisonment.
On 18 May, representatives of the Istanbul "Anadolunun Sesi" radio station announced that the decision of RTUK (High Commission for Radio and Television) to withdraw the broadcasting licence of the station had been supported by an administrative court in Ankara. The court argued that the decision wsa legal and that there would be no compensation for financial losses during closure. On 30 January, RTUK had closed the station indefininitely, based on temporary article 6 of Law 3984 on Radio and Television Foundation and Broadcasts. The station had also been closed for 30 days on 17 October 2006 for playing a song by Ahmet Kaya and for covering the discussion of the Kurdish issue in a newspaper, for criticising the "Return to life" operations of December 2000 and the then Minister of Justice Hikmet Sami Turk.
On 15 May, Muammer Karabulut, president of the Father Christmas Foundation was aquitted in his 301 trial. He had said that the Orthodox Greek Patriarchate was managing the court and and the Regional Directorate of Foundations.
Five human rights activists in Batman (south-east Turkey) are on trial for preparing a report into the killing of 11-year old Mizgin Ozbek by law-enforcement guns on 5 September 2006. Saadet Becerikli of the Human Rights Association (IHD), Mehmet Sat and Ahmet Sevim of MAZLUMDER, Sedat Ozevin, president of the Batman Bar Association, and lawyer Bengi Yildiz are being tried under Articles 288 and 301/2 ("attempting to influence the judiciary process" and "degrading the armed forces"). The case has postponed in order to seek permission from the Ministry of Justice to try the lawyers in the case.
District governor Mahmut Agbal of Karliova district (province of Bingol, south-eastern Turkey) is suing a weekly local newspaper, Bingol Ab-I Hayat, for a series of articles entitled "Villagers Claim Corruption", published between 24 and 30 April 2007. Editor-in-chief Faysal Sonakalan and Karliova representative Mustak Eroglu have been accused of "spreading slander about a person and an institution". The articles had deal with accusations of corruption in road making contracts.
Namik Duran, journalist for the Milliyet newspaper was acquitted of spreading PKK propaganda on 10 May by an Istanbul heavy penal court. The court decided that an interview with Osman Ocalan, a former leading figure in the PKK, and his newborn child, entitled "Osman is rocking a cradle" and "The PKK should retreat" did not go beyond informing the public and that there was no evidence of a crime.
On 3 May, Nezahat Alkan, journalist for Birgun newspaper, was acquitted of offering a public prosecutor as a target for a terrorist organisation. In an article "Insistence on Bomb in Spice Market", published on 29 December 2005, she had mentioned the name of the prosecutor when covering the deliberations in the case. She had been tried under Article 6/1 of the Law on Terrorism.
Erol Ozkoray, journalist for the Idea-Politka magazine has been acquitted after the prosecution realized that he had been tried in the same case before. Ozkoray had written two articles, entitled "What use is the army?" and "The new barbarians are the Taliban with epaulets", published in 2001.
On 18 April, the Ankara 14th Civil Court of First Instance rejected Prime Minister Erdogan’s demand for 25,000 YTL compensation from the Leman caricature magazine. Zafer Aknar, the editor of the magazine said: “We find the decision positive. This is the fourth time the Prime Minister has sued.” The complaint was filed because of a caricature which depicted Erdogan as a Congo tick.
Mahmut Alinak, Kars province chair of the pro-Kurdish DTP has been sentenced to 10 months imprisonment for saying that "the Semdinli contraguerrillas were bombed by the republic's gunmen". He was tried for "degrading the armed forces and the Turkish parliament". He is appealing against his sentence.
A demand by Prime Minister Erdogan for 10,000 YTL compensation to be paid by Tuncay Ozkan, who had prepared a political programme for Kanal Turk channel, was refused by an Ankara civil court on 10 April.
On 6 April, Ibrahim Yildiz, editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet newspaper, was sentenced to 23 months 10 days imprisonment, later converted into a 14,000 YTL fine. The newspaper had reported the comments of Haluk Koc of the opposition CHP when Erdogan had refused to declare his financial assets. The Radikal newspaper, who had also reported the comments, was acquitted.
On 29 March it was reported that Transportation Minister Binali Yildirim has filed a 20,000 YTL compensation claim against Ilhan Selcuk, journalist for the Cumhuriyet newspaper. Selcuk had written a column entitled “This has got out of hand…”, in which he had said: “In this column we can now read the text of 21 January 2003…the three most important ministries of the AKP goverment are in the hands of three people suspected of corruption: the Energy Ministry is in the hands of suspect Hilmi Güler, the Transportation Ministry in the hands of suspect Binali Yildirim, the Finance Ministry in the hands of suspect Kemal Unakitan. Three strategic ministries in the palms of the hands of corruption suspects…”
At a hearing of 27 March, the Üsküdar 5th Civil Court of First Instance lifted its injunction on the article series entitled “Fethullah Gülen’s 40-year comrade Nurettin Veren Talks”, written by Cumhuriyet journalist Hikmet Cetinkaya. After a two-year trial, the court has rejected religious leader Fethullah Gülen’s claim that his personal rights were being violated.
The Diyarbakir branch of the Kemalist Thought Association (ADD) applied to the Diyarbakir Chief Public Prosecution in order to stop a series of articles entitled “Who are we?”, published in the Milliyet newspaper from 19 March for five days. The ADD claimed that the series incited the public to hatred and hostility, citing Article 216/1, and called for the prosecution of Tarhan Erdem, the writer responsible for the series, and editors Tahir Özyurtseven and Cem Dizdar. The Milliyet series was based on public surveys and was presented under the headlines “A colourful first,” “Half of the poorest live in the Southeast,” “4.5 million say they are Alevi,” “55 million people are ethnically Turkish,” “and “Most say ‘I am first of all a citizen of Turkey.’”
On 23 March, it was reported that the 4th Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals had overturned the sentencing of the Milliyet newspaper by a regional court. On 20 September 2004, the newspaper had published an article entitled “Reactionaries have stopped pursuit”, in which the inauguration of Prime Ministerial Secretary of State Ömer Dincer as the president of the Prime Ministerial Monitoring and Coordination Board was discussed. Dincer had opened a trial demanding compensation for “attacking personal rights in the press.” The Supreme Court of Appeals ruled against the compensation award. Should this decision be appealed against, the case will go to the Supreme Court’s General Board.
On 22 March, the Sisli 2nd Penal Court dropped the charges of “denigrating Turkishness” and “attempting to influence the judiciary” in three cases against Agos editor-in-chief Hrant Dink, who was murdered on 19 January 2007.
On 6 March, the Istanbul Duty 1st Criminal Court of First Instance banned access to the international video-sharing website Youtube. After Turkish and Greek Internet users had continued a long-standing “e-fight” on 5 January, and Greek users had sent a video alleged to contain “an insult to Atatürk”. On 8 March some Internet users said in the Sisli court that censorship was not the way to prevent such actions. The Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned the ban as “radical and disproportional.”
On 7 March, the Diyarbakir 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance sentenced DTP leader Ahmet Türk to 6 months imprisonment for saying in a speech in Diyarbakir: “As we are making intense efforts to stop guns from speaking, the worsening of isolation conditions for the esteemed Öcalan obviously increase social worries.” Türk was sentenced under Article 215/1 for “praising a criminal and a crime.” In addition, DTP politicians Mehmet Sirin Tekik, Cemalettin Padir and Dicle Manap were taken into custody after organizing a press meeting in support of DTP Diyarbakir Province Chair Hilmi Aydogdu, who was arrested after saying: “Whatever is done in Kerkük, we consider it to have been done to Diyarbakir.” A further arrest warrant was issued for DTP Batman Province Chair Ayhan Karabulut.
After speaking up in a programme on Kanal D, presented by Abbas Güclü, and saying to ANAP party leader Erkan Mumcu, “I am Kurdish, the PKK is not the cause, but an effect,” university student Mehmet Emin Demir was sentenced to a 20-month prison sentence on 16 February. The Ankara 11th Heavy Penal Court cited Article 220/8 of the Criminal Code and found Demir guilty of “spreading propaganda for an illegal organization or its aims.”
On 15 February, Radikal newspaper’s reporter Ismail Saymaz was acquitted by the Bagcilar 2nd Penal Court. He had been accused of violating the secrecy of an investigation into the torture of children by publishing a doctor’s report, as well as attempting to influence the judiciary. The court ruled that Saymaz, who had published an article entitled “Claim of torture of an 11-year-old child” on 23 February 2006, had not violated Article 19 of the Press Law related to influencing the judiciary.
