A lawsuit was brought against journalist Rahmi Yıldırım for the article titled “Genelkurmay Başkanı İçin Çok Üzüyorum” (“I’m So Sad for the Chief of General Staff”) published on his personal blog on February 3, 2017.
It was claimed that Yıldırım thereby insulted the then-Chief of General Staff, Hulusi Akar.
However, the trial was brought not upon a complaint by Hulusi Akar, but due to an anonymous, unsigned tip-off to the Antalya Police Department.
The indictment was accepted by Ankara Gölbaşı 3. Criminal Court of First Instance and a lawsuit was filed against Yıldırım with a request of imprisonment from 1 year, 2 months to 2 years, 4 months.
The first hearing of the trial was held on October 2, 2019. Yıldırım said that he did not use a single word of insult in his article but only ironic criticism, and that he truly “felt sad for Akar.”
2nd and final hearing of the case took place at December 25th, 2019. At the end of the trial, he was acquitted.
Rahmi Yıldırım - Akar Hakaret Davası (İddianame)
The judiciary investigation no. 2016/157051 was launched by Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in 2016 when the Hacker group RedHack leaked e-mails by the then-Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Berat Albayrak. However the investigation was not about the issues revealed by the leaks, but rather against the journalists who covered the matter in news articles.
According to the information provided in the indictment drafted later, it was a tip-off e-mail sent to Istanbul Police Department on December 20, 2016 which prompted the prosecutor’s office to take action. According to this tip-off, “18-19 journalists sponsored by terrorist organizations” began to share the e-mails leaked by Redhack. As a result, six journalists were detained on December 25, 2016.
The journalists were kept in custody for 24 days, and among them, Birgün reporter Mahir Kanaat, DİHA news manager Ömer Çelik and editor of the news portal Diken, Tunca Öğreten were arrested by 8. Criminal Court of Peace. ETHA News Manager Derya Okatan, owner of Yolculuk newspaper Eray Saygın and DİHA reporter Metin Yoksu were released on condition of judicial control. The journalists who reported on Minister Albayrak’s e-mails leaked by the hacker group were charged with “membership of an armed terrorist organization ”, “committing a crime on behalf of the terrorist organization, without being its member”, “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization”, “blocking or disrupting an information system, destroying or altering its data”.
Istanbul Public Prosecutor Yakup Ali Kahveci drafted the indictment (no. 2017/3327) against the journalists on June 23, 2017, and a lawsuit was filed with İstanbul 29. High Criminal Court. In the indictment, prosecutor Kahveci mentioned the groups PKK/KCK, DHKP-C, MLKP, FETÖ/PDY and ISIS, arguing that these acted in union to denigrate the constitutional organs of the Turkish state and their representatives. The prosecutor claimed that the hacker group Redhack which had broken into Berat Albayrak’s e-mail account and then published his correspondence had links to DHKP-C. In the indictment, Kahveci also stated that Redhack had altered the e-mail correspondence by Albayrak before publishing it.
As regards the news stories published by journalists to uphold the public interest, the prosecutor stated that these stories were designed to “Defame the energy minister Berat Albayrak and the legitimate government of which he is a part”, “damage the national energy policy” and “create the perception that the government and Minister Albayrak have links to the terrorist organization ISIS.” The basis for these charges was the statements of the secret witness using the pseudonym “Çakı” presented to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. According to the claims of the secret witness, Redhack had uploaded the correspondence by Berat Albayrak to two separate e-mail accounts, and shared the passwords of these accounts over Twitter to a group of journalists. And their purpose was to create a “perception”, the very fashionable judiciary buzzword of recent years. In addition, the prosecutor included in the indictment the journalists’ social media posts and telephone conversations with their colleagues arrested or released in other cases, such as Deniz Yücel, as evidence of “propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “links with a terrorist organization”.
In addition, prosecutor Kahveci presented a police enquiry report concerning the anti-corruption operations of December 17/25 found among Birgün correspondent Mahir Kanaat’s belongings, as evidence of his membership to FETÖ. The first hearing of the case was held on October 24, 2017. Mahir Kanaat, Ömer Çelik and Tunca Öğreten appeared before court after 304 days in detention, and the panel of judges was chaired by Mustafa Çakar, the former judge of 8. Criminal Court of Peace who had ordered their arrest in the first place. Journalists presented their defense at the hearing.
