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Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of February 12

A court on February 14, 2017, handed columnist Hasan Cemal, seen here at a colleague's funeral in Istanbul on October 30, 2015, a suspended sentence of one year and three months in prison on charges of propagandizing for a terrorist group in one of his columns.

Publisher closes magazine for cartoon lampooning Moses
The publisher of the cartoon magazine GırGır announced today that he was closing down the magazine after its publication of a cartoon depicting Moses irritating his followers wandering in the desert by talking too much and bragging about parting the Red Sea sparked outrage on social media, including from the president's office, news website T24 reported.

The move came after İbrahim Kalın, the spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's office, wrote on twitter yesterday, "The name for this is not humor and freedom of the speech, but indecency and hate crime. I strongly condemn this disrespect to sanctity."

The magazine apologized for the cartoon and said it had been a mistake to publish it after more Turkish social media users criticized it. According to a statement from the publisher's lawyer published on T24, the publisher would also file criminal complaints against the magazine's staff responsible for the cartoon, claiming it was published with the "malicious intent" of deliberately harming the company.

Today the Küçükçekmece Prosecutors' Office in Istanbul began an investigation into GırGır on suspicion it had "abused the religious values adopted by a part of the people," the news website Dihaber reported.

Magazine employee detained on secret charges
Police at Istanbul's Sabiha Gökçen Airport on February 14 detained Selahattin Aslan, an employee of the pro-Kurdish political magazine Demokratik Modernite, the news website Gazete Karınca reported yesterday. Aslan was being held at the Istanbul Police Directorate, his lawyer told Gazete Karınca. The lawyer said that because there was a court order imposing secrecy on the police investigation of his client, it was not clear why Aslan had been detained.

Prosecutors charge two with terrorism for supporting newspaper
Prosecutor Ömer Karakaya asked the Istanbul's 13th Court for Serious Crimes to find academic and opposition politician Beyza Üstün and journalist Murat Çelikkan guilty of producing propaganda for a terrorist organization in connection with the coverage of shuttered, pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem on the days on which each acted as co-editor of the newspaper for a day, the news website Bianet reported. The two were among dozens of journalists, activists, academics, and artists who lent their names to the newspaper's masthead for a day to protest authorities' relentless judicial harassment of the newspaper's staff before the government ordered the newspaper closed by decree in August 2016. Both trials are expected to resume in May.

[February 17, 2017]

Editor acquitted of 'insulting president' charge
Ankara's 52nd Court of First Instance on February 14 acquitted Ali Ergin Demirhan, an editor for the leftist news website sendika.org, of the charge of "insulting the president," his employer reported. The charges arose from a video published on the website in which a retired teacher---a relative of a victim of an October 2015 bombing in Ankara---blamed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's policies for the deaths. "You will drown in the blood that you spill," the man said.

[February 16, 2017]

Prison sentences for publisher, politician who showed solidarity with newspaper
Istanbul's 22nd Court for Serious Crimes today sentenced publisher Cengiz Baysoy and Çilem Küçükkeleş, a leader of the opposition, pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP), to 15 months in prison and fines of 6000 Turkish lira (US $1625) each on charges of propagandizing for a terrorist organization, the news website Bianet reported. The charges arose from the coverage of the pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem on the days when each had symbolically acted as co-editor to protest authorities' relentless judicial harassment of the newspaper's staff before the government ordered it closed by decree in August 2016. Baysoy and Küçükkeleş are both free, pending appeal.

The two were among dozens of journalists, intellectuals, politicians, artists, and activists who symbolically acted as co-editor of the newspaper for a day. Most of those who participated in the campaign face criminal charges as a result.

Neither of the defendants was allowed to offer a final defense, as court procedure requires, and neither had a lawyer present, Bianet reported, and the judge read the verdict even before Küçükkeleş had entered the courtroom. Baysoy told Bianet that the hearing was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Istanbul time, but that the session was already in progress when he arrived at 10:09 a.m.

The court also sentenced Özgür Gündem columnist İmam Canpolat, who was tried alongside Baysoy for a column in the edition Baysoy edited, to 15 months in prison. He is also free, pending appeal.

Prosecutors in Istanbul also asked courts to convict Faruk Balıkçı, Jülide Kural, İlham Bakır, Murat Uyurkulak, Derya Okatan, Dicle Anter, Necimiye Alpay, Ayşe Batumlu, Kumru Başer, Nadire Mater and Yıldırım Türker of producing propaganda for a terrorist group in connection with their participation in the solidarity campaign, according to press reports. Their trials are scheduled to resume in March.

Odatv trial resumes in Istanbul
Journalists were unable to attend a hearing of the convoluted trial of Odatv journalists yesterday. Some 200 people, including journalists and activists tried to attend the session at Istanbul's Çağlayan Courthouse, but were unable to enter the small courtroom judicial authorities had designated for the hearing.

[February 15, 2017]

Veteran journalist gets suspended sentence on terrorism charges
Istanbul's 22nd Court for Serious Crimes today sentenced veteran journalist Hasan Cemal to a suspended sentence of one year and three months in prison on charges of "making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization," the news website Özgürüz reported. The court found that Cemal's July 11, 2016, column for the website T24 constituted propaganda for the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Turkey classes as a terrorist group. The column memorialized slain PKK commander Feyman Hüseyin, whom Cemal had met and interviewed.

[February 14, 2017]

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