The fourth hearing in a trial where 11 defendants, including journalists Hayri Demir and Sibel Hürtaş, stand accused for their social media posts, was held on 27 March in Ankara.
The defendants in the case are accused of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” and “inciting the public to hatred and animosity” over their social media posts critical of Turkey’s military operation on the Syrian city of Afrin.
Hürtaş, Demir, their co-defendant Bengü Aslı Bayramoğlu and defense lawyers were in attendance for the hearing at the 15th High Criminal Court of Ankara.
The prosecution submitted their final opinion of the case during the hearing, seeking convictions for Bengü Aslı Bayramoğlu, Hüseyin Gökdemir, Osman Konukçu, Lezgin Tekay, Muhammed Barış Ceyhan and Saim Serin of the “propaganda” charge.
The prosecution also sought conviction for Demir on the same charge, however, the accusation was based on a social mediapost by Demir that was not included in the indictment.
The prosecution did not submit their final opinion concerning the remaining four defendants in the case, however, they asked the court to seek the Justice Ministry’s approval for new charges to be pressed on all defendants in the case under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) -- “publicly denigrating the Turkish nation, the state of the Turkish Republic, or the institutions and organs of the state.”
Addressing the court during the hearing, Demir requested additional time for his defense statement. He also said the social media post for which he is accused was actually a news item that was based on official documents.
DEfense lawyers also requested continuance for defense statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion. The lawyers also reacted to the prosecution’s request to press new charges under Article 301, saying any legal process to be carried out in connection with this charge would be unlawful.
In its interim decision, the court agreed to seek the Justice Ministry’s approval to press new charges under TCK 301 against the defendants and adjourned the trial until 3 July 2019. In the event the ministry gives the go-ahead, the court will return the case file to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.