On 14 February, the Beyoglu 2nd Penal Court decreed lack of jurisdiction in the case of Songül Özkan, the owner of Evrensel Publications, which had published Ahmet Kahraman’s “Kurdish Revolts.” However, the Supreme Court of Appeals has ruled that the case of Özkan, who has been charged with “incitement to hatred and hostility” under Article 312, should be heard by the Beyoglu court. Özcan’s next hearing is on 20 March 2008. The book was first published in October 2003 and describes the Kurdish struggle throughout history, using eye witnesses and relatives.
On 14 February, the Ankara 3rd Penal Court sentenced 13 party leaders of the Rights and Freedoms Party (HAKPAR) to between 6 months and one year imprisonment for speaking Kurdish at their First Ordinary Congress and for inviting state representatives with Kurdish invitations. The court argued that the party had violated the Law on Political Parties and decided to appeal to the prosecution of the Supreme Court of Appeals in order to start a trial to close the party.
On 13 February, the Bagcilar 2nd Penal Court acquitted Faruk Cakir, the responsible editor of the Yeni Asya newspaper of “humiliating the state’s military in the press,”, but punished him for “attempting to influence the judiciary.” Under Article 288 of the Penal Code Cakir was first sentenced to six months imprisonment, later converted into a 3,600 YTL fine. In an article entitled “The game backfired”, the attack on the State Council in Ankara was discussed, and it was argued that attacker Alparslan Arslan had connections to a nationalist organization called “Red Apple.”
On 1 February, the Kadiköy 2nd Penal Court acquitted writer Perihan Magden of “insulting in the press” for her articles on the “Kurtlar Vadisi” (Wolves’ Valley) TV series and the film “Wolves’ Valley in Iraq.” Magden’s lawyer Ergin Cinmen said at the hearing that the series and the film were showing mafia relations and influencing society, arguing that especially children, but also others have turned to crime because of the series.
On 27 January, the Tunceli Penal Court sentenced Eren Keskin, former president of the Istanbul branch of the Human Rights Association (IHD), to six months imprisonment for “denigrating the state, the military and the police.” The sentence was converted into a 900 YTL fine and deferred. Keskin appealed against the sentence on 20 February. At a conference organized by an education trade union in Tunceli on 24 November 2002, entitled “Women in Social Life,” Keskin had said, “Either legal or political, torture is a state policy in Turkey.”
On 24 January, the Sisli 2nd Penal Court acquitted Ahmet Sami Belek and Sahin Bayar, the licence holder and responsible editor of the Günlük Evrensel newspaper respectively, at their first hearing. They had been on trial for “denigrating the state’s army in print” with an article entitled “The JITEM [a secret counter-terrorism force] were called to Diyarbakir”. The court decreed that the news was reported as a claim acceptable within the framework of the freedom of press. After a bomb killed seven people in Diyarbakir’s Baglar neighbourhood, the article claimed that not much before that former JITEM members had been called to Diyarbakir.
On 23 January, the 9th Penal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals rejected the insistent demands of the General Staff and the Ministry of Justice to try three journalists and an MP, arguing that the texts had been intended as news to inform the public. The journalists concerned were Zihni Erdem, of the Radikal newspaper, who had written “13 questions in Semdinli,” Derya Sazak and editor Hasan Cakkalkurt of the Milliyet newspaper for an article entitled “If there is an informant involved, then the state is too”. The case against CHP MP Esat Canan was also dropped.
On 16 January, Sabah journalist Ergun Babahan was acquitted of insulting Baskent University Rector Prof. Dr. Mehmet Haberal in an article entitled “Strange Relations.” The Ankara 2nd Penal Court decreed that the article did not contain any insult and was intended as criticism.
On 12 January it was reported that a court case against Erol Özkoray, editor of the three-monthly Idea Politka magazine, and RSF General Secretary Robert Ménard, who had given an interview, ended in acquittal. Özkoray found out that he was acquitted nearly a year ago. The magazine had published an interview in the 28 December 2001 issue of the magazine. The court case had been opened because Ménard said that the “Turkish Regime is schizophrenic.” A trial under Article 159 of the old penal code, for “insulting the military and the republic” had been opened against both Özkoray and Ménard, with up to six years imprisonment demanded for both.
Corrections and Legal Redress
On 17 December, the Yüksekova Civil Court of First Instance sentenced Müslim Bartin d to 5 months 25 days imprisonment and 2 years probation for the attack on Necip Capraz, the licence holder of the Hakkari Yüksekova News newspaper, and a reporter for the Anatolia Agency (AA). Two years ago, Capraz was attacked and seriously injured by people wearing masks. Both the journalist and Bartin have appealed against the decision, the former arguing that the punishment is too light, the latter protesting his innocence. Müslim Batin had been sentenced to one year and two months imprisonment for being one of Capraz's attackers on 22 September 2005. However, the court decided to reduce the sentence to five months 25 days; Nihat Bartin was acquitted of being part of the assault. The Turkish Journalists’ Society had condemned the attack.
On 6 December, the Isparta 2nd Penal Court sentence Isparta mayor Hasan Balaman and his bodyguard Fatih Sarioglu to one year and nine months imprisonment each for attacking Zaman reporter Mustaf Altintas at the mayor’s office. The punishments for the physical attack were deferred, but Balaman was also sentenced to a fine of 7,500 YTL for insulting Altintas. Because the newspaper’s Isparta representative dropped his complaint, the case concerning him was dropped. Isparta municipality’s former legal matters administrator Aykut Okur was acquitted due to lack of evidence against him. After the attack on 9 February 2006, Balaman and Sarioglu had been detained for some time.
Yol TV, broadcasting via Türk Sat, showed the Zaza programme “Hard u Asmen” (“The wound of 70 years”), directed by writer and story teller Hasan Dursun, for the first time on 1 December. The programme, which is the first ever to be permitted by the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), will be broadcast once a month for a while. The first programme dealt with the unknown location of the graves of Seyit Riza and his frineds, who were executed in Elazig in 1937.
After Prof. Dr. Baskin Oran, former member of the Human Rigths Advisory Board which prepared the “Minority Report”, received insulting and threatening emails, he went to court. Four suspects from Istanbul, Bodrum and Ankara were identified from their IP addresses. Kamil Saglik, Dursun Kaya, Figen Arslan and Kezban Kilic rejected the charges at the first hearing on 16 May at the Ankara 9th Criminal Court of First Instance. Oran rejected reconciliation, saying, “I don’t make peace with people who threaten me with death.” The case will continue on 12 February 2008. In another case, someone calling themselves the “Samsun representative of the Fatherland Front” sent Oran a threatening letter from an Internet cafe. The Internet cafe owner appeared in court on 24 December. The next hearing is on 25 March 2008.
On 10 October, the Sisli 9th Penal Court sentenced a Ridvan Dogan to two years imprisonment. Dogan had sent the Agos newspaper a threatening email after the newspaper’s editor-in-chief Hrant Dink was murdered. Because the 19-year-old high school student had been in detention, had no prior convictions and expressed his regret, the court deferred his sentence. He is on probation for two years. Dogan had said that he had sent an email that came to him to Agos without reading it.
After he was attacked by riot police on the 1 May protests at Taksim Square, Cumhuriyet news reporter Alper Turgut has not been able to ensure the prosecution of those responsible. The Supreme Court of Appeals decided not to pursue his complaint against Istanbul Governor Muammer Güler, Istanbul Chief of Police Celalettin Cerrah and the Chief of the Riot Police. Citing Articles 86/1, 3-c and 117/1 of the Penal Code, Turgut’s lawyer Tora Pekin had appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeals, claiming that there was a case of “intentionally injuring a person” and “violating the freedom to work.”
Three relatives of Mus’s MP from the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Medeni Yilmaz, have been found guilty of threatening Emrullah Özbey, owner of the local weekly “News 49” newspaper. Özbey was told on 5 July that Mahsun Yilmaz, Fatih Yilmaz and Ferit Yilmaz were given a two-year suspended sentence each. In addition, Mahsun Yilmaz has been fined for insulting the journalist.
After insulting Sabah newspaper reporter Aliye Cetinkaya at a Felicity Party (SP) rally, Halil Yilmaz was sentenced to 6 days imprisonment, convertd to a 300 YTL fine. Cetinkaya had additionally been verbally abused and attacked with stones by a group at the rally in February 2006 because she had not covered her hair and was wearing jeans. She has filed a complaint against the attackers.
A Law on Preventing Crimes Committed on the Internet was passed by parliament on 4 May. It was ratified by president Sezer on 22 May. Acording to the law, the Telecommunications Board will prevent crimes against Ataturk, following law No. 5816. 20 NGOs of the computer sector reacted strongly to the new law, saying that "The Internet needs to be fast, not censored!".
