A denunciation against Karınca Newspaper news website’s articles, where journalist Necla Demir was the concessionaire, was made to the Communication Office of the Prime Ministry.
Istanbul Bakırköy Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, due to the denunciation, launched an investigation against paper’s concessionaire Necla Demir on January 11, 2019. Demir was accused of “insulting the President”. There was no information as to the identity of the denouncer, regarding the denunciation made to the Communication Office of the Prime Ministry (BİMER). However it was stated that the denunciation had made the claim that “some news and publications were committing offences”.
Even though subject matter articles were published in October 2016, investigation was launched on January 11, 2019.
Demir, in her statement which was summarised in the indictment, admitted the subject matter articles, but denied the accusation.
According to the Turkish Penal Code, in order to open a lawsuit against an individual for the crime of “insulting the President”, a permission from the Ministry of Justice is required. Necessary ministerial permission to open a lawsuit against Demir was granted on January 2, 2020.
The indictment against her, was completed by Istanbul Bakırköy Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on February 3, 2020. President Tayyip Erdoğan was the “complainant” of the indictment.
The indictment showed two articles published on GazeteKarınca website on October 6, 2016 and October 10, 2016 as the evidence.
According to that, it was stated that the article entitled “Wikileaks Files: Erdoğan is pushing the country towards a civil unrest” on October 6, 2016, included expressions such as “…Erdoğan, after winning the last elections concluded the negotiations with PKK and now pushes the country towards a civil unrest”.
Expression that read “if there was a merit-based rearrangment, no one in the current government, including the President, would have the adequacy to be trusted even with a light switch, they would leave it on at night” in the article entitled “RedHack members talked: Why did they hack Albayrak” on October 10, 2016, was shown as the “criminal factors”.
The indictment claimed that Demir “by publicly offending Mr. Presidents pride, honour and reputation, had committed the crime of insulting the President”.
The indictment accused Demir of “publicly insulting the President in a successive manner” according to the articles 299 and 43 of the Turkish Penal Code. Demir was requested to be sentenced to, from one year five months 15 days to eight years two months of imprisonment. Demir was also requested to be “bereaved of specific rights” according to the article 53 of the Turkish Penal Code.
Journalist Necla Demir’s trial was set to start with the first hearing at Istanbul Bakırköy 8th Criminal Court of First Instance on May 13, 2020. However the hearing was postponed due to the measures taken against “coronavirus” pandemic.
The second hearing of the trial was held on October 8th, 2020. The president of the court did not allow observers to the courtroom on the pretext of the measures against the pandemic. Demir attended the hearing with her lawyer Sercan Korkmaz. The lawyer of President Tayyip Erdoğan, who filed the complaint against Demir, did not attend the hearing.
Demir said that she was the editor-in-chief of Gazete Karınca at the time the investigation was launched, and that all the news stories were published after her approval. She indicated that she was aware of the Twitter posts covered by the investigation, but that these did not contain any insult. Arguing that the Twitter posts in question had news content, she demanded to be acquitted.
Necla Demir accepted the deferment of the announcement of a possible prison sentence. The judge asked if she would be willing to accept a community sentence with the same duration of the sentence. Demir stated that she would accept that option.
Lawyer Sercan Korkmaz stated that the indictment in the case was problematic and argued that the indictment was based on a single phrase in the news story. Korkmaz said that they did not accept the charges, demanding the acquittal of Demir.
The hearing prosecutor presented his judicial opinion. In the judicial opinion, the prosecutor claimed that “there was no clear evidence for the offense of insulting the President” in the posts in question. It was claimed that “the posts constituted criticism.” The prosecutor requested Necla Demir’s acquittal in his judicial opinion.
The trial was adjourned to hear Ahmet Özel -the lawyer of the complainant President Tayyip Erdoğan- who did not attend the hearing. The journalist Necla Demir was relieved from her obligation to attend the hearing.
The third hearing was held on October 28th, 2020. The president of the court had not changed and he closed the hearing to the public on the pretext of the measures against the coronavirus pandemic. Journalist Necla Demir did not attend the hearing. Demir was represented at the hearing by Sercan Korkmaz, her lawyer. The lawyer of President Tayyip Erdoğan, who filed the complaint about Demir, did not attend the hearing.
The hearing prosecutor reiterated his judicial opinion, which he had submitted previously. In his judicial opinion, he requested Demir to be acquitted.
The court ruled to acquit Demir.
The court issued the justification for the acquittal verdict on the same day. The justified verdict included references to the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights, the Turkish Constitutional Court and Court of Cassation. The justified verdict read as follows:
“According to a well-established principle of Turkish law and international courts’ rulings, the scope of criticisms towards politicians is wider than those for private citizens. In their rulings, the ECHR and the Court of Cassation have repeatedly stated that individuals engaged in politics may have to endure harsh, strong and even offensive criticism, and that this situation is an indispensable element of life in a democratic society. The reason for this principle is that unlike private citizens, politicians willingly choose to become public figures who are open to scrutiny by journalists and the public. Politicians therefore have to tolerate a greater degree of criticism.”
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