A case was filed against İsmail Cem Şimşek, the then-Editor-in-Chief of Evrensel newspaper, for news stories published in August 2018 about human rights violations in Tarsus Prison. Şimşek was charged with “continuous slander against the prison administration.”
The indictment, completed by Istanbul Public Prosecutor Bülent Demirbilek on November 29, 2018, stated that “news stories and comments should not violate the rights of other individuals and should not necessitate a judicial and administrative investigation”. It was claimed that “the news stories in question necessitated judicial and administrative investigation against prison officials”.
However, the indictment did not mention that one of the stories was penned by Lawyer Tugay Bek, the President of Ankara Bar Association’s Prison Monitoring Commission, and that the other two stories were also based on Bek’s statements.
The proceedings began on February 19, 2019 at Bakırköy 2. Criminal Court of First Instance. Judge Gül Sema Çevik ordered the acquittal of İsmail Cem Şimşek.
İsmail Cem Şimşek - İftira Davası (İddianame)
A graduate of Mersin UNiversity, Faculty of Communications, the journalist İdris Sayılğan worked between 2014-2016 for the Dicle News Agency, which would later be shut down by a Decree Law. In the morning of October 17, 2016, he was taken into custody with a police raid on his house for his interviews and phone calls with news sources and the articles published during his stint at DİHA as well as his social media posts. Sayılğan was detained for seven days alone in a cell, and prevented from contacting his lawyer. On October 24, 2016, he was arrested along with five other individuals on charges of “membership of a terrorist organization”.
After spending two weeks in Muş Prison, he was transferred to Trabzon E-Type Prison, 450 km away from his family home, without any justification. Muş Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office completed the investigation 9 months after Sayılğan’s arrest and drafted the indictment. Public Prosecutor Mustafa Demirbaş, who prepared the indictment, demanded that Sayılğan be sentenced to prison for 7.5 to 15 years, for “membership of a terrorist organization”. Prosecutor Demirbaş based his claim of “membership of a terrorist organization” on Sayılğan’s 65 telephone conversations with news sources. The other five people who were tried together with Sayılğan on the same charges appeared before the judge on November 8, 2017, 13 months after being arrested. In none of the five hearings was Sayılğan brought before the judge.
Due to his long detention and the absence of efficient legal proceedings, Sayılğan’s lawyers, that is Veysel Ok and Barış Oflas from Association of Media and Legal Studies (MLSA) filed his individual application with the Constitutional Court on July 11, 2018. In the application it was stated that Sayılğan’s news stories and related interviews ought to be considered as falling within the limits of the freedom of press, and that Sayılğan was being discriminated against for working at DİHA, resulting in a violation of his personal security and freedom, safety of his private life, right to fair trial, and freedom of expression. However, the Constitutional Court did not announce a verdict. In response, lawyers from MLSA and from London-based organization for the freedom of press, Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI) filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights for journalist İdris Sayılğan who was in prison for over 2 years, on October 9. The application file points to a violation of the provisions of Articles 5, 6, 10, 13 and 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), namely the right to freedom and security, the right to a fair trial, freedom of expression, and the right to an effective remedy.
It was also emphasized that Sayılğan was detained solely for his interviews with news sources, and for the news he penned, in a clear violation of his rights to freedom of expression, and of the rights of personal security and freedom. Furthermore, it was underlined that Sayılğan is a journalist, thus demanding that the Court give priority to his case. This is the first time in Turkey that an international organization gives its support to the ECHR application by a journalist.
Sayılğan was sentenced to 8 years 3 months of imprisonment in the 6th hearing of the case at January 25th, 2019 for the accusation of “membership of an armed organisation”. The decision was taken to the appeal court by Sayılğan’s attorneys. Erzurum Regional Court of Justice, 2nd Criminal Chambers took the files in to consideration at November 27th, 2019. With the consideration, Sayılğan was released. Sayılğan left the Trabzon Prison after 1,137 days of imprisonment.
A lawsuit was filed against the former managing editors of Birgün Newspaper’s website, Barış İnce and Cansever Uğur, as well as two executives of the company publishing the newspaper, for reporting on the tweets from the Twitter account called “Fuat Avni”.
The indictment against Barış İnce, Cansever Uğur and the other two executives was completed on July 16, 2019 by Istanbul Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor, Murat Çağlak.
For reporting on the tweets by “Fuat Avni” at a time when the conflict between the government and the Gülen surfaced, İnce and Uğur were charged for “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization without taking part in its hierarchical structure”.
In the indictment it was stated that İnce and Uğur “did not use the Bylock application”, “had no records in associations, companies with links to FETÖ or in Bank Asya” and “had made no contact with FETÖ’s senior leaders”.
In the indictment, the following statement about İnce and Uğur was especially noteworthy:
“It was seen that the suspects do not have hierarchical ties with the terrorist organization, and that they published numerous news stories against the organization in the past. ”
Despite all these, İnce and Uğur were charged with ““knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization without taking part in its hierarchical structure” as per Turkish Penal Code, Articles 220/7 and 314/2. Furthermore, the prosecutor requested a 50% increase in the sentence as per Anti-Terror Law, Article 5/1. Thus, he requested prison sentences of 7.5 to 15 years for İnce and Uğur.
The indictment was accepted by Istanbul 32. High Criminal Court on August 30, 2019.
First hearing of the trial took place at November 26th, 2019. Court board announced the interlocutory judgment and ruled to give time to the prosecutor in order to prepare the opinion as to the accusations and set the next hearing to March 5th, 2020. Court board requested both parties to present their defences and opinions as to the accusations.
