Etkin News Agency (ETHA) editor Semiha Şahin was arrested in Istanbul on 13 April 2018 during a midnight police raid on her home.
Şahin was arrested alongside ETHA reporter Pınar Gayıp, and two others.
After waiting for 10 hours for their statements to be taken, all four were referred to a Criminal Judgeship of Peace without being given the opportunity to give their statements to a prosecutor. The prosecution requested their detention on the charges of “membership in a terrorist group” and “conducting propaganda for a terrorist group.” Following the completion of all four statements, the judgeship jailed Şahin on both “membership in a terrorist organization” and “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” charges, Gayıp on “membership in a terrorist group” charge, and Pehlivan and İmre on the “propaganda” charge.
Semiha Şahin and her co-defendants appeared before the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 10 September 2018 for the first courtroom hearing of her trial after spending five months in pre-trial detention.
Şahin said they were facing charges of membership in a terrorist organization for working with ETHA. “Freedom of information is a universal right,” Şahin said. “But [the indictment] considers ETHA as an illegal organization; the agency’s employees are being incriminated and its news reports are being presented as incriminating evidence. This is why I argue that this is not a legal, but a political trial.”
In her defense statement, Şahin also noted that ETHA’s report about their detention was being held as evidence against them in the case file. “During our time in police custody we engaged in a hunger strike to protest the house raid arrests carried out by police officers that also included special operation forces. This was also used as an evidence against us in the indictment,” she added.
Evidence against Şahin in the case file also include several social media posts which she said had been picked out of her more than 7,000 tweets. “We are considered as ‘usual suspects’ and arrested when it’s opportune. How can there be a fair trial with such an approach?” she asked.
Şahin’s lawyer Özcan Karakoç pointed out that the rallies and commemorations both journalists attended around three or four years ago were being presented as evidence in the case. He asked: “If my client committed a crime by attending those demonstrations 3-4 years ago, why didn’t the police department report it to the prosecution then? How come these demonstrations are presented as evidence 3-4 years later, without any previous warning, without police dispersal and without arrest?”
Following the completion of the defense statements, the prosecutor demanded the continuation of the detention of all four defendants, arguing that the case file was still incomplete.
Issuing an interim ruling in line with the prosecutor’s request, the court ruled to keep Şahin and her three co-defendants in pre-trial detention and set 5 December 2018 as the date for the next hearing in the case.
The second hearing took place on 5 December at the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
Addressing the court for their defense statements during the hearing, both Şahin and Gayıp denied the accusations and said that this case was an attempt at criminalizing journalism.
Şahin told the court that she had been jailed for the past eight months because of being a journalist and because of her political identity. She said she deemed the continuation of her detention a punishment imposed on journalism.
Şahin’s lawyer Karakoç told the court that four Facebook posts and two Twitter posts by his client were the grounds for the accusation. Noting that the said posts were from the years 2014, 2015 and 2016, the lawyer added that Şahin did not undergo any investigation at the time of these posts. Karakoç requested Şahin’s release.
The prosecution then requested that all jailed defendants in the case be remanded in detention.
In its interim ruling, the court released Pehlivan and İmre under judicial control measures while keeping Şahin and Gayıp behind bars. The court also ruled to hand over the case file to the prosecutor for the drafting of their final opinion and adjourned the trial until 30 January 2019.
The third hearing of the trial took place on 30 January at the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul. Early in the hearing, the prosecution submitted their final opinion of the case, seeking prison terms for both Şahin and Gayıp on the charges of “membership in a terrorist group” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group.” The prosecution also demanded that both journalists be remanded in prison.
Addressing the court after the prosecution, Şahin rejected the accusations and requested her acquittal.
In its interim ruling, the court ruled to keep Şahin and Gayıp behind bars and adjourned the trial until 27 March 2019 for the final defense statements in response to the prosecution’s final opinion to be prepared.
After spending a total of 11 months in pre-trial detention, Şahin appeared before the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul along with Gayıp on 27 March for the fourth hearing of their trial.
Şahin’s lawyer Karakoç addressed the court, asserting that the prosecution’s final opinion was technically unacceptable and that the case file was not yet ready for the judgment phase. Karakoç added that witness testimonies were also ignored. Karakoç requested Şahin’s release pending trial.
