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Defendants: Ömer Çelik, Tunca Öğreten, Mahir Kanaat, Derya Okatan, Eray Sargın, and Metin Yoksu

Media Outlet and Position: Various news outlets – Journalist, Editors

Accusations: Membership of a terrorist organization; Spreading terrorist propaganda; Committing a crime on behalf of a terrorist organization whilst not being a member; Intercepting with the information systems; Removing data

Possible sentence: –

Court: İstanbul 29. High Criminal Court

Case Background: 

Six journalists and media employees are on trial over reporting of emails leaked in September 2016 by leftist hacker collective RedHack that purportedly were from the account of Turkish Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, the son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Three journalists and editors from different media outlets – Ömer Çelik from Mezopotamya Agency, Tunca Öğreten from the news website Diken and Mahir Kanaat from the newspaper BirGün – were earlier held in pretrial detention for over 300 days for reporting the leaked emails in their newspapers.

On December 25, 2016, police detained Öğreten, Kanaat and Çelik in dawn raids, as well as Derya Okatan, Eray Sargın, and Metin Yoksu. The latter were released after 24 days in custody, but Öğreten, Kanaat, and Çelik were placed in pre-trial detention without any charge on January 17, 2017.

Ömer Çelik was released after the first hearing on October 24, 2017, while Öğreten and Kanaat were released on December 6, 2017, marking 323 days in detention.

The fifth hearing on September 13, 2018, took place in İstanbul 29. High Criminal Court in the absence of defendants Metin Yoksu and Ömer Çelik. Journalists present in the courtroom requested their digital materials, computers seized by the police be returned and the travel ban lifted.

The court rejected restitution of digital materials and the request to lift the travel ban. Judicial control on journalists has been removed. The court ruled journalists Yoksu and Çelik to be forcefully brought to the next hearing, adjourning it till January 8, 2019.

On January 8, the prosecutor asked a new indictment to be filed against Çelik based on a former case on the charges of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization”. The court in the case had given a decision of non-prosecution in the time, suspending the whole proceeding. İstanbul 19. High Criminal Court decided to take the prosecutor’s request to reopen the same case into consideration and adjourned the next hearing to April 16.

During the April 16 hearing, journalists Yoksu and Çelik attended the hearing via judicial video conference system SEGBİS respectively from Batman and Diyarbakır provinces, while other four defendants were present in the courtroom in Istanbul.

In the meantime, an expert report has also been submitted to the court examining digital material. Defense lawyers underlined that the report shows documents which were used as evidence in the indictment were downloaded online by journalists which voids the charges of “intercepting with the information systems” or “removing data”.

The court requested information from Diyarbakır chief public prosecutor’s office on Çelik’s other case and ruled to reinstitute digital materials to the journalists in its interim decision. Next hearing is set for September 24.

During the eight hearing of the case on September 24, the court ruled to maintain the travel ban on the journalists and to restitute digital materials that were deemed to be non-prosecutable. The hearing is adjourned until February 6, 2020.

Read more on this case here.

An IPI delegation monitored the hearing on February 6, the court decided to lift the international travel bans for defendants Okatan and Sargın but ordered the continuation of the judicial control measures on the remaining four defendants. The court adjourned the trial until June 25.

Read more about IPI observations of the case on Trial Monitoring blog.

During the hearing on June 25, the court ruled that the judicial control measures on defendants should remain in place, rejecting the request to lift the international travel ban on Yoksu and Öğreten. The court adjourned the next hearing to December 15.

During the hearing on December 15, 2020, it was reported that the entire judicial panel had been replaced, including the presiding judge.

Öğreten stated that the trial had been ongoing for three years pointing out that the court had not even asked a question to the defendants yet.

The court rejected the requests to lift the international travel ban on Öğreten, Yoksu and Çelik. Court exempted journalists of attending next hearings. and sent the case file to the prosecutor’s office for the final opinion to be submitted.

The 12th hearing that was initially set for May 5, 2021 was postponed due to the Covid-19 measures.

On May 18, 2021, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found that journalists Kanaat and Öğreten’s “rights to liberty and security” and “freedoms of expression and the press” have been violated,  and sentenced Turkey to pay pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages to the applicants.

During the 13th hearing on July 9, 2021, it was noted by trial monitors that the members of the court panel and the prosecutor in the case have been replaced. The public prosecutor requested the scope of the case file to be expanded.

The defense lawyers rejected the prosecutor’s request and requested the final opinion in the case file to be submitted without further delay.

The court ruled for the continuation of judicial control measures against journalists and adjourned the hearing to December 9, 2021.

Read more about the case.