The final hearing of the case where journalist Hasan Cemal has been on trial for “propagandizing for a terrorist organization” because of his article titled, “From Silvan: They made us so accustomed to pain and death,” has been held at the 36th Heavy Penal Court at the İstanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan.
Announcing its verdict, the court ruled that Cemal shall be sentenced 3 months and 22 days in prison for “propagandizing for a terrorist organization.”
Ruling that the prison sentence shall be turned in to a judicial fine of 3,060 Turkish liras, the court did not defer the announcement of the verdict and did not adjourn the sentence.
Cemal stated his defense as to the accusations, requesting his acquittal:
“Today, Turkey is experiencing a great downfall in terms of democracy, law and freedom. A 50-year journalist in the age of 75 being tried here for “propagandizing for a terrorist organization” is one of the sad pictures of this downfall.
“I would like to emphasize this: Throughout my professional life, I have never been a “propaganda writer’. And I have always defended peace. I wrote four books, thousands of articles about the Kurdish problem. There is peace in every one of them.”
“The mentality that wants to send me to prison for terrorist propaganda after all those years doesn’t have any relation to law and freedom, it can’t have. Many pictures regarding the great downfall Turkey is experiencing in terms of democracy, law and freedom swim before my eyes.
“Among them, there are many figures who are still behind bars. One more indicator on the downfall must be pointed out. There are 180 countries in the world. And in terms of press freedom, Turkey ranks only 157th in these 180 countries.
“A country deprived of press freedom to such extent is a country that is very far away from democracy, law and freedom.
“As for the Supreme Election Council’s verdict on İstanbul and İmamoğlu… It is the last nail to the coffin of the democracy.”
“Dear Judges; saying, ‘democracy, law, freedom,’ I sometimes feel very helpless. Today, I am living one of those days. But I still underline that the flag of democracy, law and freedom won’t drop down from my hand until the end of my life.
“Because I certainly believe this: The despots won’t be able to escape from being convicted before history. “
After Cemal, his attorney Fikret İlkiz made a statement, saying that the people who were interviewed in the mentioned article were acquitted of violating Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law and the verdict was finalized.
İlkiz said that his client performed his duties as a journalist and requested the acquittal of Cemal, saying that Article 28 of the Constitution, Article 3 of the Law No. 5187 on Press, and Article 10 of the ECHR guarantees freedom of press and expression.
Announcing its decision after a break, the court ruled that Cemal shall be sentenced to 1 year, 6 months and 22 days in prison for “propagandizing for a terrorist organization.”
The court stated that the 22nd Heavy Penal Court sentenced him to 1 year and 3 months in prison, hence reduced the sentence to 3 months and 22 days. It turned this sentence into a judicial fine.
In 2015, Hasan Cemal went to the district of Silvan in Diyarbakır, met and talked to three people and wrote an article afterward. While the three people, whom Cemal interviewed three years ago, have been acquitted in the lawsuits filed against them, the first hearing of the lawsuit, which was filed against journalist Hasan Cemal on charge of “propagandizing for a terrorist organization” due to his article entitled “From Silvan: They have so accustomed us to deaths” published on T24 news website on December 4, 2015, was held at the İstanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan on January 3, 2019.
In this first hearing, attorney Fikret İlkiz emphasized that Güçer, Tekiner and Dünser, whose names are mentioned in the article of Cemal, were acquitted of the charges which were pressed against them by the Diyarbakır 4th Heavy Penal Court and requested that his client be also acquitted. The court rejected the request for acquittal.
Appearing before the judge, Hasan Cemal rejected the charge brought against him with following remarks: “I have written four books and thousands of articles and essays on the Kurdish question. This article was one of them. It was an article defending peace and condemning sorrows and deaths. The entire article is within the scope of journalistic activity and freedom of expression. Neither journalism nor freedom of expression is a crime. I have never propagandized for a terrorist organization. I request my acquittal since this article is within limits of freedom of expression.”
About Hasan Cemal
He graduated from the Faculty of Political Science at Ankara University. He started his career in journalism in the weekly Devrim (Revolution) magazine in Ankara in 1969.
He worked for the Yeni Ortam (New Environment) magazine, Anka Agency and Günaydın, Cumhuriyet and Milliyet newspapers.
He worked as Ankara representative and editor-in-chief for Cumhuriyet newspaper. Having worked for Milliyet newspaper since 1998, he resigned from the newspaper after his article criticizing the then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was not published.
He is still writing for the T24 news website. He is the Founding Chair of the Independent Journalism Platform P24. He has published 12 books.