Şahin and Gayıp also addressed the court and requested to be released.
The prosecution said they reiterated their final opinion of the case, submitted to the court in the previous hearing, and requested the continuation of both journalists’ detention.
The court ruled in line with the prosecutor’s requests and ordered the continuation of Şahin and Gayıp’s detention on remand, as well as rejecting the lawyers’ requests for the expansion of the investigation. The trial was adjourned until 13 June 2019.
The fifth hearing in Şahin’s trial took place on 13 June 2019. The 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled at the end of the hearing to release both Şahin and Gayıp under house arrest after 14 months in detention on remand.
The court set 15 October 2019 as the date for the next hearing
Semiha Şahin was released from the Bakırköy Women’s Prison in Istanbul later on 13 June 2019.
The seventh hearing in the trial of four defendants including Etkin news agency (ETHA) editor Semiha Şahin and reporter Pınar Gayıp on terrorism-related charges took place on 11 December 2019 at the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul. Issuing an interim decision at the end of the hearing, the court lifted Şahin and Gayıp’s house arrest but imposed international travel bans on both journalists and adjourned the trial until 27 February 2020.
15 October 2019:
The trial of Etkin news agency (ETHA) staff members Semiha Şahin and Pınar Gayıp on terrorism-related charges resumed on 15 October 2019 at the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
P24 monitored the hearing, where none of the four defendants were in attendance. The defendants were represented by their lawyers. The prosecution requested the continuation of the judicial control measures imposed on the defendants. Lawyers representing Şahin and Gayıp requested the court to lift their clients’ house arrest or to impose a different judicial control measure on their clients other than house arrest. At the end of the previous hearing, the court had released Şahin and Gayıp from prison but placed both under house arrest.
After hearing the defense lawyers, the court issued an interim ruling, ordering the continuation of the judicial control measures and adjourned the trial until 11 December 2019.
2 Turkish journalists moved from prison to house arrest
Editor Semiha Şahin and reporter Pınar Gayıp from the Etkin News Agency (ETHA) have been released from prison into house arrest, the Bianet news website reported on Thursday.
The two Turkish journalists are standing trial on terrorism-related charges arising from their reports. They have been held behind bars for 14 months. The court ruled to release them into house arrest on the grounds that there was no more evidence to be tampered with.
First detained in April 2018, the journalists are charged with membership in terrorist groups as well as spreading propaganda on behalf of terrorist groups. ETHA is mentioned in the indictment as pursuing an editorial policy “in line with terrorist ideology.”
27 March 2019:
Semiha Şahin, Pınar Gayıp remain behind bars in 4th hearing
Jailed Etkin news agency (ETHA) journalists Semiha Şahin and Pınar Gayıp appeared before the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 27 March for the fourth hearing of their trial on terrorism-related charges.
A judge in Istanbul has ruled that two Turkish journalists at the left-wing Etkin News Agency must remain in prison, where they have been held pending trial on terror charges since April.
Editor Semiha Şahin and reporter Pınar Gayıp were detained during early morning raids on April 13, and both have been charged with membership of an illegal organisation. Şahin has also been charged with making propaganda for an illegal organisation.
The judge at Istanbul’s 23rd Heavy Penal Court ruled that the pair posed a flight risk and denied their release on Wednesday, during the second hearing in their trial. The next hearing is scheduled for January 30, 2019.......... ................"We have been arrested for eight months. We are under arrest due to the news that we made and our political attitude,” Turkish news portal Bianet quoted Şahin as saying at the hearing.
“We are under arrest because of our social media posts. We are under arrest due to our profession. Journalism is not a crime. I request my release because we did our jobs and because we have been deprived of our freedom,” she added.
Referring to the indictment against the journalists, Özcan Karakoç, one of the lawyers representing the journalists, complained that prosecutors had taken incidents from as far back as 2014, a camera, and even his clients’ decision to use their right to remain silent after being arrested as evidence against them.
12 September 2018:
ETHA journalists to remain in jail after first hearing
ETHA editor Semiha Şahin and reporter Pınar Gayıp appear before court for the first time after five months of detention
Two journalists for Etkin News Agency (ETHA), editor Semiha Şahin and reporter Pınar Gayıp, appeared for the first time before court on 10 September after five months in pre-trial detention.