The decision also ruled that an official request was to be made to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to determine whether or not the journalists were members of any chambers, associations or unions.
Another article ruled that an official request was to be made to the Istanbul Security Directorate to determine the suspects’ entries and exits of hotels in order to see if the people people they were with had any FETÖ junction. 2nd hearing will be held at March 5th, 2020.
İnce, Uğur - Birgün Gazetesi Fuat Avni Davası (İddianame)
İshak Karakaş, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Halkın Nabzı and writer of Artı Gerçek web site, was taken into custody on January 22, 2018 in a house raid under the scope of the investigation against social media criticisms towards the Operation Olive Branch launched by Turkish Armed Forces into the Afrin province of Syria.
Karakaş was arrested on January 26, by Istanbul 9. Criminal Court of Peace on duty, on charges of “spreading propaganda for an organization”. Nine of the suspects along with Karakaş were arrested in this investigation against 10 suspects. According to the indictment drafted by Public Prosecutor Ergün Güçlü, Karakaş was charged for “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” pursuant to Anti-Terror Law, Article 7/2.
The first hearing of the case was held on May 8, 2018 at Istanbul 28. High Criminal Court. Defendant Karakaş and the other detainees were released on condition of judicial control. Karakaş’s probation was ended at the hearing on November 20, 2018, and his ban on going abroad was lifted on January 17, 2019.
At the hearing on January 17, the public prosecutor’s office submitted the opinion as to the accusations and requested that İshak Karakaş be sentenced for “continuously spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization”.
At the end of the trial, Karataş was sentenced to 1 year, 6 months, 22 days of imprisonment.
The news story titled “Albayrak İşçilere Saldırı Programının Sinyalini Verdi” (Albayrak Gave the Signal for a Program of Attack Against Workers”) was published on Evrensel Newspaper and its web site on July 14, 2018.
Minister of Treasury and Finance Berat Albayrak filed a complaint against İsmail Cem Şimşek, the managing editor of Evrensel Newspaper on July 20, 2018. The following was stated in the petition:
“The title of the story is very provocative and dangerous; in a very dangerous game of misperception, the newspaper has made an incorrect statement about economic policy, and presented it as a campaign of violence.…”
Albayrak didn’t just file a complaint about the news story. He also sent a “correction” to the newspaper via court. Bakırköy 1. Criminal Court of Peace accepted Albayrak’s request and a “correction and response” was sent to Evrensel Newspaper for publication. However, Albayrak then filed a second complaint against Şimşek and the newspaper’s manager, and stated in the petition dated September 27, 2018, that the correction was not published by the newspaper in line with the court decision.
In fact, the correction text sent by Albayrak had been published in the newspaper. However, it was titled “Correction” rather than “Our Response to the Fabricated News Story by Evrensel About Mr. Berat Albayrak”.
The indictment against the former managing editor of Evrensel Newspaper İsmail Cem Şimşek and the manager of the company publishing the newspaper was completed on October 30, 2018.
In the indictment, the prosecutor requested that Şimşek be sentenced for “insulting a public officer” pursuant to Articles 125/1 and 125/3-a of the Turkish Penal Code, with a prison term from 1 year to 2 years. The indictment also requested that Şimşek be handed down a heavy judicial fine of 10 to 100 thousand TL pursuant to Article 18 of the Press Law, namely “not publishing a correction or response”.
The trial took four hearings. At the end of the trial, the chair of the panel of judges, Gül Sema Çevik sentenced Şimşek to a fine of 41,660 TL for “not publishing a correction as required”. Şimşek was acquitted of the charges that he insulted Berat Albayrak with the news story.
İsmail Cem Şimşek - Albayrak Hakaret Davası (İddianame)
İsmail Cem Şimşek - Albayrak Hakaret Davası (Duruşma Tutanağı)
İsmail Cem Şimşek - Albayrak Hakaret Davası (Duruşma Tutanağı)
The former managing editor of Evrensel Newspaper, İsmail Cem Şimşek was charged with “insulting the President” as per Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code, for the news article titled “Alman Karikatüristler Erdoğan’ı Fena Çizdi” (“The German Cartoonists’ Nasty Portrayal of Erdoğan”) published on the website of the newspaper on August 1, 2015.
An investigation was launched upon Erdoğan’s complaint, and the cartoons in German were translated into Turkish.
In his statement at the prosecutor’s office İsmail Cem Şimşek stated that cartoons had been published in 2015, and pointed to the expiry of the statute of limitations. He also indicated that the cartoons’ illustrators, and the newspapers and magazines that published them were known, and that he was not responsible for the cartoons.
On March 11, 2019, a permission was received from the Ministry of Justice to sue Şimşek for “insulting the President” as per Article 299/1 of the Turkish Penal Code.
The indictment against Şimşek was completed on May 8, 2019 by Bülent Demirbilek, a prosecutor from İstanbul Bakırköy Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. The first hearing of the case was held on October 10, 2019 at Bakırköy 27. Criminal Court of First Instance. The lawyers argued that as per Press Law, the trial had to be referred to the 2. Criminal Court of First Instance, which is responsible for press-related offenses. At the second hearing held on October 31, 2019, the court ruled for lack of jurisdiction and forwarded the case to 2. Criminal Court of First Instance.
İsmail Cem Şimşek - Cumhurbaşkanına Hakaret Davası (İddianame)