Bodrum Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, launched an investigation on April 2, 2020 against journalist Hakan Aygün for his social media posts.
Within the scope of the investigation, Bodrum Police made a search in Aygün’s boat at Bodrum Harbour.
Search warrant, issued by Bodrum Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, claimed that Aygün had “made numerous post on his social media accounts which are thought to have criminal content”.
Aygün was taken into custody on April 2, 2020. His laptop was seized.
During the investigation, Aygün was asked about 4 of his social media posts. According to the indictment, Aygün, in the statement he gave during the investigation phase, said that 3 of the posts belonged to him and were made to criticise the current situation, he had no intention of insult or degrading. He said he could not remember if he posted one of the subject matter posts.
Aygün was arrested by the decision of Bodrum Criminal Court of Peace on April 3, 2020. It was noteworthy that the arrest decision was taken during a period when entry and exit to/from Bodrum was forbidden due to the measures taken against the “coronavirus” pandemic. He was taken to Muğla Prison.
The indictment against him was prepared on April 6, 2020, shortly after his arrest. After the indictment was accepted, Aygün was released at the first hearing on May 6, 2020 to pend trial. The day he was released, a second indictment was prepared against him.
At the time of Aygün’s arrest and the indictment against him, measures taken against “coronavirus” pandemic were a hot button issue. Government had shared a fundraiser against the pandemic, and President Tayyip Erdoğan had shared the IBAN number to be used for the fundraiser.
It was claimed that, before the investigation was launched, Aygün, on social media and some tv programs had shared a post saying “IBAN suresi ayet 1, Ey IBAN edenler… Biz size ayrı bankalardan IBAN numaraları verdik ki IBAN edesiniz diye, hiç şüphesiz ki ahiret gününde IBAN edenle IBAN etmeyenler ayrılacaktır. (a phrase mocking a sura from the Qur’an by changing the word ‘iman’ which translates to faith/belief with the word IBAN”. It was claimed that the custody and arrest decisions were based on this post.
However this post was not included in the indictment against Aygün.
Similarly, it was claimed that the investigation against Aygün was launched after a complaint made to Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. However, in the indictment, there was nothing regarding said complaint.
The indictment included 4 of Aygün’s posts.
The indictment claimed that Aygün, “with his public posts and comments, attempted to divide the public into two camps, those who donate to the fundraiser started by the State of the Republic of Turkey against a global outbreak, and those who do not donate”. It was claimed that “he provoked the two camps he divided, against each other”. It was claimed that the post was made public by the numerous likes it received.
It was claimed that Aygün’s posts “created an explicit and imminent danger to the public security and the act was capable of disrupting the public peace and order”.
Indictment, accused Aygün of “publicly provoking hatred and hostility in public” according to the article 216/1 of Turkish Penal Code. Within this scope, he was requested to be sentenced to, from one year to three years of imprisonment.
Aygün was also accused of “publicly degrading the religious values of a section of the public” according to the article 216/3 of the Turkish Penal Code by the indictment. According to which he was requested to be sentenced to, from six months to one year of imprisonment.
In total, he was requested to be sentenced to, from one year six months to four years of imprisonment.
The indictment claimed that Aygün had committed the accused crimes “in a successive manner”. Therefore his requested sentence was requested to be increased by, from a quarter to three quarters, according to the article 43 of the Turkish Penal Code.
Therefore Aygün, in total, was requested to be sentenced to, from one year 10 months 15 days to seven years of imprisonment.
Journalist Hakan Aygün’s trial started with the first hearing at Bodrum 3rd Criminal Court of First Instance on May 6, 2020.
Aygün took part in the first hearing through the Audio and Video Information System (SEGBİS) from the prison he was being held. He stated that he did not intend to insult or degrade with is posts and that his only purpose was to criticise.
Aygün, was released to pend trial, after the time he already spent behind bars was taken into consideration.
The day Aygün was released, a second indictment was prepared. The social media post that was not in the first indictment but was claimed to be the base of the investigation and the arrest decision, was included in the second indictment.
According to the indictment, prepared by Bodrum Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office again, on May 6, 2020, Aygün shared a social media post in his account, that said “IBAN suresi ayet 1, Ey IBAN edenler… Biz size ayrı bankalardan IBAN numaraları verdik ki IBAN edesiniz diye, hiç şüphesiz ki ahiret gününde IBAN edenle IBAN etmeyenler ayrılacaktır. (a phrase mocking a sura from the Qur’an by changing the word ‘iman’ which translates to faith/belief with the word IBAN”. It was claimed that the custody and arrest decisions were based on this post.
In the second indictment Aygün was accused of “publicly degrading the religious values of a section of the public” according to the article 216/3 of the Turkish Penal Code. The total length of requested sentence for Aygün did not change as the same accusation was made in the first indictment as well.
Bodrum 3rd Criminal Court of First Instance, on May 15, 2020, ruled to consolidate the indictments.
Second hearing of the case was held on July 14, 2017. Aygün did not take part in the hearing. He was represented by his attorney Ayşenaz Gültekin Öncel.
At the hearing, it was stated that the previously-requested report of the inspection to be made on Aygün’s laptop by Cyber Crime Unit of Muğla Police had not yet arrived.
The decision to consolidate the second indictment with the case in hand was announced.
Aygün’s attorney Ayşenaz Gültekin Öncel, requested time to prepare a defence statement against the second indictment. She also stated that Hakan Aygün was to be take part in the next hearing.
The third hearing took place on October 27th, 2020. Aygün attended the hearing alone. The judge had not changed. The judge closed the hearing to the public due to the pandemic.
It was stated that, in connection to the charge leveled in the second indictment, Directorate of Religious Affairs, Turkish Trade Union of Religious Affairs and Foundations Employees, and United Teachers Union had filed a complaint against Aygün. However, the second indictment had provided no such information about the complainants.
Indicating that he did not accept the charges, Aygün stated in his defense statement that the posts mentioned in the first indictment did belong to him; however, the posts in the second indictment were not his. Aygün added, “Those posts do not belong to me. I did not publish the Twitter post mentioned in the indictment. The police reports provide no such information.”.
Aygün said, “In order to speak about the crime of insulting religious values, the act must be disruptive of public peace. The indictment does not explain how my posts could have ‘disrupted public peace’, which is a crucial element of the crime in question. Furthermore, the tweet does not denigrate the values of Islam. Quoting a surah or ayat in an article does not constitute a crime.” Aygün also requested the return of his digital materials seized by the police. He requested that the announcement of the verdict be deferred in a prison sentence is issued.
The court ruled that an expert shall examine the digital materials, and that the digital materials already copied could be returned to the defendant.
The trial will continue with the fourth hearing on January 19th, 2021.
Press in Arrest is a database, monitoring, documentation and collective memory study of Press Research Association.
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