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The pro-opposition newspaper Sözcü on May 19 published a blank edition under the headline, "May 19 press freedom special edition" to protest the arrest of two of its journalists the day before.

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of May 21, 2017

May 22, 2017 10:51 AM ET

Two journalists arraigned, finance manager released
A court in Istanbul arraigned Gökmen Ulu and Mediha Olgun, journalists for the secularist, nationalist daily Sözcü, one of the last remaining widely circulated newspapers to be consistently critical of the government, on charges of "committing a crime in the name of a [terrorist] organization without being a member, the news website T24 reported this evening. The court ordered Sözcü's finance manager, Yonca Yücekaleli, released, T24 reported.

Turkish soldiers capture journalist at Greek border
Soldiers guarding Turkey's border with Greece captured Murat Çapan, the former news editor for the shuttered monthly publication Nokta, along with seven other people, the daily newspaper Evrensel reported yesterday, citing the Doğan News Agency. Çapan and four of the other people apprehended are wanted on suspicion of being followers of exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom the government accuses of masterminding a failed July 2016 military coup.

Istanbul's 14th Court for Serious Crimes sentenced Çapan in absentia to 22 years and 6 months in prison earlier this week. He testified before the court via teleconference from the Edirne Courthouse, Evrensel reported yesterday.

Journalist on trial for 'insulting the president'
Ayşenur Arslan was on trial on charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for criticizing authorities' confiscation of Nokta on show on the pro-opposition Halk TV, Evrensel reported on May 24. The cover of the confiscated edition featured a collage depicting Erdoğan taking a selfie at a soldier's funeral with a mobile phone.

Erdoğan said of the cover: "Those who made this cover are dishonest, and they will pay the price. I will never turn my back on a martyr's coffin. I am not that dishonest, but I am sure those who made this cover will pay the price."

Arslan told the court that she had not commented on Nokta's cover itself on her show, but had said only that confiscating the magazine was a violation of press freedom.

Editor arrested
Police in Istanbul on May 24 arrested Sezgin Kartal, news editor of the leftist magazine Sosyalist Dayanışma and a volunteer correspondent for the citizen journalist platform Dokuz8Haber, from the Çağlayan Courthouse, Dokuz8Haber reported on Medium.

Istanbul's 13th Court for Serious Crimes on January 17, 2017, sentenced Kartal to 15 months in prison on charges of "making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization" in connection with an article from the April 2016 edition of Sosyalist Dayanışma, which the court ruled was propaganda for the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), but Kartal was free, pending appeal, until the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's verdict. Kartal was at the Çağlayan Courthouse to stand trial for another investigation when police detained him and sent him to serve his sentence at Istanbul's Metris Prison.

Macron, Merkel, raise jailed journalists with Erdoğan at NATO summit
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel raised Turkey's imprisonment of French national Mathias Depardon and Deniz Yücel with Erdoğan at yesterday's NATO summit, according to media reports. Erdoğan has repeatedly called Yücel as a "terrorist" and a "spy," and has vowed he will never be released as long as he is in office.

Police detain two journalists
Police in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır yesterday detained Sedat Sur and Özgür Aydın, reporters for the pro-Kurdish Fırat News Agency, Evrensel reported. Sur was released soon after, but Aydın was because there was an open investigation into him in the western province of Izmir, Evrensel reported.

[May 26, 2017]

Newspaper finance director turns herself in to police
Yonca Yücekaleli--finance manager for the secularist, nationalist daily Sözcü, one of the last remaining widely circulated newspapers to be consistently critical of the government--turned herself in to police at Istanbul's Çağlayan Courthouse today, the news website T24 reported.

Yücekaleli went to the courthouse accompanied by her lawyer to respond to a summons in connection with an investigation into whether she, Sözcü reporter Gökmen Ulu, and online editor Mediha Olgun "committed a crime in the name of a [terrorist] organization without being a member." Olgun and Ulu have been detained in connection with the investigation since May 19. Burak Akbay, Sözcü's owner, who is also named in the investigation, is not in Turkey, according to news reports.

Two journalists sentenced to more than 22 years in prison each
Istanbul's 14th Court for Serious Crimes sentenced Cevheri Güven and Murat Çapan, the editor and news editor of the shuttered monthly publication Nokta, respectively, to 22 years and 6 months in prison each on charges of "provoking the people into armed rebellion against the Republic of Turkey," the daily newspaper Habertürk reported on May 22. The court sentenced them in absentia and issued a new warrant for their immediate arrest, according to press reports.