On 2 May, the Istanbul 9th Heavy Penal Court evaluated the objections of prosecutors Selim Berna Altay and Fikret Secen and sent the file concerning Hrant Dink’s murder back to the Istanbul 14th Heavy Penal Court, where it had originally been. The indictment in the case claims that the murder, for which 12 detained and 6 undetained suspects are being tried, represents a crime of terrorism.
After Chief of General Staff General Yasar Büyükanit called the “Gündem” newspaper the “publishing organ of the PKK” in a press briefing on 12 April, employers of the newspaper have sued Büyükanit. He had said, “True, the Turkish Armed Forces uses an accreditation system. That is the draft of the memorandum. I say it sincerely. Why is there accreditation? We also don’t want it. But do you want a PKK newspaper to be broadcast in Turkey? Gündem…How would you like their journalists to sit in one of these rows?”
On 30 March the Ankara 11th Heavy Penal Court heard suspects in the attacks on the State Council and on the Cumhuriyet newspaper. The lawyer of suspect Aykut Metin, who is on trial for “knowingly and willingly aiding and abetting an illegal organization,” said that his client was not a person who would be motivated to act because of the headscarf. The lawyer of suspect Erhan Timuroglu described his client as “ignorant, a person who drinks alcohol” and denied that there was a religious motive to the act. Because murder suspect Alparslan Arslan’s lawyer was excused, Arslan’s last defense was not listened to.
The Platform against the Crime of Thought had organized acts of civil disobedience in support of Agos editor-in-chief Hrant Dink, who had been on trial under Article 301 before his murder. Some of the estimated 500 people involved gave statements on 19 February as part of an investigation which the prosecution had initiated. The protesters had signed a text saying, “I am also Hrant Dink, I agree with his words, which have been counted as a crime, and I also want to be tried.”
In February, the Turkish Journalists’ Society and the Press Council sent their suggestions for amendments to the controversial Article 301 to Minister of Justice Cemil Cicek and government representatives, suggesting that the concept of Turkishness be changed, punishments reduced and prosecution be made dependent on permission. CHP leader Deniz Baykal has opposed changes to Article 301.
The International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), of which bianet is also a member, called on Turkey on 10 February to abolish Article 301 completely; it also asked Turkey to abolish all articles which contravened the European Convention on Human Rights and the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Censorship and Reactions to Monopolisation
At the ceremony of the Sedat Simavi Prizes on 12 December, Orhan Erinc, president of the Turkish Journalists’ Society said that there had been no improvement in the obstruction of the freedom of expression and the right to inform the public since the year before. He pointed out that the government had not kept its promise to change Article 301.
The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) announced that it had chosen murdered Agos editor-in-chief Hrant Dink as its World Press Freedom Hero. Speaking at the awards ceremony, IPI director Johann P. Fritz said that the award represented a praise of Dink’s courage and an acknowledgement of his contribution to the freedom of expression and press freedom in Turkey.
Under the leadership of Helene Flautre, who had spoken to NGOs, journalists and members of the government in Turkey, the European Parliament Human Rights Sub-Committee expressed its increasing worry about Article 301 and torture cases on 5 December.
Seyfi Dursunoglu, a drag artist, is not allowed to appear in the “Will you dance with me” programme on Fox TV in his drag character “Fractious Virgin” anymore. Dursunoglu said that he had been told by Star TV director Fatih Edipoglu one and a half years earlier that the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) did not want him to appear in drag anymore.
Following the arrest of the eight soldiers taken hostage by the PKK in Daglica (Hakkari) in October and later released, the Van Gendarmerie Public Order Corps Command Military Court decreed a broadcasting and publishing ban on the investigation of the soldiers. The decision was announced on RTÜK’s website on 13 November. The ban was decided on unanimously in order to "avoid a distortion of the aim of the investigation and misinformation of the public, to avoid giving rise to misunderstandings and in order to safeguard the authority and objectivity of the judiciary." The decision cited Articles 13 and 28 of the constitution as well as Article 3 of Press Law No. 5187 and includes "activities to obtain, spread, criticise and interpret on information concerning the investigation".The ban is to stay in place until the investigation is completed. Former military judge and prosecutor Ümit Kardas criticised the ban as unnecessary, and the Contemporary Journalists’ Association (CGD) and the Turkish Journalists’ Society (TGC) condemned it as a “constraint.”
After Cumhuriyet journalist Erdogan Aydin was dismissed for joining a programme on the pro-Kurdish Roj TV channel, the “We want a future Istanbul Initiative” staged a protest in front of the newspaper office. Around 30 people gathered on 11 November.
The system of accreditation was debated again after Chief of General Staff General Yasar Büyükanit only invited journalists from 13 accredited newspapers to a press briefing, and after President Abdullah Gül was only acompanied by 13 newspapers on his trip to Azerbaijan in November. TGC General Secretary Celal Toprak argued that the system represented a limitation to the right of the public to be informed and that he opposed all kinds of accreditation. CGD President Ahmet Abakay said that considering diversity of the invited media would be enough.
The Istanbul 9th Heavy Penal Court decreed that the weekly Yürüyüs (March) should be stopped from publishing for a month. In the 16 December 2007 issue, the expressions “Revolutionaries die, but revolutions continue” and “They did not surrender” were said to reresent “propaganda of an illegal organisation” according to Article 7/2 of Law No 3713. The court further said that the cover of the magazine showed “a member of an illegal organisation who had died when fighting against security forces not long ago.” Citing Article 25/2 of the Press Law, the court resorted to closing the magazine for a month.
In November, the Istanbul 13th Heavy Penal Court stopped the YedinciGün newspaper from publishing for fifteen days. The newspaper had begun publishing on 5 November, but its news items and articles were said to be “spreading PKK propaganda.” Editor Hüseyin Aykol called on all journalistic institutions to protest against the censorship.
On 9 November, the Gaziantep 1st Criminal Court of Peace ordered the confiscation of the 32nd issue of the local "Coban Atesi" (Shepherd's Fire) newspaper after journalist Berkant Coskun wrote an article entitled "Mother, Don't Send Me to the Army". The newspaper stands accused of "damaging the public image of military service".Judge Saban Kaplan decreed the confiscation of the issue "because the article contained passages which committed the crime of damaging the public image of military service". He cited Article 25/2 of Press Law No. 5187. Article 25/2 is concerned with "Confiscation and a ban on distribution and sales". Since the article also calls for an investigation, the newspaper's editor-in-chief Yasin Yetisgen was called to the police station to give a statement. The article in question referred to the Geneva and LaHague Conventions and called operations of the Turkish Armed Forces in the Oremar (Daglica) region of Hakkari a "massacre"; it also referred to the social effects of these operations on children and Kurds. One passage of the text reads: "I am afraid, mother, take me inside, I am afraid...The army wants [me] because they say there will be a war, mother they tell me 'lie down' and 'get up'. Mother, they give me a gun and tell me 'kill'...Switch off your television, mother, they are deceiving you as well...This song goes around in my head when I watch the heroic (!) soldiers' operations on television..." Article 318 of the new Turkish Penal Code, which is concerned with "damage to the public image of military service", has been used against pacifists, journalists and rights activists. Journalist Perihan Magden of the "Aktüel" magazine was acquitted under the article, but conscientious objector Halil Savda, writer Serpil Köksal, pacifists Murat Dünsen and Ibrahim Kizartici, "Birgün" reporter Gökhan Gencay and "Ülkede Özgür Gündem" reporter Birgül Özbaris are still on trial under the article.
On 6 November, the EU Commission published the Turkey Progress Report, emphasising that there had been a slow-down in reforms. Ollie Rehn, EU Commissioner for Enlargement, said: “Article 301 definitely has to be changed without much delay. Reforms have slowed down because of political crises.” Because conditions were not fulfilled in eight acquis, they could not be opened. The report said that the prosecution and punishment of non-violent expressions of opinion was seriously worrying, pointing out that apart from Article 301, Article 215 (praising a crime and a criminal), Article 215 (inciting the public to hatred and hostility), Article 220 (founding an organisation in order to commit a crime), and Article 288 (attempting to influence the judiciary) were also used to limit the freedom of expressing non-violent opinions. In addition, the Anti-Terrorism Law was also worrying in its potential effect on the freedom of expression.
On 29 October, a vehicle taking 150 copies of the Kurdish Azadiya Welat newspaper was stopped at a military checkpoint for five hours, despite the fact that there was no court decree to confiscate the issues. The soldiers only let the vehicle pass after a decree by the Diyarbakir Heavy Penal Court showing the legality of the paper arrived.
