Lawyers and former employees of the Turkish daily, Cumhuriyet, pictured at a press conference in Istanbul on April 22. Six of the former staff handed themselves over to prison authorities today. (CPJ/Özgür Öğret)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of April 21, 2019

By Özgür Öğret/CPJ Turkey Representative on April 25, 2019 3:24 PM ET

Cumhuriyet staff hand themselves over to prison authorities
Six former employees from the daily Cumhuriyet handed themselves into authorities today, after the legal paperwork for their failed appeal was entered into Turkey's judicial system and warrants were issued for their arrest, according to their lawyer and reports.

A court convicted 14 Cumhuriyet staff of terrorism-related charges in 2018. On April 19, authorities entered a local appeals court ruling that upheld the verdict for eight defendants who were sentenced to less than five years in prison, into the National Judiciary Informatics System, an intranet database for the Justice Ministry, courts, and police, according to reports.

Tora Pekin, a lawyer representing the group, told CPJ on April 25 that the prosecution issued warrants for seven of the defendants. Of those, six handed themselves in.

The staff who turned themselves in to a prison in the northwestern province of Kocaeli include former cartoonist Musa Kart, former columnists Güray Öz and Hakan Kara, former board member Önder Çelik, former accountant Emre İper, and lawyer Mustafa Kemal Güngör. None of the defendants are currently affiliated with the newspaper. Utku has one year, seven months and 20 days more to serve. Öz, Çelik, Kart, Kara, and Güngör will remain in prison for a year and 23 days each. İper has seven months and 24 days more to serve according to reports.

Pekin said it was unclear if authorities will determine that the sentence for Kadri Gürsel, a former columnist and publishing consultant who is also an executive board member of the International Press Institute, will be commuted to time served. Prosecutors will invite the columnist for an interview, Pekin said. CPJ could not determine the status of former board member Bülent Utku, whose case was also heard by the lower court.

The Committee to Protect Journalists had called on Turkish authorities on April 22 to not take the employees into custody until the Supreme Court has heard their colleagues' appeal.

Court in Van acquits journalists Yılmaz, Akbaş

A court in Van on April 17 acquitted İdris Yılmaz and his colleague Erhan Akbaş, from the shuttered pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), of "insulting a civil servant," the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency reported. The journalists had been accused of insulting Mehmet Şirin Yaşar, a trustee appointed by the government to the municipality of Cizre, a district of Van.

The court decided that the news content on trial was within the limits of the freedom of the press and acquitted the journalists, the report said. Yılmaz remains in custody, awaiting trial on separate charges of "making propaganda for a terrorist organization," according to CPJ research.

Turkey widens Wikipedia block

Access to WikiZero, an alternative address to Wikipedia, was blocked in Turkey from April 25, according to reports. As of today, the web address 0wikipedia.org was accessible only by using a VPN. Wikizero.biz posted a statement in Turkish and English on its opening page that said, "Due to legal reasons, the domain name 0wikipedia.org will be closed. We will continue with new alternative domain names."

CPJ documented in April 2017 how Turkish regulators blocked access to Wikipedia, over accusations that it "supported terrorism."

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