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Defendants: Hayri Demir, Sibel Hürtaş, Barış Ceyhan +8 others

Media Outlet and Position: Mezopotamya News Agency, Artı TV, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper – Reporters, Correspondent

Accusations:  Inciting the public to hatred and animosity; Conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization through publication

Possible sentences: up to 10 years 6 months

Court: Ankara 15. High Criminal Court

Case Background:

Sibel Hürtaş, an Ankara-based correspondent for Artı Tv, and Hayri Demir, a reporter for Mezopotamya News Agency, are facing criminal charges for “inciting the public to hatred and animosity” and “terrorist propaganda via media”.

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office seeks up to ten years and six months imprisonment for each in the indictment in relation to both accusations. The prosecutor filed the case against the two journalists along with 10 other defendants over their news reports and social media posts about a Turkish military operation in Afrin, Syria.

Both journalists were taken into custody in late January 2018 and released on bail after four days.

Hürtaş’s interviews with former MPs Osman Baydemir (from the pro-Kurdish HDP party) and Ahmet Faruk Ünsal (from the ruling AKP) are cited as criminal evidence in the indictment.

Diyarbakır’s 5th High Criminal Court sentenced Demir on May 29, 2018, to one year, six months and 22 days for “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” on social media. The sentence was suspended.

Barış Ceyhan, an Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper employee, was arrested on January 31, 2018, over his posts on social media regarding Turkey’s military operation in Afrin, Syria. Ceyhan is accused of “spreading propaganda for a terror organization” and “inciting the people to hatred and animosity” in the same case. He was released from pretrial detention on September 6, 2018.

After the hearing on November 22, 2018, defense lawyers requested more time to inspect documents that were recently submitted by the prosecutor. Journalists appeared in court next on January 22, 2019.

At March 27 hearing, the court requested Justice Ministry’s permit to try journalists Demir and Hürtaş on separate charges of “insulting Turkish state and its institutions,” investigation has stopped until a permit from the Ministry.

Proceedings on charges of “terrorist propaganda” continue, next hearing adjourned to July 3.

During July 3 hearing, the court rejected lawyers’ request to lift the travel ban on journalists, stating a reply from the Ministry of Justice to the court’s warrant requesting to proceed the case under Penal Code’s Article 301 has not yet received. Next hearing adjourned to December 3, 2019.