46 journalists and media professionals are sued since 2012 in the KCK Media Trial on charges of “leading a terrorist organization” or “membership of a terrorist organization.”
The process began on December 20, 2011 when the police raided the houses of journalists and Kurdish media outlets such as Dicle News Agency (DİHA), Özgür Gündem newspaper, Fırat News Agency and Roj TV in early morning hours, taking into custody 49 journalists under the scope of the operation against Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK).
The indictment completed on April 27, 2012, depicted journalistic efforts as “activities for a terrorist group”, and used phrases such as “alleged journalism activities”, “participating in a protest in the guise of reporter”, “new stories that damage or jeopardize the image of the state”, “It was seen that the suspect was not involved in journalistic activities, but penned stories that benefited the terror organization.”
KCK Media Trial became the largest trial against journalists in Turkish history and the first example of collective lawsuit against journalists. 37 of the 46 journalists and media professionals sued remained in prison between 9 months to 2.5 years.
From September 10, 2012 to March 3, 2014, 10 hearings comprising 32 sessions were held at Specially Authorized 15. High Criminal Court. Following the first hearing which lasted three days, the court ordered that the lawsuit be transferred from Çağlayan Courthouse to the courtroom in the Silivri for reasons such as “defendants’ actions during the trial, and the small size of the courtroom”, on November 12, 2012.
Since the specially authorized courts were abolished by legal amendment on February 21, 2014, the proceedings take place at İstanbul 3. High Criminal Court at the Çağlayan Courthouse. The opinion as to the accusations has yet to be presented.
The 18th hearing was held on February 25th, 2020.
The 19th hearing of the trial took place on July 2nd. The president of the court stated that the writ sent to the General Secretariat of Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) about the progress in the trial was added to the case file. Accordingly, HSK demanded information from the court for the disciplinary investigation against Bilal Bayraktar, a prosecutor dismissed for alleged “membership of the Fethullahist Terror Organization.” Bayraktar was the prosecutor in charge of indictment and hearings at KCK Press Trial. Journalist Çağdaş Ulus’ lawyer Mehtap Acar Ulus stated that her client was included in the trial via manipulation. She demanded that his file be separated from the collective file and Ulus be acquitted. The court ruled to await the execution of the arrest warrant against İ.K., who lives abroad.
The 20th hearing was held on December 1st, 2020. Two members of the panel of judges had changed.
Of the defendant journalists, only İsmail Yıldız (Rawin Sterk) attended the hearing. İstanbul 34th High Criminal Court had decided to merge the case file for “membership of an armed terror organization” and “spreading propaganda in a continuous manner for a terror organization” with the case file of the “KCK Press Trial”. The court stated that it had received the said file.
Lawyer Özcan Kılıç demanded the cancellation of İsmail Yıldız’s overseas travel ban. He requested that Yüksel Genç be relieved from the obligation to attend the hearings. The court accepted both requests.
Mehtap Acar Ulus, the lawyer of journalist Çağdaş Ulus, requested that her client’s trial be separated from the main file. The request was rejected.
The court ruled to lift Yüksel Genç’s obligation to attend the hearings.
The trial was adjourned until the 21st hearing on March 4th, 2021.
In November 2019, European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) denied the request regarding the case in which the journalists were being tried, with the reasoning that making a personal appeal to the Constitutional Court was still possible. The attorneys had made the request due to false imprisonment. However, at the time of the arrests and the request to the ECHR, the requirement to make the individual appeal to the Constitutional Court prior to the application to the ECHR, had not come into force.
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