Bakur co-directors convicted in absentia
Çayan Demirel and Ertuğrul Mavioğlu each sentenced to 4 years and 6 months in prison on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group”
Journalist Ertuğrul Mavioğlu and documentary filmmaker Çayan Demirel, the co-directors of the documentary Bakur (North), were convicted of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” on 18 July 2019, at what was the final hearing of their trial, where neither the filmmakers nor their lawyers were in attendance.
The defense lawyers had submitted letters of excuse to the court, which the panel ignored. Convicting Mavioğlu and Demirel without hearing their final defense statements, the 2nd High Criminal Court of Batman sentenced both to 4 years and 6 months in prison. The court also imposed international travel bans on both Mavioğlu and Demirel.
The court initially sentenced each to 3 years in prison. The sentences were increased on the grounds that “the crime had been committed through the press.”
Demirel and Mavioğlu’s 2015 documentary was about PKK militants’ withdrawal during the short-lived Kurdish-Turkish Peace Process.
Erkan Şenses, one of the defense lawyers, pointed out the absurdity of the court’s suspicion that “the defendants might commit a crime again,” considering the fact that a health report about Demirel, who had a stroke, established that the filmmaker was 90 percent disabled, and the report was already in the case file.
Şenses added that the sentences were increased and there were no lawyers present during their delivery. Şenses compared the ruling that was simply over artistic expression to the period that followed the 12 September 1980 coup.
The trial court was actually expected to render its verdict at the previous hearing. However, the trial was adjourned until 18 July since the court ruled to inquire of judicial authorities in Ankara about whether another ongoing investigation against Mavioğlu was over the same topic.
The case is now headed to a Regional Court of Justice for the appellate hearing.
The court’s verdict is one of the heaviest punishments recorded so far on a propaganda charge. The same court had also handed down prison sentences over two years to filmmaker Veysi Altay and the former manager of the Batman Yılmaz Güney Movie Theatre, Dicle Anter, over a documentary titled Nû Jîn.
According to Turkish law, in “propaganda” convictions, only sentences that are less than two years can be deferred.
3 April 2019:
Six Turkish journalists were given 15-month suspended sentences on Wednesday on charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda while serving as the symbolic editor-in-chief for a day of the now-closed Kurdish Özgür Gündem daily in 2016, the Medyascope news platform reported.
Apart from journalists Faruk Eren, Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, Celal Başlangıç, İhsan Çaralan, Fehim Işık and Öncü Akgül, Celalettin Can was also given 15 months in prison but his sentence was not suspended.
A solidarity campaign for Özgür Gündem, the one-day symbolic editor-in-chief routine, was conducted between May and August 2016, in which 56 journalists, lawyers and human rights activists participated.
Forty-nine of them were subject to prosecution, and the newspaper was closed by government decree in October 2016 after a failed coup that gave the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vast authorities under a subsequent state of emergency.
28 March 2019:
21 February 2019:
The trial into journalist Ertuğrul Mavioğlu and filmmaker Çayan Demirel, the co-directors of the documentary Bakur (North), on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” resumed on 21 February at the 2nd High Criminal Court of Batman. P24 monitored the third hearing, where both Demirel and Mavioğlu were represented by their lawyers. Demirel’s wife, film producer Ayşe Çetinbaş, was among those monitoring the trial.
Submitting their final opinion of the case during the hearing, the prosecution requested that both Demirel and Mavioğlu be convicted of the “propaganda” charge. The prosecution also requested that the court increase the sentences on the grounds that the offense was carried out through the press. Granting additional time for the final defense statements, the court adjourned the trial until 3 April 2019.
9 October 2018:
Summing-up in trial of RSF’s Turkey representative delayed until January
.......................Eleven other journalists, including Faruk Eren, Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, İhsan Çaralan and Fehim Işık, are due to appear in court tomorrow in Istanbul for taking part in the same solidarity campaign.
The already worrying situation of Turkey’s media has become critical since an abortive coup in July 2016. Many media outlets have been closed summarily, without any effective form of recourse, mass trials are being held and Turkey now holds the world record for the number of professional journalists in prison. It is ranked 157th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index. Read the full article
15 February 2018:
Mavioğlu was on trial regarding a 2015 tweet in which he referred to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a "lowly murderer."
16 July 2018:
Özgür Gündem solidarity trial adjourned until October
29 November 2016:
The journalist argued that the offending news stories on the Turkish state's conflict with Kurdish separatists in the edition he guest-edited could not be considered criminal because similar stories on the issue were featured in the mainstream media in 2013, when peace talks were still in progress, and were not prosecuted. Jailed Özgür Gündem Responsible News Editor İnan Kızılkaya, a co-defendant in this and every similar case because his position makes him responsible for all the newspaper's content under Turkish law, was not present at the trial, which adjourned until October 25, Bianet reported.