Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addresses local officials at his palace in Ankara on March 20, 2016. Erdoğan said Russian and U.S. arms were finding their way to Kurdish groups Turkey classes as terrorist organizations. (Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Pool/AP)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addresses local officials at his palace in Ankara on March 20, 2016. Erdoğan said Russian and U.S. arms were finding their way to Kurdish groups Turkey classes as terrorist organizations. (Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Pool/AP)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of May 8

Police detain two men on suspicion of plotting attack on newspaper
Police detained two men suspected of planning to attack the printing house of leading pro-government daily Sabah today, the newspaper reported. According to Sabah, suspects Hasan K and Bahri T were on a motorcycle with no license plates, wearing two sets of clothes, one over another, and were in possession of masks, gloves, a shotgun, and five shells when police apprehended them near the newspaper’s printing plant.

Turkey’s Media Crackdown

Sabah reported that the two confessed to being members of the Regional Freedom Forces, an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey has classed as a terrorist organization, and the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP), which claimed responsibility for a February 2016 attack on the daily newspapers Yeni Şafak and Yeni Akit.

[May 13, 2016]

Trial of 16 magazine journalists begins
The trial of 16 contributors to and employees of the socialist weekly magazine Atılım on charges of spreading propaganda for terrorist groups began at Istanbul’s 13th Court for Serious Crimes today, the news website Bianet reported.

Atılım contributors Ali Haydar Saygılı, Alp Altınörs, Arzu Demir, Aydın Akyüz, Emin Orhan, Erkan Salduz, Fadime Çelebi, Fatih Gür, Hatice Duman, Fuat Uygur, İsminaz Ergün, Sami Özbil, Semiha Şahin, Uğur Ok, Vahap Biçici, and Ali Genç today pleaded not guilty to charges of producing propaganda for the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP), the Democratic Union Party (PYD) of Syria, the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) of Syria, according to press reports.

The accused said the evidence presented against them was not propaganda, but was drawn from analysis, opinion, or news reports, Bianet reported.

According to the indictment, which CPJ has read, the articles in question relate to Kurds in Syria, the armed conflict between the PKK and Turkish security forces, news reports referring to “guerrillas” and “martyrs” who died fighting in Syria, allegations that the Turkish party of government collaborates with Islamist groups in Syria, and articles criticizing Turkey’s policies with regard to ethnic Kurds in Turkey and Syria.

The court announced that the next session will be held on September 22, when İsminaz Ergün and Ali Genç, also accused in the case, will have the opportunity to respond to charges against them.

Four journalists go on trial on charges of insulting Erdoğan
The trial of Tunca Öğreten, editor of the news website Diken, and novelist and columnist Perihan Mağden began in Istanbul today, according to press reports. The charges stem from Öğreten’s January interview with Mağden in which the writer said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was “acting like cornered, wild tiger, a wild animal.”

Mehmet Çağlar Tekin and Orhan Şahin, former executives at the daily newspaper Yurt, also stood trial today on the same charges for republishing that interview on Yurt‘s website.The court today added Veysel Şahin, editor of Yurt, to the trial and scheduled the next hearing for October 20, according to press reports.

Two journalists detained in eastern Turkey
Police in the eastern Turkish city of Van today detained two reporters from the pro-Kurdish DİHA news agency, DİHA reported. Nedim Türfent was detained at a police checkpoint at an entrance to the city, and Şermin Soydan was detained in the city center. The journalists are in police custody pending investigation, DİHA reported, without elaborating.

Police routinely target reporters from DİHA for arrest, CPJ research shows, and regulators have blocked its website dozens of times.

Columnist fined for insulting prime minister
Istanbul’s Second Criminal Court of First Instance today fined columnist Nazlı Ilıcak, a columnist for the shuttered newspaper Bugün, 10,620 Turkish lira (U.S. $3609) on charges of “publicly insulting a civil servant,” the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet reported. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had filed a criminal suit against the journalist, arguing she had called him a “cretin.” Ilıcak’s lawyers had argued that she had intended the description to apply to those who believe in conspiracy theories.

Court-appointed, pro-government trustees in March 2016 closed the Koza-İpek Media Group, which owned Bugün.

[May 12, 2016]

Suspect in shooting attack on editor charged with owning illegal firearm
A court in Istanbul today formally arrested Murat Şahin — the man suspected of shooting at Cumhuriyet editor Can Dündar outside the courthouse where he was standing trial on May 6 — on charges of owning an illegal handgun and “threat with a weapon,” according to press reports.