The 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which oversees the case, ruled to continue the detention of both journalists and two other defendants, Ferhat Harun Pehlivanand Gülsen İmre. The court postponed the trial and scheduled 5 December 2018 as the date of the next hearing.
Şahin and Gayıp were detained on charges “membership in a terrorist organization” and “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” while the two other defendants of the case, Pehlivan, who has interned for ETHA, and İmre face the sole charge of “terror propaganda. The trial was monitored by P24, English PEN and several news organizations.
Şahin: This is a political trial
ETHA editor Şahin said they were facing charges of membership in a terrorist organization for working for ETHA. “Freedom of information is a universal norm,” she said. “But (the indictment) considers ETHA as an illegal organization, the agency’s workers are criminalized and its news reports presented as evidence of a crime. This is why I would argue that this is not a legal, but a political trial.”
Durin her defense statements, Şahin also noted ETHA’s report on their detention was used as evidence. “During our detention in police custody we engaged in a hunger strike to protest the house raid arrest carried out by police officers, including special operation forces. This was also used as an evidence against us in the indictment,” she said. Evidence against her included 3-4 social media posts that she said had been picked out of her more than 7,000 tweets. “We are considered as usual suspects and arrested when it’s opportune. How can there be a fair trial with such approach?” she asked.
For her part, Pınar Gayıp said she wasn’t called to testify by the police before being arrested. “I have lived in the same house since I came to Istanbul, worked at the same agency and came to the courthouse to follow trials almost every day,” she said. “I have never been called to testify even once. Instead, my house was raided at dawn by police wearing balaclavas and holding long barrelled weapons.” Following their arrest by police, they were sent to pre-trial detention without testifying to the prosecutor despite remaining seven days in custody, Gayıp said. “I’m sure that I will be acquitted if the court abides by the law,” Gayıp told the court, demanding her release.
Lawyers speaking at the hearing criticized that rallies or commemorations both journalists attended 3 or 4 years ago were presented as evidence in the case. “If my client committed a crime by attending those demonstrations 3-4 years ago, why didn’t the police department report it to the prosecution then? How come these demonstrations can be presented as an evidence 3-4 years later when there had been no warnings, no police dispersal and no arrest?” Semiha Şahin’s lawyer Özcan Karakoç asked.
Pınar Gayıp’s lawyer Kader Tonç said documents certifying that ETHA is a legal agency and her client was legally working for them had been submitted to the court. “Could you imagine a terrorist organization having official documents attesting that a certain person is their employee?” she told the court.
Following the defense, the prosecutor demanded the continuation of the detention of all four defendants in the case arguing that there were “elements missing” in the case. Following a short break, the court ruled that all four defendants should remain in detention pending trial, setting 5 December 2018 as the date of the next hearing.
Meanwhile, journalists who were asked to leave the courtroom as during the deliberation of the demands of release, could not observe the announcement of the court’s decision over the head judge’s demand. Journalists who followed the hearing protested the head judge’s attitude, considering it a “lack of transparency”. Source
A Turkish court on Thursday ruled for the arrest of four journalists affiliated with the Etkin News Agency (ETHA).
The arrestees — Semiha Şahin, Pınar Gayıp, Ferhat Harun Pehlivan, Gülsen İmre — are accused of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “spreading propaganda on behalf of a terrorist organization.”
Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) . There are currently a total of 235 journalists are under arrest pending trial, while 24 have been convicted.
Three journalists from Etkin News Agency (ETHA) have been detained. Police haven’t explained the reason for the detentions, ETHA reported.
It was stated that ETHA editor Semiha Şahin and its reporter Pınar Gayip were detained from their homes in İstanbul last evening (April 12).
Another ETHA reporter Adil Demirci, who live in Germany and came to İstanbul for vacation, was also detained in the same way. (BK/TK)
Two reporters and one editor are held in detention
ETHA, whose website is blocked since July 27, 2015, continues to publish its news on Facebook. ETHA editor İsminaz Temel and its reporter Havva Cuştan were arrested on October 25 and reporter Ali Sönmez Kayar on February 6. (BK/TK)