18 December 2019:
The fifth hearing of a trial where seven journalists and a social media user were charged with “making those involved in combating terrorism a target” took place on 18 December 2019 at the 9th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır. P24 monitored the hearing.
The case was launched following a complaint by senior gendarmerie commander Maj. Gen. Musa Çitil, whose name was cited in a February 2016 news report by the shuttered DİHA news agency.
Ömer Çelik, who was DİHA’s news editor at the time, former DİHA reporters Çağdaş Kaplan, Hamza Gündüz and Selman Çiçek, journalist Abdulvahap Taş, the shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper’s responsible editor İnan Kızılkaya and publisher Kemal Sancılı, and Selim Günenç, a social media user who also shared the report, were charged with “making those involved in combating terrorism a target.” Çiçek faced the additional charge of “systematically spreading terrorism propaganda” over his social media posts.
Issuing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court acquitted all seven journalists of all charges against them, ruling that the legal elements of the alleged crime were not present in the case. The case file against Selim Günenç, who is still at large, was separated.
A Turkish prosecutor has requested between one and three year prison sentences for seven journalists over their social media posts, pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency reported on Wednesday. The journalists are accused of targeting Musa Çitil, who served as the gendarmerie deputy commander in the country’s southeastern Kurdish majority province of Diyarbakır in 2015, during the height of the conflict between the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and Kurdish militants linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
The PKK is an armed group that has fought for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey for over three decades.
In August 2015, Kurdish militants declared autonomy in Diyarbakır’s central district of Sur and other city centres across the country’s southeast and erected barricades to keep security forces out. After months of bitter street fighting, military operations officially ended the following March.
Journalists Ömer Çelik, A.Vahap Taş, Çağdaş Kaplan, Selman Çiçek, Hamza Gündüz, İnan Kızılkaya and Kemal Sancılı shared on their social media accounts a report by the now defunct pro-Kurdish Dicle news agency (DİHA) which the authorities say targeted Çitil. They are accused of ‘’targeting an official fighting against terror.’’ The next hearing in the case of the journalists is set to take place on Dec. 18.
“RedHack trial” against 6 journalists adjourned until February
The “RedHack Trial,” where six journalists stand accused of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization,” “hindrance or destruction of a data processing system,” “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” and “terrorist group membership” for their coverage of the emails of Minister Berat Albayrak leaked by RedHack, resumed on 24 September 2019 at an Istanbul court.
This was the eighth hearing of journalists Derya Okatan, Tunca Öğreten, Mahir Kanaat, Eray Sargın, Metin Yoksu and Ömer Çelik. Defendants Tunca Öğreten, Mahir Kanaat and Eray Sargın were in attendance in the courtroom along with their lawyers. Minister Albayrak’s lawyer Ahmet Özel, who had submitted a letter of excuse, was not present. P24 and the Turkey representative of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) were among those who monitored the hearing.
Due to the presiding judge being on leave, judge Barış Öztürk was in charge instead, announcing the arrival of the long-awaited expert report confirming that all the devices confiscated from the defendants had been fully examined. Also informing that the two separate court panels of the 29th High Criminal Court of Istanbul had been merged, Öztürk said that judges from the other panel would now be serving on this trial’s panel.
The presiding judge then asked the defendants for their statements concerning the digital forensics report.
Addressing the court first, Tunca Öğreten recounted how he was arrested over the allegation of being a member of DHKP-C (the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front) but after no evidence to support this claim could be found, he was accused of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” and “disclosing state secrets” instead. Lastly Öğreten asked for the return of his digital devices and the lifting of his international travel ban.
Addressing the court next, Kanaat and Sargın also requested the return of their digital devices, the judicial control measures to be lifted and to be held exempt from appearing in court.
Lawyer Özcan Kılıç, representing Metin Yoksu and Ömer Çelik, told the court that his client Çelik could not attend the hearing because he had just received the news that his father had passed away. Kılıç requested the return of the digital devices, including the cellphone of Çelik’s father, which was confiscated during Çelik’s arrest.
Other defense lawyers also asked their clients to be held exempt from appearing in court, the return of the digital equipment and the lifting of the judicial control measures imposed on their clients.
Presiding judge Öztürk told those present that the court would be willing to grant temporary permission in case the defendants applied to attend the like of a seminar or a wedding abroad.
The panel then went into a five-minute for recess to deliberate on its interim ruling.
Issuing its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ordered the continuation of the international travel ban imposed on all six journalists and rejected the request for the defendants to be held exempt from appearing in court. The court also ordered for the confiscated digital equipment to be returned to the defendants and adjourned the trial until 6 February 2020 to allow time for the examination of the digital forensic report.
