The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The court has ruled in favor of a pro-Kurdish journalist persecuted by Turkish authorities. (AFP/Frederick Florin)
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The court has ruled in favor of a pro-Kurdish journalist persecuted by Turkish authorities. (AFP/Frederick Florin)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of March 10, 2019

Court convicts Gün Printing House owner and staff
An Istanbul court on March 11 convicted seven employees of the Gün Printing House, including the owner, Kasım Zengin, of anti-state charges and sentenced them to prison, the pro-Kurdish Mezopatamya News Agency reported. The court acquitted 15 other employees who were also on trial.

The court found Zengin, Erdoğan Zamur, İrfan Karaca, Mahmut Abay, and İhsan Silmiş guilty of “being a member of a [terrorist] organization [PKK],” and sentenced them each to seven years and six months in prison. Sinmiş received an additional one-year, 10-month sentence for owning an unlicensed firearm, according to the report. Two other employees–Musa Kaya and Mehmet Emin Sümeli–were found guilty of “aiding and abetting a [terrorist] organization” and sentenced to three years and nine months in prison.

All seven are free pending appeal, according to the report. They all pleaded not guilty, and said they were printing a legal newspaper and denied being members of any terrorist organization.

The trial is the result of an early morning police raid on March 28, on a Beyoğlu district building in Istanbul that houses the pro-Kurdish, now-shuttered daily Özgürlükçü Demokrasi and its printer, Gün Printing House. Police told the daily’s legal team that Saving Deposit Insurance Fund, a government-controlled insurer and fund manager, had taken over the newspaper and its printing house, CPJ documented at the time.

European Court of Human Rights rules in favour of pro-Kurdish journalist

The European Court of Human Rights on March 12 unanimously found in favor of Ali Gürbüz, the former owner of the defunct pro-Kurdish daily Ülkede Özgür Gündem, in his case against the Turkish government. In a tweet about the verdict, the court’s press office said, “Between 2004 and 2006, seven charges were brought against Mr. Gürbüz for breaches of counterterrorism Law no. 3713 for publishing 11 articles about the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party, an illegal armed organisation) in his newspaper.” The verdict found in favor of Gürbüz under Article 10’s right to freedom of expression. The court ordered Turkey to pay 3,500 euros (US$3,950) in damages to Gürbüz.

Court hearings for journalists at FOX TV Turkey, Mezopotamya News Agency

  • An Istanbul court on March 8 convicted Yasin Kobulan, a reporter for the Mezopotamya News Agency, of “making continuous propaganda of a [terrorist] organization” (PKK) and sentenced him to one year, six months, and 22 days in prison, the independent news website Bianet reported. The court suspended the sentence for five years on the condition that Kobulan not repeat the offence. Kobulan pleaded not guilty, according to the report.
  • A criminal investigation into FOX TV Turkey anchorman Fatih Portakal has been dismissed, the opposition daily Cumhuriyet reported on March 14. The investigation was opened after Portakal sent a condolence text message to Ekrem Dumanlı, a former chief editor for the shuttered daily Zaman who has an open arrest warrant, after Dumanlı’s father died, the report said.
  • An Istanbul court on March 14 released Ercan Gün, a former FOX TV Turkey editor, pending the outcome of his trial, the leftist daily Evrensel reported. Gün, who has been behind bars since July 29, 2016, is one of the defendants in the retrial of the January 19, 2007 murder of Armenian-Turkish journalist Gün is accused of reporting in a way that would “create the perception that the military is related to the murder,” according to court records of the hearing, which CPJ reviewed. Gün is accused of being a member of a terrorist organization, and airing the report at the behest of FETÖ/PDY, the group that Turkish authorities say is behind the failed attempted coup.