On 23 October, the government cited Article 25 of Law 3984 of the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) in order to introduce a broadcasting ban on the PKK attacks in the Daglica region of Hakkari in which 13 soldiers died on Sunday morning. The article is called "Banning of Publications/Broadcasts". After Cabinet Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek applied to RTÜK, radio and television institutions were informed of the broadcasting ban. The text asked for an end to "radio and television broadcasts which negatively affected public order and the people's morale, which showed a weak image of the security forces and which negatively affected social psychology." The censorship was criticised by CHP leader Deniz Baykal, by the TGC, the CGD and the Turkish Journalists’ Trade Union (TGS). Following the appeal of Kanaltürk, the ban was lifted by the 13th Chamber of the State Council. When the government insisted on the censorship, the case was taken to the State Council Administrative Case Board, which rejected the government’s demand.
In October, the website of the Özgür Gündem newspaper quoted a statement of the PKK-near HPG organization in the wake of the Daglica attack in Hakkari, where 12 soldiers were killed and eight taken hostage. Access to the website was then blocked by court order. Gündem newspaper representative Ramazan Pekgöz said, “this is another concrete example of censorship.”
On 21 October, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Government Spokesperson Cemil Cicek both addressed the media. Erdogan said, “Instead of managing social psychology which may affect our people negatively, exactly the opposite steps have to be taken. We expect the support of our visual and print media.” Cicek reminded the media of “many legal powers” and called on the members of the press to “help in the struggle for this kind of reporting.” Prof. Dr. Eser Köker of the Ankara University Communications Faculty evaluated these reminders as “interference in the freedom of communication.”
On 18 October, Miklos Haraszti, the Media Freedom Representative of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), sent Prime Minister Erdogan a letter in which he called for the abolition of Article 301, which, so Haraszti, represented a threat to all journalists who interpreted history differently from the official line. Haraszti condemned the sentence of Agos newspaper representatives Arat Dink and Serkis Seropyan: “The trials show that Article 301 is still being used to prosecute in order to prevent the discussion of topics of interest to the public. The fact that this article has not been abolished has targeted dissidents with trials and violence. Thinkers have been turned into objects of hatred with 301.” Many international organizations, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Federation of Journalists (FIJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Committee for the Protection of Journalists, and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), had previously called for the abolition or amendment of the controversial article.
In the RSF’s annual World Press Freedom ranking, Turkey slipped down by three places, being place after Indonesia and before Gabon. Until 2005, Turkey showed an improvement by 15 places. In the previous year, it ranked 98th among 168 countries, together with Bhutan and the Ivory Coast.
On 9 October, the Istanbul 12th Heavy Penal Court placed a one-month broadcasting ban on the Gündem newspaper for starting a campaign in support of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, who is in prison on Imrali island. The campaing called “Live and Let Live” was announced in the 9 October issue, which was the first to come out after a previous one-month publishing ban. The court decreed that the newspaper was spreading PKK propaganda and cited the Law on Terrorism to close the paper. Yüksel Genc, the editor of the newspaper, said that the the publishing ban was anti-constitutional. Gündem newspaper has faced many such bans, on 6 March 30 days, on 9 April 15 days, on 12 July 15 days, and on 8 September 30 days.
On 3 October, the European Parliament (EP) Foreign Affairs Committee stated that it welcomed the elections in Turkey, but strongly condemned the PKK attacks, as well as the murders of Hrant Dink and Priest Andrea Santoro. The Committee voted to accept a report on EU-Turkey relations prepared by Ria Oomen-Ruijten, EP rapporteur, with 48 out of 52 votes. The committee also expressed sadness that still many people were being tried under Article 301. “For the government, we see the freedom of expression and press freedom as priorities. The constitutional draft must not slow down 301 reforms.”
At the end of September, 114 lecturers at the prestigious Bosphorus University (Istanbul) condemned the trial of Prof. Dr. Baskin Oran and Prof. Dr. Ibrahim Kaboglu, the authors of the Minority Rights Report. The lecturers emphasise that the report "does not contain any elements of violence", as was claimed in the justification for the trial. "We view Kaboglu and Oran's trial under Articles 301 and 216 as a restriction of academic freedom."
The joint declaration states that the trial is proof that "in practice, there is no freedom of expression in Turkey."
On 20 September, the Human Rights Association (IHD) published its biannual report on rights violations. According to the report pertaining to the first six months of 2007, 451 people were involved in 94 trials for using their right to freedom of expression. In addition, there were 88 investigations of 361 people. 103 trials involving 368 people resulted in the sentencing of 193 people to a total of 229 years, 3 months and 15 days imprisonment and 7,981 YTL (around 4,600 Euros) in fines. The IHD noted that these statistics " prove that, compared to recent years, there has been no improvement in the area of freedom of expression". According to the association, 17 of the trials opened in this period were under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code ("degrading Turkishness, the Republic, the State or its institutions"), 22 trials under Article 215 ("praising crime and criminals"), four trials under Article 314, two trials under Article 216 (inciting the people to hatred and hostility or degrading"), and two trials under Article 288 ("attempting to influence the judiciary"). There have been 20 trials under Article 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Law ("spreading propaganda of a terrorist organisation"), two trials under the Law of Crimes Committed against Atatürk (the founder of the Turkish Republic), and one under Article 312 of the old Turkish Penal Code.
On 10 September, the Istanbul 12th Heavy Penal Court decreed a 30-day closure for the "Gündem" newspaper as punishment for publishing two articles by PKK leader Murat Karayilan, entitled "Let us become populist, let us win" and "Self-criticism not in words but in practice". The newspaper was accused of spreading PKK propaganda. The closure was based on the Anti-Terrorism Law. Editor-in-chief Yüksel Genc pointed out that the newspaper was being punished under a law which 10th President Ahmet Necdet Sezer had sent to the Constitutional Court. He added, "It is difficult to understand that our publication is being stopped for the forth time by an Article which tramples on the freedom of the press. The continuing penalties have shown again that Turkey is a problematic country as far as the freedom of press and expression are concerned." In the article published on 2 September 2007, entitled "Let us become populist, let us win", Karayilan had written: "We are a movement which is only based on its own strength." He declared that the PKK "got its power from society and that it relied on the people". On the next day, in his article "Self-criticism not in words but in practice", Karayilan pointed out mistakes in the "Free Citizen Movement" and called for self-criticism.
The “Cagdas Tuzla” (Modern Tuzla) newspaper has won its case at the Istanbul 7th Administrative Court after its building was sealed up by the Tuzla municipality in Istanbul four months ago with the justification that there was no authorisation for employment in the building. Newspaper owner Halil Özen announced that, after being deprived of their workplace for four months, the newspaper would sue Tuzla mayor Mehmet Demirci for compensation for material and mental damages.
The judiciary in Turkey allows for the closure of a whole website if one item contained in it has become the subject of a complaint. After the alternative dictionary Eksi Sözlük and the Antoloji.com websites, the WorldPress.com website was closed in August. Cause for the closure was a complaint by Adnan Oktar. The Reporters Without Borders (RSF) organisation has previously stated that it finds this wholesale closure of a website “radical and disproportionate.”
A Regional Administrative Court has decreed that a park in Diyarbakir cannot be named after human rights activist and publisher Ayse Nur Zarakolu who died five yeras ago, arguing that she was a person who "supported separatist ideas and spread terrorist propaganda both in her own books and in the books she published". The widower of Ayse Nur Zarakolu, Ragip Zarakolu, journalist at the "Ülkede Özgür Gündem" and publisher, said: "Ayse Nur Zarakolu, like Hrant Dink, was a person who tried to build bridges between our peoples on the basis of mutual respect, and she is one of the people who paid for this with her life."
On 16 August, the G-9 Platform, which unites ten professional press organisations, condemned the dismissal of journalist Emin Cölasan from the “Hürriyet” newspaper. The platform said that Cölasan had committed years to the newspaper from which he was then dismissed arbitrarily. The platform described this as a warning that everyone needed to protect press freedom and freedom of expression. Reyhan Yalcindag, the president of the Human Rights Association (IHD), on the other hand, did not believe that Cölasan was dismissed because of rights issues and took a more critical stance: “We do not consider thoughts which serve violence as freedom of expression.”
The Human Rights Association (IHD) branch in Adana (southern Turkey) received a letter by one Ayhan Bozkaya saying that the prison management does not give prisoners newspapers. On 13 August Ethem Acikalin of the IHD said that the association had applied to the Penal Execution Judge and the Ministry of Justice, protesting against the fact that daily newspapers and periodicals were not allowed into prison despite the fact that there was no court order to confiscate them. The letter of objection said that this was obstructing the right to inform oneself and that it represented a violation of international agreements that Turkey was part of. Acikalin said that prisoners at an F-type prison in Kürkcüler (Adana) had been given newspapers after human rights associations had publicised their plight.
