Hazal Ocak - “Publicy Insulting the Public Official” Trial

Journalist Hazal Ocak’s article “Son-in-law knows his way” was published on Cumhuriyet Daily on January 20, 2020.

The article was about President Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law and Minister of Finance and Treasury Berat Albayrak and the purchase of land he made on the route of “Kanal Istanbul”

The project was to connect the Black Sea with Marmara Sea through a waterway in the European Side of Istanbul. President Tayyip Erdoğan, responding the criticism regarding the project said, “We will make Kanal Istanbul happen, whether they want it or not”.

After the news was published, Istanbul Anatolian 7th Criminal Court of Peace imposed a ban of access to Cumhuriyet Daily’s webpage as well as the article itself.

Berat Albayrak made an official complaint about the article. Albayrak’s attorney Ahmet Özel, presented the complaint to Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on January 22, 2020. The complaint used the word “so-called” regarding the article “Son-in-law knows his way”. The article was claimed to “have publicly attacked his personal rights”.

Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation agains Hazal Ocak. Ocak was accused of “insulting a public official”.

Hazal Ocak, in the statement she gave at the prosecutor’s office, which was summarised in the indictment, said “that she had received an information, saying that Minister Albayrak had purchased a land on the route of Kanal Istanbul, then went to the area to make a research about the matter, and had the information confirmed”. Ocak stated that she had sent her questions regarding the matter to the head consultants of the Minister Albayrak and an official from his office had given her some information and she had put this information in the article. She stated that she did not write the article to insult Minister Albayrak, but to inform the public. She did not accept the accusations.

Two indictments were prepared by Press Related Crimes Investigation Bureau of Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutors Office agains journalist Hazal Ocak. Minister of Finance and Treasury Berat Albayrak was the “complainant” of both of the indictment.

First indictment, dated March 6, 2020, included summary of the complaint letter regarding the article “Son-in-law knows his way”.

The article was about President Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law and Minister of Finance and Treasury Berat Albayrak and the purchase of land he made on the route of “Kanal Istanbul”.

The project was to connect the Black Sea with Marmara Sea through a waterway in the European Side of Istanbul. President Tayyip Erdoğan, responding the criticism regarding the project said, “We will make Kanal Istanbul happen, whether they want it or not”.

The complaint letter claimed that the article “included allegations aiming to defame and discredit Albayrak”. It was claimed that “An ordinary purchase was distorted and presented to public in order to unlawfully attack the complainant’s personal rights”.

First indictment claimed that the content of the article was “in a scale to hurt Minister Albayrak’s dignity, honour and reputability”. It was claimed that “the expressions used in the article were not considered as criticism within the scope of freedom of press and expression”.

First indictment accused Ocak of “insulting a public official due to his public duty” according to the article 125 of the Turkish Penal Code. She was requested to be sentenced to, from one year to two years of imprisonment.

However, Istanbul Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor returned the first indictment. Prosecutor claimed that the crime “was committed through press”.

Therewith the same Prosecutor’s Office, on March 31, 2020, prepared a second indictment against Ocak. Second indictment also included that after the article “Son-in-law knows his way” published, a correction message prepared by Albayrak’s attorneys was published in the paper. Second indictment claimed that “an ordinary purchase was correlated with Kanal Istanbul Project and with Albayrak’s duty as a public official, and was served to people as if it was an unearned income gained due to Albayrak’s duty”. Second indictment claimed that article “had hurt Albayrak’s dignity, honour and reputability”.

Ocak, who, in the first indictment, was accused of “insulting a public official due to his duty” with the first indictment; was, with the second indictment, accused of “publicly insulting a public officer due to the performance of his public duty through an audio, text or visual message” according to the article 125 of the Turkish Penal Code.

The second indictment requested Ocak to be sentenced to, from one year two months to two years and four months of imprisonment whereas the first indictment had requested her to be sentenced for, from one year to two years of imprisonment.

Both of the indictments requested Ocak to be “bereaved of specific rights” according to the article 53 Turkish Penal Code.

Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance approved the second indictment.

Cumhuriyet Reporter Hazal Ocak’s trial started with the first hearing at Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on June 18, 2020. However attorneys of Cumhuriyet, notified the the court that they were not present at the hearing due to the “coronavirus” pandemic. A summary judgment was reached and attorneys’ excuse was accepted.

Trial will continue with the second hearing on October 27, 2020.

Documents

Indictment

Journalists
Hazal Ocak

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