Free speech trials: Week of 22 - 26 January

21 January 2018

Below is a schedule of trials in Turkey this week where people are accused of various charges for expressing their opinions or publishing exposés that embarrassed the government

23 January, Tuesday, Sözcü Trial 

At 9.30 AM in the 37th High Criminal Court, at the Istanbul Courthouse, Sözcü reporter  Gökmen Ulu, finance manager Yonca Yücekaleli and Sözcü’s internet editor Mediha Olgun will be in court in the third session of a trial where they are charged with various crimes including propaganda for a terrorist organization and aiding a terror organization. The newspaper’s owner, Burak Akbay, who is abroad, is also a suspect in this trial and he is additionally charged with being an executive in an armed terrorist organizaiton. The charges were launched in relation to a report published in Sözcü about President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s holiday in Marmaris a few days prior to the coup attempt of July 2016. The three defendants in Turkey have all faced pre-trial detention although currently nobody is in prison in this trial.

23 January, Tuesday, Reporter's accusation against Murat Sabuncu

At 10:20 AM in the 11th Criminal Court of First Instance, Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu, who is currently imprisoned as part of an investigation into the critical newspaper, will be tried for allegedly attacking a reporter with the government-funded Sabah newspaper. Although this is not exactly a free speech trial, most of critical media feel that the Sabah reporter wrongly accused Sabuncu of hitting her, and the case was launched after pro-government media targeted Sabuncu in their pages for being an oppositional newspaper. The only video of the altercation between Sabuncu and the reporter doesn’t  show any physical interaction between the two. The event occurred prior to a hearing of the MİT Trucks case where former Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar and the newspaper’s Ankara Bureau Chief Erdem Gül are on trial on espionage charges.

24 January, Wednesday, Case of news report on weapons to Syrian groups

At 10.00 AM in the 14th High Criminal Court, at the Istanbul Courthouse, Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar, Ankara Representative Erdem Gül and Republican People’s Party (CHP) politician Enis Berberoğlu will be on trial on charges of “helping a terrorist organization without being a member of it.” Can Dündar, who is the former editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet resides abroad. The accusations stem from images published in Cumhuriyet that seem to suggest that trucks operated by the Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MİT) carried weapons to jihadist groups in Syria. CHP’s Berberoğlu is in prison after he was was given 24 years in relation with the MİT truck.