On 24 July, the Turkey Journalists' Society (TGC) awarded its Freedom of Press Prizes to Rakel Dink, widow of murdered journalist Hrant Dink, publisher Ragip Zarakolu and lawyer Gülcin Cayligil as representatives of "all those journalists and writers who have suffered and been tried under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code.". TGC president Orhan Erinc presented the awards at the ceremony at Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul. In his opening speech, he said, "Today censorship is not the direct inspection of newspapers, but the limiting clauses placed in laws." In her acceptance speech, Rakel Dink criticised Cemil Cicek, Minister of Justice when her husband was still alive. He had said, "Let them be happy, they get prizes because of us". Hrant Dink had replied, "Our greatest prize would be the abolishment of Article 301."
In July, a heavy penal court in Istanbul stopped the "Güncel" newspaper from publishing for twelve days, arguing that it was the continuation of the "Gündem" newspaper which had been closed for 15 days. "Gündem" had been closed on 15 July 2007 for an article on pre-election opinions in Batman, a province in the south-east of Turkey, published on 12 July and entitled: "Batman's message: Look after the guerrillas". Mehmet Samur, the editor-in-chief of the "Güncel" newspaper evaluated its closure in the daily "Evrensel" newspaper as "election censorship". The newspaper was closed until 28 July, six days after the general elections took place.
A Heavy Penal Court in Istanbul decreed the closure of the "Gündem" newspaper for fifteen days. Cause for the closure was an article published on 12 July in issued 132, entitled: "The Batman Message: Stand By the Guerrillas". The newspaper has been closed for 30 and 15 days before and has now been closed for "spreading PKK propaganda in a call for violence". Friday's issue (13 July) of the newspaper was confiscated. Gündem's Editor-in-chief Yüksel Genc argued that the closure was a violation of the freedom of the press. He said that the newspaper was continually being targeted. The newspaper had quoted a worker from Batman as saying, "The people's expectations of the [pro-Kurdish] independent candidates are very clear. The people are sending them to parliament not in order to support PKK terrorism, but to support the people's children who are struggling for their rights.”
Internet sites, among them bianet.org, alinteri.org and atilim.org, are being blocked in Internet cafes. They are on police lists of "forbidden websites" which Internet café owners adopt in order to avoid being punished by the police. Although it is illegal to prepare such lists, Yusuf Andic of the All Internet Cafes association (TieV) said that district officials and police units had these lists. On 26 June, Yusuf Meral, deputy general manager of a software company prducing Internet filtre software, told bianet that their website had been taken off the list of “forbidden sites.”
Yasemin Congar, who had written about the scenario meeting of the General Staff at the Hudson Institute, is being accused of "writing intentionally untrue news". She had written that at the meeting, which was joined by a group from the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF), several scenarios had been imagined and planned: An attack on the president of the Constitutional Court, a bomb attack with 50 dead in central Istanbul and a cross-border operation of the TAF into Northern Iraq. The Modern Journalists' Association has expressed its disappointment that the General Staff has joined the targeting of journalists. On 20 June, Congar made a statement saying that she was behind her story.
On 13 June, the Turkish Armed Forces Southern Coastal Command in Northern Cyprus did not allow Genc TV, Kibris newspaper, Kibris Tv, Bayrak Radio and TV Board, Yeniduzen and Afrika newspapers to watch a search-and-rescue drill in open water near Gazimagusa. The Cyprus Press Syndicate and the Cyprus Turkish Journalists' Union criticised the ban.
On 8 June, lawyer Fikret Ilkiz spoke at an international conference entitled “Freedom of Expression and its Limits: Penal Code and Freedom of Expression in Turkey and EU Countries”, organised by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation’s Turkey branch and hosted by Bilgi University. Ilkiz said, “Although court decrees emphasise the freedom of expression, we are going backwards. Do we really want freedom of experssion? First of all lawyers have to answer this question.” As an example of the retrograde trend, Ilkiz gave as examples the court trials against Selahattin Aydar, Mehmet Sevket Eygi and Hrant Dink.
A broadcasting and publishing ban was put in place in Bingol on 1 June, relating to speculations that the Tatvan-Elazig freight train which was derailed by a PKK attack on 25 May was carrying weapons. The Chief Public Prosecutor's Office said that no radio, TV or print media was allowed to comment on the event or any goods which were found.
At the celebration of the 145th anniversary of the Audit Court on 29 May at the Bilkent Congress Centre in Ankara, invited media (Kanal B, ART and Kanal Turk) were stopped from entering by Prime Ministerial bodyguards because they were not accredited by the Prime Ministerial Office. Although officials of the Audit Court insisted that the media were guests, they were not allowed in.
At the 5th Istanbul Meeting for the Freedom of Thought, communications lawyer Fikret Ilkiz and Gercek Gundem website editor Baris Yarkadas criticised the continuing censorship of the Internet. Nadire Mater from bianet criticised the mindframe that anyone who did not concur with Ataturk's "How happy am I to be Turkish" was automatically declared a traitor. Journalist Perihan Magden called for the closure of channels were hate discourses were being spread. Journalist Ragip Duran pointed out that the closure of websites in China made the news but that the closure of Kurdish websites was ignored. At the same meeting, representatives of the International Press Association (IPA), PEN and Amnesty Intenational also called for the abolishment of Article 301.
40 representatives from 15 countries discussed freedom of expression in the "5th Istanbul Meeting for Freedom of Expression". The meeting began with a press briefing at the Maiden Tower in Üsküdar on 25 May. Alexis Krikorian, representative of the International Publishers Association (IPA) Sara Whyatt, Secretary of the PEN Committee for Writers in Prison, and Andrew Gardner, researcher for the Turkish Desk of Amnesty International (AI) called for the abolishment of Article 301. Whyatt said that these kind of laws needed to be abolished everywhere because of their potential of abuse in periods of instability, while Krikorian claimed that no publisher in Europe had been taken to court under an Article similar to 301. Gardner said that freedom of expression was a problem internationally, but that Article 301 was a priority.
After the bomb attack on a commercial centre in Ankara on 22 May, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office declared a ban on all broadcasts and photographs of the bomb site in order to prevent physical or psychological damage. 8 people died and more than 100 people were injured in the attack.
Around 100 journalists marched from the Turkey Journalists' Syndicate (TGS) building to the Istanbul governor's office on 4 May to protest against the maltreatment of reporters and journalists on the hands of the police when they were covering the 1 May march. The protesters called for the resignation of governor Muammer Guler. Several of the journalists attacked by the police have filed complaints.
The Turkey Journalists' Society (TGC) published a statement on 3 May, International Freedom of the Press Day, saying that in 2007 Turkey had not achieved freedom of expression and variety of opinions. The G9 Platform, which unites 10 journalistic organisations, said that in the previous year around 300 people had faced the court for using their right to express themselves freely.
In protest against the police's heavy handedness and the intensive use of teargas on 1 May, journalists and reporters staged a "put down your cameras" protest in the Istiklal pedestrian precinct in central Istanbul. Journalist Musa Agacik made a statement in which he declared that the police was obstructing their public duty of informing people. On 1 May, live broadcast vehicles of TV channels had been held in a car park until 11 am.
Alper Gormus, editor of Nokta magazine announced the closure of the magazine after pressure from the army at a press briefing on 21 April. The decision to close had been made by magazine owner Ayhan Durgun, who it is speculated, was put under intense pressure. Gormus criticised the fact that no politicians had condemned the way the magazine had been pressurised.
TV channel Klas in Manavgat (a district of Antalya, southern Turkey) has been forced to broadcast using a generator, after its electricity supply was cut off on 9 April. Cengizhan Demirkaya, chairperson of the managing board claims that the ruling AKP is losing votes and is trying to silence opposition with pressure and threats.
The website www.antoloji.com, a self-claimed "culture and art centre on the Internet" was closed with a court decree on 17 April. Web manager Cengiz Ekrem Teymur was not informed of the reason of the closure. After an appeal, the site was reopened on 27 April.
On 12 April, access to the popular Internet dictionary Eksisozluk was blocked by court decree because of claims that it was violating the personal rights of Adnan Oktar, the leader of an Islamic sect. Basak Purut, lawyer representing the site, said that the blocking of access was similar to that of the blocking of Youtube in terms of disproportionality". Oktar also managed to get access to the Superpoligon news website blocked.
