Diren Keser - Propaganda Trial

Journalist Diren Keser was detained in February 2017 after police raided his home in Mersin. Keser was detained at the Anti-Terror Branch of the Mersin Police Department for 14 days.

The reason for his custody could not be learned at first because a confidentiality order was issued for his case. However, during the interrogation at the end of the 14th day, he was asked about his social media posts.

Keser was released on February 16, 2017 on condition of “judicial control.”

The indictment in the scope of the investigation concerning his social media posts was drafted by Mersin Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, Terror and Organized Crime Investigation Bureau.

In the eight-page indictment completed on December 2, 2017, only one page was dedicated to Keser’s identity and investigation details, while six pages included information on the history, objectives and activities of PKK.

In the indictment, the accusations against Keser took only half a page. Here, the prosecutor listed the Facebook posts forming the ground for accusation; however, he did not provide their content. The five posts in question were mentioned in the indictment as follows:

• On 26/11/2014, Keser shared a photo of small children wearing rags belonging to the separatist terror group on a social media sharing platform open to third parties,
• On 06/11/2014, he shared a video of an interview with members of the separatist terror group, which featured the rags symbolizing the separatist terror group,
• On 21/10/2014, he shared images of the armed separatist group,
• On 09/07/2015, he shared separate images of 10 members of the separatist terror group, indicating that they had lost their lives,
• On 20/10/2014, he shared images of armed members of the separatist group”

After providing these social media posts on which the accusation was based, prosecutor stated, “He spread propaganda for the members of the terrorist organization by frequently sharing the images of armed group members who extensively conducted and continue to conduct armed terrorist activities, instead of expressing an opinion, discussing a topic or sharing texts and images about a social event in his posts…”

Accordingly prosecutor requested that journalist Diren Keser be sentenced for “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” as per Anti-Terror Law, Article 7/2. Prosecutor requested that Keser be sentenced to imprisonment of 1 to 5 years. On the grounds that the crime was committed in a continuous manner, he further demanded that the sentence be increased by 1/3 to imprisonment from 1 year 3 months to 8 years 9 months.

The indictment was accepted by Mersin 9th High Criminal Court and a lawsuit was filed against journalist Keser. The first hearing of the case took place on December 26, 2017.

Presenting his defense at the hearing, Keser indicated that he shared these posts as a journalist:

“I wanted to share articles by various columnists on Facebook; however, when posted on the page, the images of the armed individuals you mention have become more prominent. It was not possible for me to change this. That is how I shared the posts dated October 21 and 22 in question. My posts include different photos, for instance in the video where children sing a song, it is seen that these children wear red, yellow and green colors and traditional headscarves. These are local garments, and various politicians also don clothes in these colors. In the video showing Kader Ortakkaya’s speech, even she is not aware of the individual and flag that appear behind her: She is simply delivering a speech against war and ISIS; and I did not act with criminal intent in sharing this video.”

At the hearing, in his opinion as to the accusations, the prosecutor requested that Keser be sentenced for these charges.

The panel of judges handed down a prison sentence of 1 year 6 months to Keser for “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization.” In addition, on grounds that the crime was committed via the press, the sentence was increased by half to 1 year and 15 months. Moreover, considering that he had committed the same crime multiple times in continuous fashion, the sentence was further aggravated by 1/3 to 1 year, 21 months, 22 days in prison. The court then decided to reduce the sentence to 1 year, 16 months and 3 days considering Keser’s good conduct during the hearing.

Keser’s lawyer, Ali Kozan, filed an appealed at the court of appeal. Adana Regional Court 2nd Criminal Chamber reached a verdict on February 19, 2018. The court upheld the sentence about Keser, who was then taken into custody and was arrested on July 2, 2019. He was placed in Mersin Tarsus T-Type Closed Prison. He is currently serving time in prison.

Press in Arrest is a database, monitoring, documentation and collective memory study of Press Research Association.
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