Çağdaş Erdoğan was taken into custody on September 2, 2017, in Istanbul’s Kadıköy district for allegedly photographing the social facilities of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT).
Çağdaş Erdoğan was detained for 11 days and then arrested on September 13 on charges of “membership of PKK/KCK” and “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization.” An indictment was drafted against him on October 30, 2017. The 37-page indictment drafted by prosecutor Arman İlhan made ample use of screenshots from Erdoğan’s social media accounts and personal web site, presenting these as grounds for both charges. The indictment argued that Erdoğan’s claims “to have photographed MİT facilities by mistake, without knowledge of their actual function” were implausible, and claimed instead that Erdoğan took the photos “on the orders of PKK/KCK” and “with a view to collecting reconnaissance for planning terrorist attacks.”
The indictment went on to argue that Erdoğan “maintained an organic and hierarchical connection to PKK/KCK and acted in line with the instructions and calls of the organization,” and that he “made propaganda for the organization” multiple times with his posts on social media and his personal web site. Erdoğan’s first hearing took place on February 13, 2018. He was released at the first hearing.
At the fifth hearing on May 7, 2019, the prosecutor announced his opinion as to the accusations.
Accordingly the prosecutor requested that Erdoğan be acquitted on charges of “membership” but sentenced for “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” with his social media posts, as per Anti-Terror Law, Article 7/2. The prosecutor also requested that Erdoğan’s time in prison be deducted from his sentence.
At the final hearing on September 5, 2019, the court ruled that Erdoğan be acquitted on charges of “membership” and be sentenced to 1 year, 8 months in prison for “continuously spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization.” The court also ordered that the time spent in prison be deducted from the sentence, and deferred the announcement of the verdict.
Çağdaş Erdoğan - Propaganda Davası (İddianame)
Çetin Kurşun, an employee of the Azadiya Welat newspaper shuttered by a decree law, was taken into custody on February 6, 2018, in a police raid to his family home in Kızıltepe, along with his brother S.K. His computer was seized as well.
After 13 days in custody, Kurşun gave a statement to the prosecutor and was referred to the court. The court released S.K. on condition of judicial control and ordered the arrest of Çetin Kurşun on charges of “committing a crime for the terrorist organization without being its member.” Kurşun was placed in Mardin E-Type Closed Prison on February 19, 2018.
The prosecutor Kemal Doğan completed the investigation and drafted an indictment on December 11, 2018.
The indictment stated that the investigation was launched upon a written statement sent by İzmir Police Department to Mardin Police Department on January 18, 2018 indicating that the web site ciwannews.net could be linked to PKK. It was found out that the said website was registered with a phone number that belonged to Çetin Kurşun, being used by Kurşun’s brother.
The indictment consisted almost entirely of news stories and content published on the website ciwannews. Among these there were news stories dated February 7, 2018, a date when Kurşun was in custody. The indictment presented as evidence two copies of Azadiya Welat newspaper found in Kurşun’s home, a press ID for Azadiya Welat, a hard disc, a mobile phone and a drinking glass featuring the logo of the Solidarity Association of Prisoners’ Families (TUHAD-FED). It was indicated that the indictment was drafted before the criminal reports for the digital materials reached the prosecutor’s office.
In the indictment, the prosecutor requested that Çetin Kurşun and his brother be sentenced for “membership of terrorist organization” as per Turkish Penal Code, Article 314/2.
The first trial of the proceedings took place on February 7, 2019, nearly one year later. In the third hearing on May 30, 2019, the court sentenced Çetin Kurşun to three years in prison for “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization involving coercion, violence and threats,” but released him in consideration of the time he spent in jail.
The company Agrobay Seracılık, which belongs to the Bayburt Group, sued the journalist Çiğdem Toker claiming 1.5 million TL for damages for her article titled “Rusya’ya Domatesler de Bayburt’tan” (“Tomatoes sent to Russia from Bayburt”) published in Cumhuriyet newspaper.
The company claimed that Toker “publicly defamed the company” with her article. At the first hearing, the court requested information from the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Stockbreeding about tomato trade with Russia. The trial was adjourned until December 6, 2018.
Çiğdem Toker - Agrobay Davası (Şikayet Dilekçesi)
On April 22, 2018, Çiğdem Toker published an article in the Cumhuriyet newspaper titled “PTT’nin ayrıcalıklı şirketi” (The privileged company of PTT). In the article, she stated that the Turkish postal company PTT granted a tender for the procurement of 70 million TL worth of cameras to the company STM by “invitation,” that the latter received a payment of 42 million TL without having delivered any product, and that according to the trade registry gazette, STM’s board members included Reha Denemeç, an ex-MP from AKP who currently served as Chief Consultant to President. In response, PTT sued Çiğdem Toker, the then Chairman of Cumhuriyet newspaper Akın Atalay, Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu, Managing Editor Farun Eren, demanding 50 thousand TL in compensation for damages.
The first three hearings of the trial were dedicated to the completion of official paperwork. For example, the court requested a copy of Cumhuriyet newspaper featuring the article in question and an examination of Toker’s socio-economic situation.
At the end of the trial, the court ordered that the claim for compensation and trial be dropped.
Çiğdem Toker - PTT Haberi Davası (Şikayet Dilekçesi)
The mining company Şenbay Madencilik sued journalist Çiğdem Toker for her article “Tasarruf Arıyorsanız Metro İhalelerine Bakın” (Examine the Subway Tenders if You Want to Economize), in the Cumhuriyet newspaper dated October 22, 2017, requesting compensation for immaterial damages.
The company submitted a petition of complaint to the Ankara Civil Court of First Instance on November 29, 2017. The petition claimed that Toker “degraded the company, by attacking its commercial prestige”. The petition was accepted by Ankara 13. Civil Court of First Instance in May 2018 and a lawsuit was filed against Toker requesting 1.5 million in compensation for immaterial damages.
The first hearing of the case was held on December 11, 2018, at Ankara 13. Civil Court of First Instance. However, the trial was adjourned as the judge was on leave. A the second and third hearings, Şenbay Madencilik demanded that the documents for the subway tender mentioned in Toker’s article be requested from the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure.
The fourth hearing was held on October 17, 2019, at Ankara 13. Civil Court of First Instance.
Çiğdem Toker - Şenbay Haberi Davası (Şikayet Dilekçesi)
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. In his indictment, prosecutor Tufan Çaldıran 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 Abdullah Kılıç 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.
Çitil Sosyal Medya Davası (İddianame)