During the week of February 21, 2022, International Press Institute (IPI) representatives attended and monitored several trials against journalists in Istanbul facing various charges.
Gezi Trial: An ongoing injustice for years
Ahead of the February 21 hearing in the Gezi Trial, where 52 defendants including journalist Can Dündar and philanthropist Osman Kavala – who is the only defendant in detention – are being prosecuted for “attempting to overthrow the government and/or prevent it from fulfilling its duty”, civil society groups read a press release in front of the Çağlayan Courthouse in Istanbul underlining that the case was based on politically motivated and arbitrary charges. The groups called for all charges to be dropped against the defendants and for Kavala’s immediate release.
IPI representative Renan Akyavaş; MEP Nacho Sánchez Amor, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey; opposition members of the Turkish Parliament; and diplomatic representatives including the Swedish and German General Consuls were among those who monitored the hearing.
The hearing started with a slight delay from the original time scheduled for 10:00 at Istanbul 13. High Criminal Court. Dündar was not present due to his living abroad in exile. The initial case with 17 defendants was merged with the case known as Çarşı Trial with a total of 35 defendants including members of Beşiktaş Sportsclub fan group called “Çarşı Group” that actively participated in demonstrations during Gezi Park protests in 2013.
During February 21 hearing, defendants’ lawyers requested that the two cases be separated on the basis that the cases are both in nature and allegations different from each other. The court ruled to separate the once-merged cases and adjourned the next hearing until March 21. However, this means yet another delay in the judicial process, which has been pending for years.
Business journalists on trial for “manipulating the currency”
On February 22, IPI monitored the eighth hearing of the trial against six business journalists and columnists of various news outlets – Bloomberg reporters Kerim Karakaya and Fercan Yalınkılıç; economist and HALK TV programme host Mustafa Sönmez; TELE1 Editor-in-Chief Merdan Yanardağ and programme host Sedef Kabaş; and SolHaber news portal columnist Orhan Aydın – who reported or commented on the sudden drop in the country’s currency in summer 2018 and were later charged with undermining Turkey’s financial stability under the Capital Market Law.
The trial includes 38 co-defendants charged under the Capital Market Law (107/2) for social media posts critical of the Turkish government’s economy policies and facing up to five years in prison.
#Turkey:IPI monitored today hearing of Bloomberg’s @kerimkarakaya34, @FercanY & @merdanyanardag, @SedefKabas, @orhanaydin6 w/ RSF rep. @ErolOnderoglu for “defying the law on capital market” over social media posts
Trial adjourned to Apr 27 for prosecutor to prepare final opinion pic.twitter.com/62ZsfxkKPt
— IPI-The Global Network for Independent Journalism (@globalfreemedia) February 22, 2022
The hearing started on time at the Istanbul 3. Criminal Court. None of the journalists attended the hearing, but they were represented by their lawyers in the courtroom. The journalists were accused of having attempted to financially benefit from manipulating the currency. Their lawyers underlined that the expert reports including bank statements also proved that journalists have not gained any financial benefit from their reports and actions and therefore their reporting can only be interpreted under freedom of expression and the press.
After listening to the other defendants’ defense statements, the court ruled to separate the case of four co-defendants with an arrest warrant and sent the case file to the prosecutor for submission of a final opinion. The trial was adjourned until April 27, 2022 at 10:00 am.
On February 23, IPI representatives were present in the Çağlayan Courthouse for the trial of Özgür Gündem journalists and editors Hüseyin Aykol and Reyhan Çapan. The hearing was postponed without taking place to May 10 at 13:30 due to illness.