ETHA News Manager Derya Okatan stated that she reported on the e-mail correspondence by Berat Albayrak leaked by Redhack and published on the Wikileaks web site for journalistic purposes, since public interest was at stake, and asked “Why did the minister discuss the secrets of the state in his personal e-mail account?”. Okatan pointed out that the investigation was launched 3 months after the e-mails were leaked, underlined the unlawful and inconsistent aspects of the prosecutor’s indictment, and emphasized the parallels between the indictment and some news articles published in pro-government media outlets.
Eray Sargın, the publisher of the daily Yolculuk, stated in his defense that the e-mails in question had news value and that all reporting on this issue fell within the scope of freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
Birgün reporter Mahir Kanaat stated that they had not been provided any information about the proceedings for the first 24 days that they were in custody due to the secrecy of the investigation, and that they learned about the charges against them from the Sabah newspaper: “So the supposed secrecy covered us but not the Sabah newspaper.” Kanaat reminded the court of Redhack’s statement that they had created the Twitter group in question themselves and added the journalists; he indicated that he did not save the said e-mails and did not report on them. Kanaat underlined that it is not a crime for him to follow Redhack’s Twitter account. As for the accusation that he is a “FETÖ member”, he responded, “I am a leftist coming from a leftist family. It is not possible for me to greet, let alone meet a right-winger. I consider this accusation to be an insult”.
Concerning his phone call to the journalist Deniz Yücel, which the prosecutor cited in the indictment as a criminal act, Kanaat stated, “Deniz Yücel is a journalist. A dialogue between two journalists is no different than a dialogue between two judges. Furthermore, it was not the prosecutor who ‘discovered’ Yücel’s identity, I told him that I spoke to Yücelon the phone”. Kanaat rejected the charge of “blocking or disrupting an information system, destroying or altering its data”, that is hacking, and indicated that they were held in prison for 10 months without any evidence, and that his son born in that period did not even recognize him.
DİHA correspondent Metin Yoksu stated in his defense that he was added to the Twitter group mentioned in the indictment against his will, and did not keep track of what was written in the group.
DİHA news director Ömer Çelik stated that he wanted to present his defense in his mother tongue, Kurdish, and that he was tortured at the time of his detention and then at the Diyarbakır Police Department. Afterwards, he was brought to Istanbul and was able to learn about the accusations only 24 days later.
Çelik stated, “Should we not see, write, or say that the king is naked?” In his speech, Çelik underlined the unlawfulness in Turkey, State of Emergency policies, and the pressure on the media, especially dissident and Kurdish media outlets.
News web site Diken’s editor Tunca Öğreten stated that he was accused of MLKP membership while being detained in his home, of DHKP-C membership at the police station, of Redhack membership at the prosecutor’s office, and of FETÖ membership at court. He indicated that in his news article he hadn’t commited any of the crimes attributed to him. Öğreten underlined that his news article did not mention the government’s energy policy nor establish a connection between ISIS and the energy minister, and that it was the prosecutor who made such a baseless association. Pointing to the absurdity of filing a lawsuit not about the topics which surfaced but against the news stories about the leak, Öğreten added that he was added to the group on Twitter against his will, left the group 2 days later and accessed the e-mails via the link shared on that group. In response to being accused in the indictment for following various Twitter accounts, he stated, “I follow leftist groups as well as ISIS-linked accounts on Twitter. Does that make me a jihadist Marxist?”.
Öğreten emphasized that there was indeed public interest in publishing news on these issues which were made the subject of the accusations, and demanded his release. Ömer Çelik, one of the detained journalists, was released at the first hearing, where the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Berat Albayrak demanded to take part in the trial proceedings. The court ordered the continuation of Mahir Kanaat and Tunca Öğreten’s detention.
Kanaat and Öğreten were released at the second hearing held on December 6, 2017. The next hearings of the case, where no detained defendants were left, were held on April 3 and September 13, 2018. The court is expecting an expert report on the digital examination of the evidence. The court rejected the defense lawyers’ demand that the judicial controls of the journalists be discontinued and the confiscated computers be returned to their owners. The sixth hearing of the case was held on January 8, 2019.
The next hearing was scheduled for April 16, 2019. The 8. hearing of the case was held on September 24, 2019. The panel of judges ordered the return of the seized digital materials to their owners and adjourned the trial until February 6, 2020.