Dündar was not hurt in the attack, but NTV reporter Yağız Şenkal was hit and lightly injured by a stray bullet, Şenkal told NTV.

Video shown on Turkish television at the time showed police detaining Şahin immediately after the attack.

According to media reports, Şahin told interrogators that he acted on his own and that he intended only to frighten Dündar by shooting low, near his legs. Police have made seven other arrests in the case, Turkish newspapers reported yesterday, but at least three of those people were subsequently released, the news website Bianet reported today.

Journalist detained for tweets allowed to leave Turkey
Dutch-Turkish columnist Ebru Umar is free to return to The Netherlands, Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said yesterday, in a statement widely reported in Turkey.

“Columnist Ebru Umar can travel back to the Netherlands. Turkey on May 10 lifted her travel ban,” Koenders said. “A lot has been done behind the scenes, and it’s good she’s heading back home.”

Police detained Umar on April 24 from her holiday home in the resort town of Kuşadası, according to media reports. A court in Kuşadası the same day ordered her released on probation and banned her from traveling.

According to the BBC’s Turkish service, Umar was detained following a complaint that she had insulted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a column for the Dutch newspaper Metro criticizing calls from Turkey’s consulate in Rotterdam asking Turks in The Netherlands to report on their compatriots abroad who criticize Erdoğan. Umar likened those who report on their compatriots to Nazis, called Erdoğan a “sultan” and “the most megalomaniac dictator since the foundation of the republic in 1923,” BBC Turkish reported.

[May 11, 2016]

Journalist sentenced to one year and three months in prison
A court in the southeastern Turkish town of Diyarbakır today sentenced Beritan Canözer, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish JİNHA news agency, to one year and three months in prison on charges of “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization,” but acquitted her of charges of membership in a terrorist organization, her employer reported. Diyarbakır’s Fourth Court of Serious Crimes suspended the sentence and put the journalist on parole for five years, the pro-Kurdish DIHA news agency reported.

Police arrested Canözer in December, but a court in March released her pending trial.

Turkey classes the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) as a terrorist organization. Kurdish journalists in Turkey are routinely arrested and tried on terrorism charges for their reporting.

Court acquits columnist of insulting Erdoğan
Istanbul’s Second Criminal Court of First Instance today acquitted Özgür Mumcu, a columnist for the opposition daily Cumhuriyet, of charges of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, according to press reports. The president’s lawyers brought the charges in April 2015 in response to a column titled “Cruel and Cowardly.”

Erdoğan’s lawyers have brought nearly 2,000 criminal suits against journalists on charges of “insulting the president” since Erdoğan became president in 2014, according to press reports.

German court refuses to tell media boss not to insult Erdoğan
A court in Cologne today rejected a suit the Turkish president had filed seeking an injunction on Mathias Döpfner, CEO of the German media conglomerate Axel Springer, to keep him from insulting the Turkish president, according to press reports.

Döpfner had written an open letter to German comic Jan Böhmermann praising a profane poem mocking Erdoğan the satirist read on his television show.

The court found an injunction would contravene guarantees of freedom of expression in Germany’s Basic Law, according to news reports.

“If you look in the Internet, loads of people are now trying to emulate Böhmermann, insulting Mr Erdogan in the worst way possible,” Ralf Höcker, Erdogan’s lawyer in Germany, said in an interview. “Anyone who does this must expect that we will take action against them.”

[May 10, 2016]

Journalist arrested on terrorism charges
A court in the eastern Turkish town of Mardin today formally ordered Abdülkadir Turay, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish DİHA news agency, arrested on charges of “aiding and abetting” a terrorist organization, his employer reported.

The journalist was among at least five people in the town detained from their homes in dawn raids on May 5. The Turkish government classes the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as a terrorist organization.

Five suspects detained in shooting attack on journalist
Police detained two people suspected of involvement in the May 6, 2016, shooting attack on Cumhuriyet editor Can Dündar, the daily newspaper Habertürk reported today, bringing the number of people detained in connection with the attack to five. Police detained the suspected shooter after he fired two shots at the journalist, missing him but lightly wounding NTV reporter Yağız Şenkal. Police over the weekend detained two other men on suspicion of inciting the crime and acting as a lookout, respectively, the news website Bianet reported today.

[May 9, 2016]