Hakan Karasinir is a journalist since 1983. He worked as a reporter, columnist and manager for the Cumhuriyet Newspaper. After the change of the Executive Board of the Cumhuriyet Foundation, he resigned. He was prosecuted in the Cumhuriyet trial and spent 9 months in prison. He was convicted for “aiding a terrorist organization, although he does not belong to the structure of that organisation” and sentenced to 3 years and 9 months of prison. After the Court of Appeal approved the verdict on Feb. 18, 2019, he had to return to Kandıra Prison to complete the remaining 1 year and 23 days of his sentence.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Court of Cassation presented an opinion on the reversal of sentencing the defendants and added that they should be acquitted. The Chief Prosecutor’s Office demanded that a possible decision on the acquittal of the defendants after a retrial, those whose sentences were approved by the Court of Appeal should be put into account along with Hakan Kara.
The Court of Cassation’s 16th Penal Chamber reversed the decision of sentencing the defendants. Upon the decision, Hakan Kara was released from the Kandıra F Type Prison, where he was detained for 4,5 months.
Upon the request of the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, the İstanbul 5th Criminal Court of Peace ruled for an arrest warrant for the Cumhuriyet newspaper’s managers and employees on Oct. 31, 2016. Hakan Karasinir was among them. Karasinir was arrested at his home. The police who searched his residence confiscated some of the digital materials.
Karasinir testified to Murat İnam, the prosecutor who has been conducting the investigation, while he was under custody at İstanbul Police Headquarters on Nov. 4, 2016. In his testimony, Karasinir said that he was a member of the Executive Board of the Cumhuriyet Foundation and also a columnist for the Cumhuriyet newspaper. As a board member, Karasinir said that he had no authority to give instructions about any coverage and stated that they evaluated whether reports were abiding by the principles of the Cumhuriyet Foundation’s after they were published; that in journalism sometimes the headlines could match, that he was appointed to the board on 2015 and he doesn’t have any knowledge about the money transactions.
Prosecutor İnam sent Hakan Karasinir to the İstanbul 9th Criminal Court of Peace with the request of arrest on Nov. 4, 2016. The court ruled to pretrial detention of Karasinir for “aiding and abetting an organization knowingly and willingly, although he does not belong to the structure of that organization” (TPC 220/7) on Nov. 5, 2016.
Mehmet Akif Ekinci, the deputy of the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor and Yasemin Baba, a junior prosecutor with the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued the Cumhuriyet indictment on April 3, 2017. In the indictment, Karasinir was charged for “aiding and abetting an organization knowingly and willingly, although he does not belong to the structure of that organization” (TPC 220/7) and “abuse of trust” (TPC 155). In the indictment, it was claimed that Karasinir was responsible for the alleged change in the newspaper’s editorial policy.
The İstanbul 27th High Criminal Court accepted the indictment on April 19, 2017.
The first hearing of the trial was held in the Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court in Çağlayan on July 24, 2017.
Karasinir defended himself on July 25, 2017. In his defense, he said that he had been working at the Cumhuriyet newspaper for 34 years and added:
“More than 2000 reports, interviews, and articles of mine were published in the newspaper and none of them were praising FETÖ [Fethullahist Terrorist Organization- The followers of Fethullah Gülen, an Islamist living in self-imposed exile in the US that is accused of orchestrating a 15th of July coup attempt. The Turkish government declared FETÖ as a terrorist organization and it has been approved by Turkish courts after 2016]. Throughout my journalistic career, I have never written a single line for FETÖ, PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a Kurdish separatist group which has been at war with the Turkish state for the past four decades] or DHKP-C [Revolutionist People’s Salvation Party-Front, a far-left group]. I don’t have any affiliation with any of the terrorist organizations. I am against all kinds of violence. I am against terrorism. And I say, journalism is not a crime.”
“Today, Turkey became the jailer of the most journalists in the world,” said Karasinir before he continued:
“More than 160 journalists are behind the bars. Even Uganda left us behind. These are the data of the international reports. This doesn’t suit Turkey. Under the name of fighting against FETÖ, the newspapers and the journalists who report coverage that displeased the government are under pressure. Journalists are imprisoned. They [meaning AKP] want to exterminate independent journalism in Turkey. This is not right. However, the freedom of press is the public’s right to be informed. If the freedom of press doesn’t exist, democracy cannot exist. We want to express our views freely and work as journalists.”
The court ruled to release Hakan Karasinir along with six of the 12 imprisoned journalists on July 28, 2017, with a travel ban under judicial control.
In the seventh hearing of trial, which was held on March 16, 2018, the prosecutor Hacı Hasan Bölükbaşı explained his opinion of the accusations. Bölükbaşı recommended sentencing Hakan Karasinir for the charges of “aiding terrorist organizations.”