On 7 April, Gundem newspaper, reopening after a month's closure, was again closed by decree of a heavy penal court in Istanbul. The court decided that the editions of 7 and 8 April 2007 represented "PKK/Kongra-Gel propaganda" and closed the newspaper for 15 days. The decision is based on the last paragraph of Article 6 of the new Law on Terrorism.
On 26 March, the Committee for Freedom of Publication of the Turkish Publishers’ Union (TYB) published its Freedom of Publication Report, which includes data on 2006 and the first three months of 2007. According to the report, publishers, writers and journalists were working under severe restrictions of the freedom of expression. In 2006, 293 writers, publishers, journalists, intellectuals, translators and human rights activists were taken to court for expressing, publishing or translating their thoughts. This number compares to 157 people in the year before. The TYB also referred to the BIA2 Media Monitoring Report, saying that 44 books of 25 publishers were put on trial in 2006. Ragip Zarakolu of the committee said, “2006 has been one of the worst years for the freedom of expression and press freedom, and unfortunately, problems are continuing in 2007.”
After the Azadiye Welat newspaper was closed, the Istanbul 13th Heavy Penal Court handed a 15-day publishing ban to Güncel newspaper which had been started on 19 March. The newspaper was accused of spreading PKK propaganda and praising PKK-leader Abdullah Öcalan. Mehmet samur, editor of the newspaper, complained that five Kurdish newspapers had been closed within the last six months. He argued that the Kurdish issue would not be solved by banning democratic Kurdish print media.
The Hürriyet Mediterranean newspaper, which was running its first test print at the Hürriyet site in Antalya on 22 March, was confiscated on the order of Antalya Chief Public Prosecutor Yusuf Hakki Dogan. Oktay Eksi, president of the Press Council, protested against the decision. Orhan Erinc, president of the Turkish Journalists’ Society (TGC) and writer for the Cumhuriyet newspaper, also condemned the confiscation.
On 22 March, the Diyarbakir 5th Heavy Penal Court cited Article 6/5 of the Law on Terrorism in order to hand out a 20-day publishing ban for the Azadiya Welat newspaper. On 13 March, the newspaper had published and article entitled “The Bolu Brigade is moving to Kurdistan.” The newspaper has been accused of separatist propaganda which assumes that there is another state in the territory of the Turkish Republic, of publishing photos of PKK members walking in the mountains, of reporting Abdullah Öcalan’s views on Kurdistan Democratic Confederalism in their issue of 14 March, of supporting the PKK leader by saying that “Imrali (prison) is a fortress of oppression,” and of printing statements of support and praise for Öcalan in the 17 March issue. The newspaper was also published for referring to events in Diyarbakir, Mersin and Siirt as happening in “Kurdistan.”
On 17 March, the Turkish Journalists’ Trade Union Ankara branch announced that journalist Fatma Sibel Yürek had been put under pressure because of her book “What the Prime Ministerial Office does not know.”
After the Ülkede Özgür Gündem newspaper received a one-month publishing ban, the Yasamda Gündem newspaper was confiscated on 9 March 2007 with the argument it represented a continuation of the first newspaper. The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecution ordered the police to confiscate future issues of the newspaper, too.
The Istanbul 13th Heavy Penal Court decided on a one-month publishing ban for the Ülkede Özgür Gündem newspaper with two separate decisions on the same day. News items relating to allegations that Abdullah Öcalan was being poisoned in prison, as well as other items said to be “prasing criminals and spreading terrorist propaganda” were cited as reasons for closure. Article 25 of the Press Law No. 5287 related to confiscation, distribution and ban on sales was applied.
On 9 March, the Cumhuriyet newspaper published a “Media Analysis Report” which allegedly was also shown to Prime Minister Erdogan. Under the headline “The Prime Ministerial Office is Marking the Media,” the newspaper claimed that newspapers were evaluated for their closeness to government and that the Prime Minister was then briefed. The press centre of the Prime Ministerial Office denied the content of the article.
On 8 March, the Nokta magazine published a three-page memorandum prepared by the army, in which there is a “reevaluation of accredited print and broadcasting media institutions.” The Turkish Journalists’ Society (TGC), the Contemporary Journalists’ Association (CGD), the Turkish Journalists’ Trade Union (TGS) and the Press Council evaluated the memorandum as objectionable, worrying, and anti-democratic. Chief of General Staff Yasar Büyükanit said: “I have not seen the memorandum. It was a draft.”
After publishing a news item on working conditions for workers at Selcuk University in Konya, based on information sent in by a worker, access to the alinter.net website was blocked by court order. After the website took the relevant item off the site on 6 March, the site was reopened a week later. A complainant, employer Nusret Argun, has filed a 20,000 YTL compensation claim against Sakine Yalcin, former responsible editor for Alinteri.
After former president and coup leader Kenan Evren said that Turkey should be divided into federal states, human rights activists defended his right to free speech. On 5 March, Yusuf Alatas of the Human Rights Association (IHD) said, “It is unacceptable to us that Evren’s statements should lead to an investigation.”
The Free Thought and Education Rights Association (Özgür Der) condemned the Diyarbakir governor’s office for forbidding the Kerkük conference planned by the Kurdish National Democratic Working Group (KUDCG) on 4 March. The ban was based on Article 17 of Law No 2911 on Meetings, Protests and Marches, according to which the governor can forbid events if “there is a clear and present danger that a crime will be committed.” Özgür Der called on the government to “give up the pressure and politics of intimidation, as well as policies which feed nationalism.”
On 18 February, the Contemporary Journalists’ Association (CGD) condemned the tax investigations of the Ministry of Finance against Kanaltürk television, the channel’s founders and some programme directors. CGD president Ahmet Abakay said that the government was using the ministry as a “triggerman” to intimidate the media.
At the beginning of February, around 80 lecturers at the Middle Eastern Technical University (ODTÜ) in Ankara demanded the abolition of Article 301, “the only function of which is to create ‘enemies’ among us.” Around the same time, the Turkish Human Rights Foundation (TIHV) condemned the hypocrisy of the government for excluding NGOs and human rights groups from the discussion on Article 301.
The General Staff cancelled its accreditation for the TGRT channel after it showed video recordings of Hrant Dink’s murder suspect O.S. with gendarmerie and police officers and the phrase “The soil of the fatherland is holy and cannot be abandoned” in the background.
On 9 February, the Human Rights Association (IHD), the Association for Human Rights and Solidarity with the Oppressed (Mazlum-Der), the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly and the Turkey branch of Amnesty International decided to revive the “Campaign for Freedom of Thought” which was started in November 2006. The platform is pushing for the abolition of Article 301 in the short term and long-term guarantees for the freedom of thought and expression. Bosphorus University lecturers also signed a call for the abolition of the article.
Making a statement on 29 January, the Turkish Journalists’ Society (TGC) president Orhan Erinc accused the government of hypocrisy. The government had announced that it was “awaiting suggestions by NGOs” relating to Article 301, whereas a proposal by the TGC and the Turkish Penal Code Association was sent to the government on 23 November 2006.
On 29 January, ten days after the murder of journalist Hrant Dink, journalists, writers, artists, academics, lawyers and representatives of democratic organizations sold his Agos newspaper on the Istiklal Street in central Istanbul in order to support the newspaper. Organisers of the event and the Agos newspaper received threatening emails.
The weekly caricature magazine Penguen, which has been sued by Prime Minister Erdogan, prepared its front cover of the 18-24 January issue as an empty space with the sub-heading: “This week’s cover was prepared by Tayyip Erdogan…”
The Ankara 11th Heavy Penal Court decreed that the talks given by Kurdish writer Mehmet Uzun and politician Orhan Dogan at the “Turkey is Looking for Peace” conference should be “listened to as a precautionary measure.” Conference participant Orhan Miroglu protested against the decree,saying that it was “very frightening” that the speeches by a famous novelist and a respected writer could be turned into a legal issue. Yusuf Alatas, lawyer and president of the Human Rights Association (IHD) said, “This is a result of the confusion of court, police and prosecution.”
On 12 January, the www.8sutun.com news website was closed down by Turkish Telecom because of a news item relating to Minister of Agriculture Mehdi Eker and a bid. Editor Tayfun Salci said that the Ankara 12th Criminal Court of Peace had informed him by phone that access to the site was banned all over Turkey.
On 10 January, the Day of Working Journalists, press organizations demanded the reinstatement of Law 212, which safeguards certain securities for journalists. The TGS, TGC and CGD said that the day had long ceased to be a day of celebration, while the TGS called for respect for trade union rights.
