Journalist İshak Karakaş is sentenced for criticizing military operation in Afrin

26 March 2019
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Eight people, including journalist İshak Karakaş, have been sentenced to 1 year 6 months and 22 days in prison for “making terrorist propaganda” charges for criticizing Turkey’s military operation in Afrin on their social media accounts

İstanbul - Fifth hearing of the trial where 10 people including journalist İshak Karakaş face “making terrorist propaganda charges” for criticizing Turkish military’s operations in Afrin on their social media accounts was held at İstanbul 28th High Criminal Court today. İshak Karakaş and his lawyer Yıldız İmrek were present in the courtroom.

The panel began the hearing by giving the floor to the defense counsel. Lawyers noted that they do not agree with the prosecutor’s final opinion. Emphasizing that the elements of the crime have not been constituted, they demanded their client’s acquittal.

Karakaş’s lawyer İmrek said the following statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion as to the accusations: “Making propaganda for peace against war is a peaceful practice that has its root in years of painful experiences. According to the United Nations (UN), making propaganda for peace is a right. We know from history that wars have caused incredible destructions in every society around the world. In recent history, we’ve observed a perpetual state of war in the Middle East region. Wishing Turkey to stay out of such wars is a legitimate and rightful demand. My client is the founder of Peace Foundation, he has been committed to the principles of peace journalism all his life. The prosecution has used the phrase “the time period when the posts were shared” in the justification section of the final opinion. Posts that criticize a military operation can only be shared during that period, is that not correct? One cannot post such criticisms prior to the operation itself? These posts specifically criticize those who are put on TV to appear on news programs about the Afrin Operation with the title “strategist.” These posts criticize these so-called strategists for parroting the state’s discourse and point out that Afrin is inhabited by 800 thousand civilians, expressing concern and providing information about the issue. My client has also posted some news stories regarding those who passed away as a result of this military operation.”

İmrek went on to share relevant decisions and rulings of international and national courts. She noted that the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has two decisions stating that Article 7(2) (the one on terrorist propaganda) of Turkey’s Anti-terrorism Law is often applied to statements by taking things out of context and abusing the extent of the article. Lawyer İmrek also presented a decision ruled by Antalya 2nd High Criminal Court, which found the statement “The palace feels the need to win this war, the Afrin war is a war to construct dictatorship” a practice of free expression.

Noting that her client too practiced his right to free expression, İmrek demanded the acquittal of İshak Karakaş.

Journalist Karakaş took the floor following the statements from his defense counsel and said: “I am a founding member of the Peace Foundation and am actively working as a peace activist. I have stood against war all my life. I have never made or spread propaganda for any organization, I demand my acquittal.”

The court gave a short break for deliberation. Following this break, the court announced the verdict and sentenced two defendants to 1 year and 3 months in prison. The court sentenced eight defendants including Karataş to 1 year 6 months and 22 days in prison on the ground that they have committed the crime successively. All sentences have been deferred, meaning defendants will not have to go to prison at this time.

What happened?

Nine people including Halkın Nabzı newspaper owner İshak Karakaş were taken into custody in January 2018. During the first hearing of the trial where ten people face “making terrorist propaganda” charges,  all nine defendants who were detained were released. During the hearing which took place on 17 January 2019, the prosecutor presented the final opinion and demanded all defendants to be punished for successively making propaganda for a terrorist organization. Following the final opinion, the court adjourned the trial while also revoking everyone’s international travel ban.