Yasin Kobulan - “Propaganda of Terrorist Organization in Successive Intervals” Trial

Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation against journalist Yasin Kobulan in 2016, upon a criminal complaint filed by Musa Çitil, the then Diyarbakır Regional Commander of Gendarmerie. Çitil had filed complaints against nine people in total; seven of them including Kobulan were journalists.

Çitil’s complaint concerned the news story titled “The name of the siege: ‘Flag 12’, and its commander Musa Çitil” published in DİHA, concerning the military operations in Diyarbakır’s Sur district. The news story recounted the developments regarding the military operation during the curfew declared in the district, and stated that the operation’s commander was Musa Çitil.

The investigation was initiated in Diyarbakır, and Kobulan testified in Istanbul, where his residence is. However, the investigation file was merged with a separate investigation file opened by Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for allegedly “spreading propaganda for a terror organization”.

The lawsuit concerning the other six journalists mentioned in Çitil’s petition of complaint ended on December 18th, 2019. The six journalists were acquitted.

Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, launched an investigation against journalist Yasin Kobulan for his social media posts in 2015. He was accused of “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation”.

The indictment against journalist Yasin Kobulan, was completed by Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, Press Related Crimes Investigation Bureau on October 1st, 2018.

It was claimed that Kobulan, with these posts, “had shown Turkish Armed Forces’ (TSK) operations in Southwestern Turkey towards the terrorist organisation as massacres” . Kobulan, within this scope, was claimed to have “committed the crime of making propaganda for a terrorist organisation.”

In the indictment, Kobulan was accused of “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation in a successive manner” according to the article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law and article 43 of the Turkish Penal Code. Kobulan was requested to be sentenced to, from one year three months to eight years nine months of imprisonment.

Journalist Yasin Kobulan’s trial started with the first hearing held at Istanbul 30th Assize Court on December 26th, 2018.

Kobulan presented his defence argument at the first hearing. Kobulan stressed that his subject matter social media posts were made as news from Diyarbakır where he was working as a journalist and they were acts of journalism .He stated that his social media posts were added to the case files at Istanbul Police Headquarters where he went to give a statement with his attorneys after the complaint against him was sent to Istanbul, where he was working at the moment, with a decision of rejection of the venue by Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office

Prosecutor of the case, presented his opinion at the first hearing. However it was noteworthy that the prosecutor said that his opinion was ready. Therefore it was seen that the opinion was prepared before the first hearing where the defence arguments were made.

Prosecutor requested Kobulan to be sentence with the accusation of “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation in a successive manner through press” whereas in the indictment he was accused of “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation in a successive manner”. Hearing was postponed for defences against the opinion as to the accusation.

Second hearing of the case was held on March 8th, 2019. Kobulan, was sentenced to one year six months 22 days of imprisonment for “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation in a successive manner through press”. Announcement of the sentence was deferred.

On March 8th, 2019, Kobulan’s lawyer Özcan Kılıç appealed against the verdict of Istanbul 30th High Criminal Court. The demand for appeal was examined by Istanbul 31st High Criminal Court. On April 12th, 2019, the latter court upheld the verdict stating that announcement of the deferment of the verdict was in accordance with legal procedures and laws. As such, the verdict against Kobulan was finalized.

The Constitutional Court Proceedings

Kobulan applied to the Constitutional Court on May 8th, 2019, upon the finalization of the verdict. In his petition, it was stated that the news articles that Kobulan shared via his social media account fell within the principle of “apparent truth”, and that the verdict of the district court went against the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court and European Court of Human Rights. Applicants; It was also indicated that Kobulan’s “right to explain and disseminate his thoughts” and “right to fair trial” were violated. The Court’s review of the petition is under way.

The Constitutional Court reached a verdict on September 16th, 2020, and rejected Kobulan’s claim that his “right to express and spread ideas” and “freedom of expression” were violated. The verdict was based on the argument that “there was no interference with the fundamental rights and freedoms set forth in the Constitution, or the interference did not constitute a violation of rights”.

In its verdict, the Court also rejected the allegation that “the right to a fair trial was violated” through the deferment of the announcement of the verdict, stating that the allegation “lacked any justification”.

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