“The people charged with the vicious assault that landed journalist Sinan Aygül in hospital in June were released on bail by a Turkish court last week. This week, Aygül was sentenced to prison for his reporting of an exclusive story that was clearly in the public interest. There is something wrong with this picture,” said Özgür Öğret, CPJ’s Turkey representative. “Turkish authorities should not fight Aygül’s appeal and should accept the concept of a free press that can operate without fear of retaliation.”
In May, a court in the eastern city of Tatvan, in the province of Bitlis, found Aygül, chief editor of the privately owned website Bitlis News and chair of the Bitlis Journalists Society, guilty of trespassing in a hotel’s kitchen, where the journalist exposed the presence of meat from Turkey’s Red Crescent that was supposed to have been distributed to people in need.
The court sentenced Aygül in May during a “simple trial,” meaning it involved a judgment without a hearing, resulting in a reduced sentence of four and a half months. Aygül, who remained free pending trial, told CPJ in May that he had filed an appeal, which would lead to a regular trial, but that he was concerned he would end up serving six months instead. As he feared, the court sentenced him to six months in prison on September 19.
Aygül told CPJ via messaging app Tuesday that he did not have high hopes for the next appeal, which his lawyer was going to file to a regional appeals court once the Tatvan court published a detailed explanation of the verdict on an undetermined date. He said he believed he would go to prison.
CPJ’s email to the prosecutor’s office in Bitlis did not receive a reply.