[May 24, 2017]

Court rejects appeals for participants in newspaper solidarity campaign
The Second Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court yesterday rejected the appeals of two writers and a politician who had previously been handed suspended prison sentences for the contents of Özgür Gündem newspaper on the days on which each symbolically acted as editor of the publication to show solidarity with the staff in the face of persistent judicial harassment, the daily Özgürlükçü Demokrasi reported yesterday. The court upheld writer and columnist Yıldırım Türker's suspended sentence of one year, 10 months, and 15 days in prison; politician Çilem Küçükkeleş's suspended sentence of 15 months in prison; and journalist Kumru Başer's suspended sentence of 15 months in prison. The court ordered a retrial in the case of Murat Uyurkulak, whom a lower court sentenced to 15 months in prison.

Dozens of journalists, intellectuals, activists, politicians, and artists last year participated in the campaign before the newspaper was shuttered. Özgürlükçü Demokrasi listed sentences courts have imposed on participants:

  • Ayşe Batumlu: 15 months (suspended)
  • Derya Okatan: 11 months, 20 days (commuted to a fine of 7000 TL)
  • Dicle Anter: 11 months 20 days (commuted to a fine of 6000 TL)
  • Faruk Balıkçı: 10 months (commuted to a fine of 6000 TL)
  • Nadire Mater: 15 months (suspended) and a fine of 6000 TL
  • Murat Uyurkulak: 15 months (suspended)
  • Hasan Cemal: a fine of 6000 TL
  • Aydın Bodur: 15 months (suspended) and a fine of 6000 TL
  • İmam Canpolat: 15 months (suspended)
  • Jülide Kural: 15 months (suspended) and a fine of 6000 TL
  • İlham Bakır: 15 months (suspended)
  • Beyza Üstün:15 months (suspended)
  • Murat Çelikkan: 18 months
  • Yıldırım Türker: 1 year, 10 months, and 15 days (suspended)
  • Çilem Küçükkeleş: 15 months (suspended) and a fine of 6000 TL
  • Kumru Başer 15 months (suspended)
  • Şanar Yurdatapan 15 months (suspended) and a fine of 6000 TL

Seventeen people remain on trial for their participation in the campaign: Can Dündar, Tuğrul Eryılmaz, Faruk Eren, Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, Celal Başlangıç, H. Hüseyin Tahmaz, İhsan Çaralan, Öncü Akgül, Fehim Işık, Ayşe Düzkan, Ragıp Duran, Erol Önderoğlu, Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Ahmet Nesin, Celalettin Can, Veysi Altay, and Said Sefa.

[May 23, 2017]

Newspaper publishes blank edition to protest detention of journalists
The pro-opposition newspaper Sözcü on May 19 published a blank edition under the headline, "May 19 press freedom special edition" to protest the arrest of two of its journalists the day before.

Police in the coastal Turkish city of Izmir arrested Gökmen Ulu, a reporter for the newspaper, from his home on the evening of May 18, Doğan News Agency reported.

Ulu reported that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was on holiday in the resort city of Marmaris at the time of the failed, July 2016 military coup. Prosecutors suspect him of "committing a crime in the name of a [terrorist] organization without being a member" by revealing the president's location to followers of exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom the government accuses of masterminding the attempted coup, according to media reports.

Mediha Olgun, who is legally responsible for everything published on Sözcü's website by virtue of holding the position of online responsible editor, was also detained on Friday, the report said.

Both journalists remain in state custody awaiting arraignment, their employer reported today.

Sözcü's editorial stance favors the secularist, nationalist policies of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey. It has been fiercely critical of Gülen, his followers, and their erstwhile allies in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

President promotes prosecutor who pursued newspaper
Using new powers granted to him by last month's changes to the constitution, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appointed four new members to the Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK), which is responsible for promoting and demoting members of the judiciary, among other things, the pro-opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet reported on May 19.

Mehmet Akif Ekinci, the prosecutor who penned the indictment against the opposition daily newspaper Cumhuriyet in April, was among the four elevated to the influential body, the newspaper reported. In the indictment, Ekinci alleged that changes in the newspaper's editorial policy amounted to propaganda for a terrorist organization or aid to terrorist organization.

Jailed journalist not allowed access to his book to prepare defense
Authorities in Istanbul's Silivri Prison denied jailed investigative journalist Ahmet Şık access to his own book, Paralel Yürüdük Biz Bu Yollarda ("We have walked in parallel on these roads"), to prepare his defense, the daily newspaper Birgün reported on May 20. The book is about the period when the AKP and followers of Gülen were tacit allies against the influence of the military and security services in Turkish politics, before AKP politicians branded the Gülenist network a terrorist organization and "parallel state."

Birgün reported that Şık's lawyer brought his client a copy of the book in prison three weeks ago so the journalist could refer to it in preparing his defense, but that his jailors had not permitted him to have it.

[May 22, 2017]


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