RedHack Davası (İddianame)
An investigation was initiated against journalist Rojhat Doğru on allegations of “membership of a terrorist organization” by Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Doğru was investigated for following the “Kobane protests” organized in Diyarbakır in October 2014 for journalistic purposes. After the ISIS assault on the city of Kobane, in northern Syria, protests had taken place in Diyarbakır and neighboring towns, and dozens of people had lost their lives in the clashes. Massive demonstrations were held in the Bağlar district of Diyarbakır on October 6-9. Right after these demos, Doğru’s photos were published by media outlets close to Hizbullah and he was targeted. It was claimed that Doğru carried a gun, although it was seen in the photos that he was holding a camera. In this context, an investigation was launched against Doğru upon a complaint by R.Ö. who was wounded during the protests.
Doğru was detained on December 5, 2018 in Istanbul as part of the investigation. On the same day, he gave his statement over the judiciary videoconferencing system SEGBİS. Following his statement, the Diyarbakır 5. Criminal Court of Peace issued an arrest warrant against him on charges of “membership of a terrorist organization”.
After the arrest warrant, he was taken to Silivri High Security Closed Prison.
The indictment about Doğru was drafted and submitted to court by Bayram Örenci on June 21, 2018. In the three-page indictment, Doğru was accused of “attempting to destroy the unity of the state and the integrity of the country” and “attempting premeditated murder”. R.Ö. figured as complainant in the indictment. In addition to complainant R.Ö.’s statements and open source examination reports, the social media posts of Doğru were also presented as evidence in the indictment.
The indictment was accepted by Diyarbakır 8. High Criminal Court. The first hearing of the case was scheduled for January 10.
Journalist Doğru was not brought to the courtroom. Instead, he was connected to the courtroom from Silivri High Security Closed Prison over SEGBİS. His lawyer Resul Tamur represented Doğru. Mikail Demir (chairman of the panel of judges), Ümran Ekinci and Ceren Kara Akkaş (judges) and prosecutor Oğuz Özkan were present.
Doğru presented his defense over SEGBİS, and said the following: “I got acquainted with the complainant when he interviewed me in 2015. I had no other contact with him. The television he did the interview for supports the political party HÜDA-PAR. He works at İlke News Agency. I received an award in 2015 for the footage I shot. After I received the award, he started accusing me. After that I filed a criminal complaint against him. I also filed a criminal complaint against those who made the news storied that targeted me.
“I did not shoot at any person in any way, this is slander. As you can see in the photos, I was not among the crowd, I was not there to join the protest. I’m not among the ranks of those chanting slogans. I took the other photos mentioned in the indictment in Sulaymaniyah. The head office of the television I work for is there. It is a region close to Qandil. This is an area where the populace come for picnic, and since there began peace negotiations, there was no war. I went there for news coverage. I took the photo and I shared it on social media. Later on, HÜDA-PAR members shared these photos on social media and targeted me.
“I was there in my capacity as a journalist. I got an award for the footage I shot there. Even the Diyarbakır Chief of Police was present at that award ceremony. I was there because I was a journalist. The person who filed a complaint against me claims to have identified me, and they take the photos from my social media account. I’m a journalist, and I demand my acquittal”
The journalists that Doğru worked with were also heard as witnesses at the hearing. The next hearing was scheduled for February 26, 2019. Doğru was not brought to the second hearing either. He participated over SEGBİS, from the prison where he was detained. Ercan Arslan (chairman of the panel of judges), Mikail Demir and Ceren Kara Akkaş (judges) and prosecutor Oğuz Özkan were present.
During this short hearing, the court ordered the release of Doğru considering that the evidence was gathered to a large extent and the possibility of a change in the criminal offense attributed to him. Doğru was released on condition of judicial control, with a ban on going abroad.
The trial was adjourned until May 30, 2019. The complainant R.Ö. did not attend the first two hearings of the case.
Neither did he participate in the third hearing. At this hearing, an individual named D.G. was heard as witness since Doğru had his phone number. D.G., who was detained in Diyarbakır D-Type Closed Prison for a separate offense, stated that he did not know Doğru.
At the end of the hearing, the court issued an arrest warrant in absentia for the complainant R.Ö. to be brought to the next hearing, and adjourned the trial.
The next hearing was scheduled for October 15, 2019 at 11:20 a.m. At this hearing, the court ordered the discontinuation of the judicial control for Doğru. The court adjourned the trial until January 14, 2020.