Constitutional Court rejects 6 journalists’ applications, found violations for 3

3 May 2019

Turkish Constitutional Court rejected the individual applications of former Cumhuriyet daily administrators and staff Akın Atalay, Murat Sabuncu, Ahmet Şık and Bülent Utku yesterday. In today’s session, the court reviewed the applications of imprisoned journalists Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak and rejected their applications as well. With this decision, the Constitutional Court has approved the arrest of these journalists on “terror-related charges.” The High Court found violations on behalf of journalists Kadri Gürsel, Murat Aksoy and Ali Bulaç.

After having put aside the journalists’ applications for a long period of time, the court decided to include these applications into its agenda on May 2nd, Thursday. Individual applications of former Cumhuriyet Executive Chief Akın Atalay, Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu, columnist Kadri Gürsel, reporter Ahmet Şık and Board Member Bülent Utku have been reviewed after 2 years and 5 months have passed since their submission.

During the meeting, the court discussed whether “the right to security and liberty was violated due to unlawful implementation of custody and arrest measures and restrictions issued on the investigation file which prevented lawyers from accessing” and whether “rights to freedom of expression and press were violated presenting journalistic activities as evidence against the defendants.”

At the end of a 7-hour deliberation, the court found no rights’ violations in the applications of Murat Sabuncu, Akın Atalay, Ahmet Şık and Bülent Utku. The court ruled that these journalists’ right to freedom of expression have not been violated and rejected their application. The decision on Atalay, Sabuncu and Utku was reached with 6 votes against and 9 votes in favor. For Ahmet Şık, 14 court members voted against, and only 1 court member voted in favor of Şık.

Four journalists can apply to the ECtHR now

This judgement means that domestic remedies have been exhausted on behalf of 4 journalists. They will be able to apply to the European Court of Human Rights now. An application for Cumhuriyet staff was already submitted to the ECtHR but has not been reviewed yet.

Kadri Gürsel’s rights were violated, Court rules

The Constitutional Court ruled that former Cumhuriyet columnist Kadri Gürsel’s rights to security, liberty, and freedom of speech have been violated. Gürsel was arrested for his column titled “Erdoğan wants to be our father” which was published in Cumhuriyet on 12 July 2016. Gürsel was arrested on 5 November 2016 on “acting on behalf of a terrorist organization” charges and was released from prison on 25 September 2017.

Reparations to be paid to Murat Aksoy

The court ruled that journalist Murat Aksoy’s rights to security, liberty, and freedom of speech have been violated as well. Aksoy was sentenced to 2 years and 1 month in prison for “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization” charges for the statements he made on his TV appearances and his tweets. Aksoy had served his sentence and was released. However, the court decided that Aksoy shall be paid 40 thousand Turkish Liras in reparations for mental anguish.

Applications of Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak are rejected

The Constitutional Court reviewed applications of Ahmet Altan, Ali Bulaç and Nazlı Ilıcak today.  The court rejected Ilıcak and Altan’s individual applications by a unanimous vote. Altan was taken into custody on 10 September 2016 and arrested on 22 September. Altan’s lawyers had filed an individual application to the Constitutional Court on 8 November 2016.  Altan was sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment in the trial where he was charged with “attempting to overthrow the government.” Nazlı Ilıcak was arrested on 30 September 2016 and was also sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment for the same charge as Altan’s. Both journalists’ files are pending review at the Supreme Court.

In today’s session, the court found rights violations in former Zaman columnist Ali Bulaç’s application. Bulaç was tried with his colleagues from Zaman for membership in FETÖ. He was released during the trial but was sentenced to 8 years in prison.