Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation against those criticizing the Operation Olive Branch initiated by the Turkish Armed Forces on January 22, 2018 into the Afrin province of northern Syria. Under the scope of the investigation, 12 people, including journalists Demir and Hürtaş, were detained on the evening of the same day in house raids.
The suspects were taken to the indoor gym used by Ankara Police Department, Anti-Terror Branch as a detention center.
During the police interrogation, Demir and Hürtaş were questioned about their social media posts on the Afrin operation.
Journalist Hürtaş was referred to the prosecutor’s office at the Ankara Courthouse on January 25, 2018. Her statement was taken on charges of “publicly inciting the population to hatred and animosity” and “spreading propaganda of a terrorist organization via the media”. Hürtaş was subsequently released on condition of judicial control.
Journalist Demir was brought to Ankara Courthouse on January 26, 2018. Before he was taken to the prosecutor’s office, he was referred to Criminal Court of Peace on the same charges, with a request for his arrest. The judge on duty ordered that Demir be released with a ban on leaving the country.
The indictment against the defendants was completed on April 9, 2018 by a prosecutor at the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. A lawsuit was filed when Ankara 15. High Criminal Court accepted the indictment on May 14, 2018.
The first hearing of the trial was scheduled for September 6, 2018.
At the first hearing, the court ordered the release of 3 defendants under arrest.
At the second hearing of the trial, the defendants’ requests for additional time for preparing their defense was accepted and the trial was adjourned until January 22, 2019. All the defendants were excluded from hearing.
The third hearing was held on March 27, 2019. At the hearing, the prosecutor, requested that the permission of Ministry of Justice be requested for trying seven defendants including Demir for “defaming The Turkish nation, Republic of Turkey, state institutions and organs” as per Turkish Penal Code, Article 301. The court decided to apply to the Ministry of Justice for the investigation of Demir and 6 other defendants as per Article 301.
The next hearing of the case was scheduled for July 3, 2019. At this hearing, the investigation permission letter from the Ministry of Justice had not yet arrived, and therefore, the trial was adjourned until December 3, 2019.
In the hearing, suspects’ request to lift the ban on leaving the country was denied. The hearing was adjourned due to the investigation permits against Demir and some other suspects that were requested from the Ministry of Justice not arriving in time. Next hearing was set to March 26th, 2020.
The 7th hearing of the case could not be held on 27 March 2020, as planned. The trial, postponed to 25 June due to “Coronavirus” pandemic measures.
The eighth hearing of the trial was held on June 25th, 2020. The court had requested a permission from the Ministry of Justice to launch an investigation against Hayri Demir, as per Turkish Penal Code, Article 301. However, the Ministry of Justice had not responded to the request.
The testimony against Demir by a person living in Bursa was included in the case file. The president of the court read out loud the testimony. Accordingly, the individual in question claimed that he saw Demir in the Qamishli region of Syria in December 2015, Demir was working for Dicle News Agency (DİHA) at the time, and he was reporting for DİHA in this region.
Demir said that in December 2015 he was working as a journalist in Syria, and that he knew the person who testified against him, as a journalist. Demir said that the statements in question were not related to the current file against him and stated that these same statements were also included in the other file against him.
Journalist Sibel Hürtaş stated in her defense speech that she was accused of “spreading propaganda for a terror organization” as per Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law, but that the said article had been amended by the so-called “Judiciary Reform Package”. Hürtaş said, “It seems that the “1. Judiciary Reform Package has not entered into force here”, and requested compliance with the law.
Demir’s and Hürtaş’s lawyer Nuray Özdoğan demanded the cancellation of the journalists’ overseas travel bans.
The court ruled to continue the journalists’ overseas travel bans. The court also ruled to await the permission of the Ministry of Justice to launch an investigation against Hayri Demir, as per Turkish Penal Code, Article 301.
The 9th hearing of the trial took place on November 25th, 2020. A member of the panel of judges had changed. Demir and Hürtaş and their lawyers Nuray Özdoğan did not attend. Demir was represented by another lawyer, Ebru Akkal.
The Ministry of Justice had still not responded to the request to launch an investigation against Hayri Demir, as per Turkish Penal Code, Article 301.
Lawyer Ebru Akkal demanded the cancellation of journalist Demir’s overseas travel bans. Akkal said, “The probation measures are in place since two years. This not only prevents my client from carrying out his profession, but also violates his freedom to travel.” Indicating that it is uncertain how much longer the trial will continue, Akkal added, “This goes against the rulings of European Court of Human Rights and the Constitutional Court.”
The court ruled to await the permission of the Ministry of Justice to launch an investigation against Hayri Demir.
The request for the lifting Demir’s overseas travel ban was rejected.
The trial will continue with the 10. hearing scheduled for March 4th, 2021.
Press in Arrest is a database, monitoring, documentation and collective memory study of Press Research Association.
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