European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)
On 13 December, the ECHR decreed that Turkey had violated the freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial when it punished and arrested Akin Birdal, then president of the Human Rights Association (IHD), for “inciting the public to hatred and hostility” after he made a speech at the World Peace and Fight against Poverty Day. The ECHR awarded Birdal 5,000 Euros in damages. Birdal had said, “The Kurdish issue is not only the problem of the oppressed Kurdish people..There is systematic use of torture…there are summary executions…and all of these result from the fact that the Kurdish issue is not solved.” He was sentenced by the Ankara State Security Court on 21 October 1997. After a local court resisted the decision, he was arrested in 1999. Because of health problems, he was released on probation on 25 December 1999. When there were changes made to Article 312 as part of the EU reform package, the charges against Birdal were also lifted.
On 12 December, the ECHR decreed that Turkey was in the wrong when it sentenced Mehmet Nuri Karakoyun and Mehmet Salih Turan, owner and responsible editor of the Kurdish Azadiya Welat newspaper respectively. On 10 May 2002, the Istanbul State Security Court had fined the newspaper for “publishing the statements of a terrorist organisation”, citing Article 6/2 of the Law on Terrorism. The ECHR told Turkey to pay both people a total of 3,462 Euros compensation and legal costs each. The State Security Council had also handed out a one-week publication ban to the newspaper. In recent months, there have been frequent publication bans on Kurdish newspapers, such as Gercek Demokrasi, Ülkede Özgür Gündem, Yasamda Gündem, Güncel, Azadiya Welat, Gündem and Gercek.
On 4 December, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found Turkey to be wrong in the broadcasting ban of "Özgür" ("Free") Radio, saying that it represented a violation of the freedom of expression. After the radio station played the "Nurhak" song on 9 July 2000, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) cited Article 4 (g) of Law 3984 on Radio and Television Corporations and Broadcasts and closed the station. It was argued that the song incited hatred and hostility. The broadcasting ban was approved by the State Council in 2002, after which the Özgür Radio- Ses Radio Television Broadcasting, Film-Making and Advertising Company appealed to the ECHR.
On 29 November, the ECHR decreed that Turkey had violated the freedom of expression when handing out a heavy fine and a publishing ban to the Yedinci Gündem newspaper. After publishing an interview with a leading member of the PKK, the newspaper was banned for fifteen days, and editor Hidir Ates and owner Hünkar Demirel were handed heavy fines. According to the ECHR, there had also not been a fair trial, and it sentenced Turkey to paying 3,000 Euros compensation.
On 27 November, the ECHR sentenced Turkey to paying 1,500 Euros compensation to Ömer Sükrü Asan. Asan appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) after his book "Pontus Culture" was confiscated for allegedly containing "separatist propaganda". The book was first published by Belge Publications in 1996. The first edition was not stopped. In 1999, the book was published in Greece, and the second edition came out in Turkey in 2000. The then State Security Court decreed the confiscation of the book in January 2002. The ECHR questioned why the second edition was confiscated if the first one was not and there had been no changes in law. According to the ECHR, the only difference was that the media had pounced on the publication of the second edition. The court said that it was not convinced that it was necessary in a democratic society for the government to limit the freedom of expression of Asan. It further recorded that the book did not contain any political theses but rather ethnological, cultural and linguistic information. The book was allowed to be sold again in Augst 2003, after the ban on the book had been lifted.
In a separate case on 27 November, the ECHR found no grounds for the six-month closure of Nur Radio station and TV channel by the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK). A person at the radio station had described the earthquake of August 1999 as "a warning from Allah". However, the ECHR did not consider it necessary to sentence Turkey to compensation or investigate a claim of discrimination in this case.
The ECHR has asked Turkey to submit a defense concerning four appeals by employees and representatives of the Ülkede Özgür Gündem and Gündem newspapers because of publication bans. The court had decided to deal with these cases as priorities and had called for Turkey’s defense since July. Turkey sent its defense in the middle of October.
On 2 October, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decreed that the punishment of Akin Birdal, former president of the Human Rights Association (IHD) and now MP for the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) in Diyarbakir, for a speech he made on World Peace Day 12 years ago was a violation of the freedom of expression. He was awarded 7,000 Euros compensation. Birdal spoke at the United Communist Party branch in Mersin, southern Turkey, in September 1995. He said in his speech that the constitution of 12 September [i.e. the constitution created by the military junta after the military coup in 1980] did not protect Kurdish citizens. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment and a fine by a State Security Court in Adana in December 1998 and went to prison in 2000. Although Birdal was finally acquitted in February 2005, he was not compensated for his time in prison, as a law concerned with such cases only came into effect in June 2005.
On 20 September, the ECHR decreed that Turkey had violated the freedom of expression of 19 people in prison when not allowing them to write or receive letters. Three of them were Mahmut Sakar and Vedat Cetin from the Human Rights Association (IHD) and Erdal Tas, the editor-in-chief of the “New Agenda in 2000” (2000’de Yeni Gündem). The European court awarded the two IHD plaintiffs 3,500 Euros compensation each. The ECHR further decreed that Erdal Tas had not received a fair trial when he had twice been tried and fined under Article 6 of the Anti-Terrorism Law for “publishing the statements of the PKK”. Turkey is to pay Turkey a total of 4,000 Euros compensation. Further, the court decreed that 16 prisoners from Aydin prison, who had protested against the arrest of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in a statement to the Ministry of Justice, should not have been tried for “separatist propaganda”, as this was incongruous with the freedom of expression. The freedom of expression of Sükrü Tapkan, Dilaver Keklik, Murat Dogan, Mehmet Hazbin Korkut, Hilmi Olsoy, Fuat Ay, Ali Budak, Celalettin Polat, Ahmet Ertas, Ilhami Gülmez, Hamdullah Kiran, Ibrahim Elbir, Velat Cetinkaya, Hüseyin Vural, Ilhan Dayan and Riza Tan was thus limited unacceptably. However, the ECHR has only awarded Vural 1,000 Euros compensation for mental damages, while the others are to paid 1,000 legal costs.
On 31 July, the ECHR decreed that Turkey did not limit the freedom of expression of former Kayseri mayor Sükrü Karatepe when it punished him for "inciting hatred and hostility" in several of his speeches. On 9 October 1997, Karatepe had been sentenced to a year imprisonment and a fine by the Ankara State Security Court for "spreading hatred and hostility by pointing to differences in religion" in speeches made in October and November 1996. Karatepe was removed from his office in February 1998 and arrested on 24 April 1998. Karatepe, a member of the Welfare Party (RP), was given a conditional release on 17 September 1998. While the ECHR acknowledged that the army members of the state security courts made fair trials less likely, and that this was incongruous with Article 6/1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, it found that Karatepe's punishment was not excessive, considering the aim of preventing the incitement to crime. Voting six to one, the ECHR decreed that the sentence did not violate Article 10 of the Convention on Human Rights and denied Karatepe the right to compensation. It charged the former mayor with paying 500 Euros legal expenses.
On 24 July, the ECHR found Turkey guilty of “limiting freedom of expression” in an appeal against the banning of the “Yedinci Gündem” (Seventh Agenda) newspaper in the regions ruled by emergency law (OHAL regions). Although the ECHR acknowledged that decisions made in OHAL regions were not subject to the judiciary, it nevertheless found the case incongruous with Article 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights which deals with “the right to effective appeals to court”. Complainants to the ECHR were Hünkar Demirel, Evrim Alatas, Lales Arslan, Mehmet Burtakucin, Zeynal Akgül, Abdulvahap Tas, Azad Özkeskin, Bozkurt Mevlüt, Ragip Zarakolu and Hidir Ates.
Milliyet journalist Meral Tamer and editor Eren Guvener, imprisoned after criticising President Suleyman Demirel after the 1999 earthquake, won their case at the ECHR on 26 June. Accused of "insulting the president", they had been imprisoned in September 2000. They are now to be paid a total of 6,000 Euros in compensation.
Historian Taner Akcam, professor at Minnesota University and known for his insistence that an Armenian genocide took place in Turkey, has applied to the ECHR because his academic research is threatened by Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. Akcam said that Article 301 is incongruent with articles 7,10 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
On 14 June, the ECHR decided that the freedom of speech of Yedinci Gundem editor Hunkar Demirel had not been violated. In June 2002, Demirel had been sentenced to 3 years and 9 months imprisonment after writing an article discussing "reasons for joining the organisation" [i.e. the PKK]. The ECHR agreed with the Turkish court that the article incited the use of violence.