The final hearing of the trial was held on April 24, 2018. In his last defense, Karasinir said, “In this trial, not only was the Cumhuriyet newspaper prosecuted, but also journalism and the freedom of expression. This is the first time I have witnessed that the editorial policy became an accusation. This is a negative direction. Turkey is among the countries in which the freedom of press declines rapidly. It is among the countries which jails the journalists most. This doesn’t suit us.”
The court reached a verdict on April 25, 2018. In its verdict, the court found Hakan Karasinir guilty for “aiding and abetting terrorist organizations PKK, DHKP-C, and FETÖ/PDY knowingly and willingly, although he does not belong to the structure of those organizations” and sentenced him to 3 years and 9 months of prison.
In the reasoning of the verdict, the court stated, “Along with the other defendants who are the board members of the Cumhuriyet Foundation, [Hakan Karasinir] was in an ineffective stance against the change in the newspaper’s editorial policy which started with the appointment of Can Dündar as the editor-in-chief and therefore, [he had] the intention and will to publish contents which contradicted the principles of the foundation voucher and aided organizations.”
İstanbul Regional Court of Justice’s 3rd Penal Chamber approved the verdict on Feb. 18, 2019. The defense attorneys appealed the verdict to the Court of Cassation’s 16th Penal Chamber on Feb. 26, 2019.
In the Court of Appeal’s decision, it was stated that there was no unlawfulness in the local court’s verdict regarding the procedure or the merits of the case. The Court of Appeal did not find any deficiencies either in the evidences or in the processing of the local court’s file. It ruled taht the local court’s actions were accurate and complied with the crime types that were prevenient by the law. It also ruled that the decisions of sentencing was lawful.
The Court of Cassation
The Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Court of Cassation presented an opinion on the reversal of sentencing the Cumhuriyet Newspaper’s other workers and added that they should be acquitted. The Chief Prosecutor’s Office demanded that a possible decision on the acquittal of the defendants after a retrial, those whose sentences were approved by the Court of Appeal should be put into account along with Hakan Kara.
The Court of Cassation’s 16th Penal Chamber reversed the decision of sentencing the defendants. Upon the decision, Hakan Kara was released from the Kandıra F Type Prison, where he was detained for 4,5 months along with Güray Tekin Öz and Musa Kart.
In the reasoned decision of 16th Penal Chamber, it was stated that the principle of “defendant benefits from the suspicion” should be applied.
In the decision, the expressions about Cumhuriyet Newspaper as “known as its oppositional identity” were used. It was also stated that freedom of thought and expression should also include the ideas which are not approved by a part of the public.
In the decision, it was mentioned that for committing the crime of aiding an organization, there should be “an intention.” For detecting “an intention”, the existence of the organization and its members’ identites should also be known. There should be a concrete evidence for the crime of “aiding an organization intentionally and voluntarily.”
In the decision; it was mentioned that the fundamental condition of punishment is the detection of crime without any suspicion. Suspicious and ambigious allegations cannot be interpreted against the defendants for a decision of sentence.
It was emphasized in the decision that the court committees were mistaken about the assessment of evidences.
When the decision of the first instance court was reversed, Musa Kart, Hakan Kara and Güray Tekin Öz were availed of the decision.
In the decision, these expressions were used about Musa Kart, Hakan Kara and Güray Tekin Öz who were sentenced to less than 5 years in prison and thus could not appeal to the Court of Cassation:
“The defendants who are being prosecuted in the scope of the same case cannot be sentenced to different impositions of penalty. This hinders the manifestation of justice, decreases trust to the judicial authorities and contradict with the principles of equality and fairness…”
The retrial of all the defendants will start at the Istanbul 27th Heavy Penal Court.
The Constitutional Court
Ten defendants, including Hakan Karasinir, have applied to the Constitutional Court on Dec. 6, 2016. The concerned branch of the court sent Karasinir’s file to the General Assembly of the Court in July 2018.
The General Assembly of the Constitutional Court reached a decision on May 2, 2019 about Musa Kart, Hakan Kara and Güray Tekin Öz. The Constitutional Court ruled that there was no violation of personal liberty or security rights and the freedom of press or expression.
The Court pointed out that the journalist on trial were managers of the Cumhuriyet Newspaper. Therefore, they were influential in determining the publishing policy and they were responsible for the news reports and articles published by it.
Cumhuriyet Newspaper Trial (Indictment)
Cumhuriyet Newspaper Trial (Reasoned Judgement)
Cumhuriyet Newspaper Trial (The Constitutional Court's Judgement)
Cumhuriyet Newspaper Trial (Notification of the Prosecutor's Office (CoC))
Cumhuriyet Newspaper Trial (The Court of Cassation's Judgement)
Cumhuriyet Newspaper Trial (The Court of Appeal's Judgement)