Charges were pressed against eight individuals, seven of whom are journalists, for sharing in their social media account the news story “Kuşatmanın adı ‘Bayrak 12’, başındaki isim Musa Çitil” (“Name of the siege is ‘Bayrak 12’, and it is led by Musa Çitil”) about the military operation in Sur district, led by Gendarmerie Deputy General Commander, Lieutenant General Musa Çitil.
Çitil filed a complaint with Diyarbakır Chief Prosecutor’s Office claiming that he was being “targeted” with the said story. Upon this complaint, an investigation was launched against Ömer Çelik, News Manager of Dicle News Agency (DİHA) shuttered by a Decree Law; DİHA reporters Çağdaş Kaplan, Hamza Gündüz, Selman Çiçek and journalist A. Vahap Taş; İnan Kızılkaya, the Managing Director of the shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper who posted the story on the newspaper’s official social media account; the newspaper’s Publisher Kemal Sancılı; and a social media user named S.G.
In February 2016, Diyarbakır Chief Prosecutor’s Office completed its investigation against those who shared the story on their social media accounts and drafted an indictment. The indictment, requested 1 to 3 years in prison for the seven journalists on charges of “Targeting individuals having taken part in the fight against terror.”
An additional prison sentence of 1 to 5 years was requested for DİHA reporter Selman Çiçek for “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” with his social media posts. In their defense, journalists acknowledged that they shared the news story in their social media accounts.
The indictment further claimed that the DİHA reporter Selman Çiçek committed the crime of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” by praising and legitimizing the violent acts of the organization through his social media posts.
The indictment was accepted by Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court and the first hearing was held on October 3, 2018.
Musa Çitil submitted a 40-page petition to Aydın 2nd High Criminal Court two days before the hearing on January 16. In reference to reporters’ testimony that “We published a news story under the scope of the freedom of press,” he claimed that “Considering the timing and continuity of the said posts, it is evident that these individuals have persisted in their support and propaganda activities for the separatist terror group by posting my name and photo; they have tried to denigrate the successful anti-terror operations conducted by myself, all members of Gendarmerie General Command and other security forces by penning and posting fabricated news; and they have attempted to demoralize security personnel performing their duty with success.”
In his petition, Çitil also submitted ‘additional evidence’ against the journalists in question, namely news stories about the trial and its first hearing published in various media outlets. In his petition to the court, Çitil also submitted his verdict of acquittal given by Çorum 2nd High Criminal Court and upheld by Court of Cassation, in the lawsuit concerning the murder of 13 villagers in the Derik district of Mardin. Çitil demanded to participate in the trial and asked for the severest punishment for the journalists.
The forth hearing of the trial took place on October 2, 2019. In the hearing, the prosecutor, submitted his judicial opinion, claiming that the defendants, in their social media posts, targeted Musa Çitil who took part in the military operation dubbed “Bayrak 12” against PKK. As such, he requested that they be sentenced as per Article 6/1 of Anti-Terror Law, No. 3713 for targeting individuals having taken part in the fight against terror. The trial was adjourned until December 18, 2019, since the journalists and their lawyers demanded time for drafting additional defense.
At the last hearing, the court board ruled for journalists’ acquittal due to the elements of the crime not being constituted.