On 14 June, the ECHR sentenced Turkey to a total of 5,250 Europs compensation for violating Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights in three separate cases. Mehmet Colak, editor at Yeniden Ozgur Gundem, had appealed because the newspaper had been banned from provinces under emergency rule in September 2002. Mehmet Selim Okcuoglu had appealed against a prison sentence and fine for an article he wrote for a brochure of the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party (HADEP). He had been convicted of spreading "separatist propaganda" and "inciting hatred and hostility". Tuncay Seyman and Fevzi Saygili, editor and owner of Evrensel newspaper also won their appeal at the ECHR.
Publisher Saim Ustun has won his appeal to the ECHR for compensation from Turkey. He had published a book on director Yilmaz Guney's life and political attitudes in 1992 and had been tried for "spreading separatist propaganda" in 2000, ending a six-month stay in prison, then a conversion of the sentence into a fine, and then acquittal. The ECHR awarded him 3,000 Euros compensation, arguing that the book did not call for a revolution or armed resistance and did not praise violence.
On 3 May, the ECHR decreed that the right of freedom of expression of Ilyas Emir, editor of magazine Guney Kultur-Sanat-Edebiyat, of his drama "Enemy of Justice" and of the theatre group Teatra Jiyana nu (Kurdish for: New Life Theatre) had been violated by Turkey under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Turkey has been sentenced to paying a total of 61,000 Euros compensation and legal expenses.
On 12 April, the ECHR decreed that Hunkar Demirel and Hidir Ates, editor and owner of the Yedinci Gundem newspaper be paid 3,000 Euros compensation and expenses. The two had been sentenced to two fines each for publishing statements by PKK members and conducting an interview with a PKK leader. The ECHR decreed that there were no expressions of hatred.
The Gundem newspaper, which was closed for a month in March for "spreading terrorist propaganda" has appealed against the Law on Terrorism and demanding that particularly the last paragraph of Article 6 of the law be examined.
On 20 February, the ECHR decreed that Mustafa Benli, owner and editor of the magazines Target, Highschool Friend and Alevi People’s Reality, did not receive a fair trial wneh he was sentence to 12 years and 6 months imprisonment for being a member of the Turkish Revolution Party (TDP), but decided not to consider other complaints, including that of violation of freedom of expression.
The ECHR also decreed that HADEP deputy chair Osman Özcelik had experienced a violation of his right to freedom and security when he was questioned after being taken into custody in an operation against the PKK and speaking to Med TV while in detention. Turkey is to pay him 3,000 Euros compensation.
The ECHR also decreed that Ayse Oyman, who ignored a ban and distributed the Yedinci Gündem newspaper and was imprisoned for three months, had not received a fair trial. She was awarded 1,000 Euros legal costs.
On 23 January, the ECHR decreed that Turkey pay Bülent Falkaoglu and Fevzi Saygili, the responsible editor and licence holder of the Yeni Evrensel newspaper respectively, 5,000 Euros compensation for violating their freedom of experssion and denying them a fair trial. In addition, Saygili was awarded another 1,000 Euros legal costs in another appeal.
RTÜK (Radio and Television Supreme Council) Implementations
On 7 November, RTÜK warned NTV channel for quoting Erato Kozaku-Marcoullis, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, who had spoken of “a state which qualified as the occupier of Northern Cyprus and which displayed threatening behaviour and did not obey international agreements.” RTÜK said that the channel had not broadcast within the framework of public service, appropriate to national security and general morals.” As a punishment, RTÜK announced it would stop the relevant programme between 1 and 12 times.
On 7 November, it was reported that RTÜK had handed out fines totalling 200,000 YTL (around 115,540 Euros) to the local Diyarbakir Gün TV channel for "broadcasts violating truth and neutrality" and preventing people from making up their mind freely. In a news item referring to the bomb explosion in Diyarbakir centre on 16 September 2006, when children were also killed, the channel had said that "the police made the traders close up their shops". It received a 80,000 YTL fine for this item and had to pay within 15 days. The fine was given on 27 February 2007, with RTÜK citing Article 4 of Law No. 3984 on Radio and Television Institutions and Broadcasting Rights. The prosecution had also investigated this case, but decided that the news item was referring to the fact that the police asked traders to keep their shops closed for security reasons and that no trial should be opened. In a second case, on 8 April, Gün TV had broadcast a news item based on information from the Dicle News Agency, saying that two distributors of the "Gündem" newspaper had been beaten up by police and one been arrested. This item was broadcast on the main news programme for 1.5 hours. RTÜK again fined the channel for "a broadcast violating truth and neutrality". Citing Article 33 of Law 3984, which allowed a 50 percent increase in a punishment if a violation occured for the second time within a year, RTÜK handed out a fine of 120,000 YTL. Gün TV has gone to court in order to fight against this heavy fine and is waiting for the decision of the Ankara Regional Administrative Court.
RTÜK announced that Kanaltürk’s main news at 8 pm on 24, 25, 26 and 28 June 2007 and the lunchtime news programme “Editor’s Desk” at 1pm had conveyed interpretations which could the direct public against the Justice and Development Party (AKP). In the statement, RTÜK said: “While news about many political parties was broadcast in up-to-date form, news regarding the AKP was broadcast in combination with the Prime Minister’s speeches from the past and in a biased manner”. Since 11 September, the channel has not been allowed to broadcast its main news programme. The “Word Parliament” programme presented by Tuncay Özkan has also been stopped nine times. CHP leader Deniz Baykal has criticised RTÜK’s decision.
The Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) has filed a complaint against RTÜK president Zahid Akman and RTÜK Monitoring and Evaluating Department Head Nurullah Öztürk at the Ankara Public Prosecution. The complaint concerns the fact that RTÜK members Saban Sevinc and Mehmet Dabak are said to have deliberately delayed giving the names of TV channels and radio stations disobeying the election bans to the YSK. The Ankara 24th Penal Court has demanded between 1 and 3 years imprisonment for Akman for “abusing his position.”
The Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) punished 20 TV channels with warnings and programme bans because of violations of the pre-election broadcasting rules. Evaluating 117 monitoring reports, RTÜK acted in 39 cases. Kanaltürk was punished with six programme bans, 24 TV was warned and three different programmes were banned 3, 6, and 9 times respectively. CNN Türk was warned, and two programmes were banned 3 and 5 times respectively. Two programmes on Fox TV were banned three times each. Haber 7 and Haber Türk both received a warning and three programmes were banned once for each channel. Kanal 7 was warned and two programmes were banned 3 and 4 times respectively. ATV, Flash TV, Kanal B, Kanal D, NTV, Sky Türk and Star TV received a warning each. Kanaltürk, Meltem TV and TGRT Haber received a warning each and three programmes on each channel were banned 3, 6, and 9 times respectively. Mesaj TV was warned and four programmes were banned 3, 6, 9 and 12 times respectively. Ulusal 1 TV received a warning and three programmes were banned 3,4 and 6 times respectively.
The High Commission for Radio and Television has decided to penalize 13 television channels for ignoring the ban on broadcasting images from the bomb site of Ankara's 22 May bombing. Flash TV, Haber Turk, Ulusal 1, Kanal Turk, Kanal 1, NTV, TV5, Kanal D, Star, CNN Turk, STV, Sky Turk and Kanal 24 will all be penalized under law 3984, Article 33.
Because Kanaltürk reported in its main news programme that there was corruption at the Is bank, RTÜK punished the channel by handing out a one-time broadcasting ban for the news. The channel had to broadcast something else instead.
On 14 February, RTÜK president Zahid Akman spoke on Can Dündar’s “Why?” programme on NTV, saying that quite a few national TV foundations had been faced with a cancellation of their licence for breaking the rules of broadcasting. He called on channels to broadcast responsibly. Akman said that meetings with TV representatives had been fruitful, but that they were often caught between RTÜK rules and the desire of media bosses to increase ratings. Akman warned that if broadcasting corporations were not responsible, particularly as far as news programmes were concerned, RTÜK would be forced to apply Law No. 3984.
Saban Sevinc, a member of RTÜK, said in a written statement that at a meeting on 8 February some members of RTÜK had said that news programmes only reporting on negative events should be penalized. Sevinc condemned this attitude as a clear interference in press freedom and as “camouflaged censorship.”
On 9 February, Istanbul’s Anadolu’nun Sesi (Anatolia’s Voice) radio was handed an unlimited broadcasting ban. RTÜK justified its decision by saying that the radio station was broadcasting programmes which promoted social violence, ethnic discrimination, and incited the public to hatred and hostility by showing differences of race, language, religion, religious confession and region.” On 7 October 2003, the radio station had been handed a 30-day broadcasting after playing a song by protest singer Ahmet Kaya in reaction to operations in prison. (EÖ/AG)
Bia news centre 06-02-2008 Erol ÖNDEROGLU BIANET.Org