Yeni Yaşam newspaper published on March 1, 2019 a story titled “Cruelty Against Prisoners in Afrin”. After the news story was published, prosecutor of Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, Press Crimes Investigation Bureau penned an indictment, which requested the sentencing of the managing editor of the said newspaper as per Turkish Penal Code, Article 301, that is,“explicity denigrating the state of the Turkish Republic, and its military and police organizations”.
The prosecutor stated that the news story indicated that, after the operation by the Turkish army and the Free Syrian Army into Afrin, thousands of civilians were kidnapped in the city center and neighboring towns and handed over to the Turkish army; that some of these civilians were killed while others were locked in prisons set up in Afrin; and that certain individuals were arrested and brought to Turkey for allegedly belonging to the YPG - YPJ [People’s Defense Units]. The news story further claimed that those imprisoned were subjected to days and weeks of intense torture, from naked search to beating, and that all these civilians from Afrin were battered by the soldiers and prison guards. Prosecutor summarized this content in his indictment and portrayed it as “fabricated news”.
Prosecutor claimed that the news story as a whole was tantamount to “denigrating the state of the Turkish Republic, and its military and police organizations,” and requested that Akın be sentenced to six months to two years of imprisonment as per Turkish Penal Code, Article 301/2.
The Istanbul 2. Criminal Court of First Instance accepted the indictment. The first hearing of the trial was held on October 1, 2019. The trial was adjourned considering the possibility that the new judiciary reform package could have an effect on the case.
Second hearing of the case took place at January 9th, 2019. Hearing started with Judge’s ‘warning’ for the journalists. Judge laughingly said, “Do not write everything I say in the news. We are talking between us, write only the subjects relevant to the case” to the journalists which caused laughter around the courtroom.
After that attorney Özcan Kılıç took the stand and stated that they will present their defence as to the accusations. Attorney Kılıç said he will make a statement in a summarised way.
Kılıç said, “News regarding this case include the practises in the jail. What happened in Hatay Prison is the subject of this article. We need to discuss the reality and correctness of this article. In journalism it is possible that some news are not real. Ministry of Justice permits to open a case, right away. An official complaint was made to the Prosecutor’s Office, right away without a request for a disclaimer regarding these news. We see so many fake news in the papers but no one says a word about them. This is not a personal case, this case concerns the state. There is a professional activity here and it is described as a crime. An article against the correction officer is seen as an article against the state.
We plead not guilty and request acquittal.
After a short break judge announced the verdict and sentenced Akın to 6 months of prison time for “Publicly degrading the Republic of Turkey, the military or security organisations”. Judge, then reduced the sentenced by 1/6 for good conduct time, to 5 months. Announcement of Akın’s verdict was deferred.