8 January 2019:
The prosecution requested the continuation of the judicial control measures imposed on the journalists. Addressing the court following the prosecutor, the journalists requested for their digital equipment confiscated during the investigation to be returned, their international travel ban to be lifted, and to be granted exemption from personal attendance in court. In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court rejected the requests and adjourned the trial until 16 April, awaiting an expert report concerning the digital equipment.
Journalists testify in case over social media posts
Journalists deny accusations in their defense statements. Trial adjourned until January
First hearing in the trial of seven journalists who are charged with “making those involved in combatting terrorism a target” for sharing on social media a 2016 news story was held in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır on 3 October.
The court case was launched after a complaint from senior commander Maj. Gen. Musa Çitil, who was cited in the news report. The report, published in February 2016 by the shuttered DİHA news agency, was focused on Çitil’s position as commander of the military operations in Sur district of Diyarbakır at the time despite accusations that he had been involved in the killings of 13 villagers in Mardin’s Derik district in 1993 and 1994.
The defendants include Ömer Çelik, who was the news editor at DİHA at the time, DİHA reporters Çağdaş Kaplan, Hamza Gündüz and Selman Çiçek, journalist Abdulvahap Taş, the shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper’s responsible editor İnan Kızılkaya and owner Kemal Sancılı. Kızılkaya and Sancılı are on trial because the DİHA report was also shared on Özgür Gündem’s social media accounts.
Prosecutor additionally seeks up to five years in jail for Çiçek on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” for his social media posts.
Three of the defendants, Abdulvahap Taş, Selman Çiçek and Ömer Çelik, attended the first hearing held at the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court. Kızılkaya and Kaplan were to give their defense statements at a criminal court in Istanbul, where they reside. Sancılı, who is in prison in Edirne as part of another trial, was expected to address the court via court videoconferencing system SEGBİS but he could not as SEGBİS facilities were made available to politician Selahattin Demirtaş who is held in the same prison.
Journalist Taş told the court that he had only retweeted the report, that he acted within bounds of the right to information and that he had no intention to expose any official as a target.
Çiçek and Çelik similarly denied the accusation, saying they had no criminal intent and that there were multiple news reports about the military operations in Sur. Çelik said the news report in question was a journalistic activity carried out in the name of public’s right to information and emphasized that the complainant in the case was a known public figure whose actions were the subject of the news report.
Lawyer Resul Temur said the news report’s emphasis was on the fact that Maj. Gen. Çitil was assigned to lead the operations in an area with a large civilian population despite past accusations against him regarding the killing of 13 villagers in Derik, which culminated in a court case.
Announcing its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court adjourned the trial until 16 January 2019. Source
10 June 2018:
18 January 2017:
An Istanbul court last night arrested two journalists and a newspaper employee for allegedly "being members of a [terrorist] organization," Bianet reported. Tunca Öğreten, a freelance journalist and former editor of the news website Dikenin Istanbul; Ömer Çelik, news editor of Dihaber in Diyarbakır; and Mahir Kanaat, the accounting director for the daily Birgün, have been detained since December 25, as part of an investigation into leaked emails of Turkey's Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, who is also the president's son-in-law, according to reports. Three journalists detained alongside them--Metin Yoksu, a reporter for Dihaber; Derya Okatan, from the Etkin News Agency (ETHA) in Ankara; and Eray Sargın, a news editor for Yolculuk in Istanbul--were released under judicial control, reports said.
The journalists were questioned about different groups recognized as terrorists by Turkey, according to analysis in the daily Evrensel by chief editor Fatih Polat, who followed the case and interviewed defense lawyers. Öğreten's terror allegation was linked to him working for the shuttered daily Taraf before he was at Diken, which prosecutors saidwas a "media organ of the FETÖ." FETÖ, or the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization is the name Turkish authorities gave to the Hizmet Movement, an international organization led by exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen.
Atilla Bahçıvan, a lawyer for Kanaat, told Polat that the evidence was either weak or not criminal under Turkish law. Bahçıvan said, "The case is there just because of the name Berat Albayrak. Nothing would come out [of this case] if it was about something else."
30 December 2016:
The detention periods for six journalists detained on December 25 were extended to 30 days, independent news outlet Bianet reported. Ömer Çelik, Metin Yoksu, Derya Okatan, Eray Saygın, Mahir Kanaat, and Tunca Öğreten were arrested for alleged connections to Redhack, a group claiming to be behind the leaked emails of a Turkish minister. The journalists had reportedly been denied access to a lawyer for five days. Lawyer Özcan Kılıç told Bianet that he was finally given access to Çelik, Okatan, and Yoksu today, adding that Okatan is on a hunger strike in protest of the charges.
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