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.
2 October 2019:
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.
18 December 2018:
A Hakkari Court on December 18 convicted Hamza Gündüz, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency of "making propaganda of a [terrorist] organization"--referring to the (PKK)--via his social media posts, and sentenced him to a 20 month-suspended prison sentence, his employer reported. The court ordered that the sentence be suspended for five years on condition the journalist does not repeat the offence, according to the report.
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 July 2016: