The New Turkey

Turkish military has dismissed more than 19,000 members over Gülen links since coup attempt

The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) has since a coup attempt in 2016 dismissed 19,203 of its members due to alleged ties to the faith-based Gülen movement, which is accused of orchestrating the abortive putsch despite its strong denial of any involvement, according to a statement issued on Sunday.

The statement added that administrative investigations are pending for 5,035 military members.

On the pretext of an anti-coup fight, more than 130,000 people were removed from state jobs while in excess of 30,000 others are still in jail and some 600,000 people have been investigated on allegations of terrorism.


Turkish authorities investigate 750 people for coronavirus-related offenses

Turkish Minister of Justice Abdülhamit Gül has announced that prosecutors across 66 cities have launched investigations into 750 people for various offenses in connection with the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, the Diken news website reported on Monday.

“Investigations are continuing into 568 people for manipulative news and posts on social media, eight people for offending our citizens over the age of 65; 85 people for violating quarantine measures; and 89 people for illegal stockpiling and the black market sales of medical supplies,” Gül said.

As regards ministry staff, he said 12 judges and 55 other employees have thus far tested positive for COVID-19, adding that they are in good health.


Erdoğan takes legal action against TV anchor over tweet about a speech

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has filed a criminal complaint with İstanbul prosecutors against Fox TV news anchor Fatih Portakal, due to a tweet about a speech he gave on Monday, Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported.

In the tweet Portakal speculated as to whether Erdoğan had hinted at a possible requisitioning of bank deposits by referring in his speech to a set of laws promulgated during the Turkish War of Independence that compelled people to give significant portions of their revenue and assets for the war effort (Tekalif-i Milliye Kanunları).

“I wonder if the funds in people’s deposit and savings accounts will be demanded under the pretext of ‘We are going through difficult days.’ Maybe they will promise to pay it back after the [the COVID-19 pandemic],” Portakal tweeted on Monday. “I cannot say that it will not happen, unfortunately.”

Ahmet Özel, a lawyer for Erdoğan, released a written statement announcing the legal action. He said they have sued for insult to the president and asked prosecutors to further examine Portakal’s remarks in light of Turkey’s banking regulations. Read the full article


Turkey confirms 76 more deaths as Health Ministry lauds response to pandemic - blog 

Turkey on Tuesday confirmed 76 more deaths of people with the novel coronavirus and announced 3,892 new cases, raising the number of people confirmed of being infected with COVID-19 to 34,109. The total number of people who have died after contracting the virus in Turkey now totals 725, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said in his daily Twitter update.

The number of recoveries is on the rise, the minister said, underlining that the majority of COVID-19 cases in the country are among those aged 20-65, a demographic which is not under a curfew. Turkey as of Tuesday ranks second after the United Sates in the number of new coronavirus cases, according to real-time statistics website Worldometer.

A total of 20,023 COVID-19 tests were administered in Turkey in the last 24 hours, during which time 256 people recovered from the illness, according to official figures. Read the full article


Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 236

Bill proposing early release for 90,000 inmates excluding political prisoners submitted to Parliament; at least 6 journalists called in for questioning over coronavirus reports and posts; journalist Hakan Aygün jailed pending trial

Journalist Hakan Aygün jailed pending trial
Journalist Hakan Aygün was taken into custody in the southwestern town of Bodrum on 2 April 2020 over a post he shared on Twitter concerning a donation campaign inaugurated by President Erdoğan on 30 March to help citizens in need during the coronavirus pandemic.

Aygün was brought to the Bodrum Courthouse the next day, where he was referred to a criminal judgeship of peace. The judgeship jailed Aygün pending trial on the charge of “incitement to hatred and animosity.” He was sent to the Muğla Prison.

Social media users jailed as part of FETÖ investigation
An individual named Mesut A. was taken into custody in Istanbul as part of an investigation conducted by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office into the alleged “social media leg of FETÖ (Fethullahist Terrorist Organization).” Mesut A. was identified as the user behind the Twitter accounts “Mustafa Selanik” and “Türkiye Gerçekleri.”

Following the completion of procedures at the Istanbul Police Department, Mesut A. was sent to Ankara. Another person named O.Y., a journalist who turned out to be behind the Twitter account called “Ankara Kuşu,” was also arrested in Gebze as part of the same investigation.

Jailed journalists Çelik and Keser’s lawyers file Constitutional Court application
The lawyers of Ferhat Çelik, the editor-in-chief of Yeni Yaşam newspaper, and Aydın Keser, the newspaper’s responsible editor, filed an application with the Constitutional Court concerning the pre-trial detention of the journalists over a news report published by Odatv about the burial of a Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) operative killed in Libya. 

The application claims that Çelik and Keser’s pre-trial detention amounts to violations of the right to liberty and security and freedom of the press. Keser and Çelik are currently jailed in Silivri Prison. 

Journalist Ahmet Kanbal called in for questioning
An investigation has been launched against Ahmet Kanbal, a reporter for Mezopotamya Agency, on the charge of “inciting the public to hatred and enmity” over a news report concerning a hospital in Mardin where children who tested positive for Covid-19 were being kept in the same unit with those who tested negative. Kanbal gave his statement on 1 April 2020 in relation to the investigation, launched after the Mardin Provincial Directorate of Health filed a complaint against him.

Early release bill submitted to Parliament 
A bill jointly drafted by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), proposing early release for up to 90,000 prisoners through 70 amendments to the law on the execution of penalties, was submitted to the Parliament on 31 March 2020.
The bill excludes persons convicted of “terrorism-related crimes” and those in pre-trial detention. The Parliament’s Justice Commission passed the draft on 3 April 2020. The bill is expected to be voted on by the General Assembly on Tuesday, 7 April. If the bill is passed, up to 90,000 people are expected to be released from prison with the exclusion of political prisoners.

Journalist Hakan Gülseven briefly detained for social media post

Journalist Hakan Gülseven, a columnist for Independent Türkçe, was taken into custody on 31 March 2020 over a post he shared on Twitter about the donation campaign launched following the coronavirus crisis.

Gülseven, who is accused of “inciting the public to hatred and enmity,” was released after giving his statement.

Journalist Nurcan Baysal questioned

Columnist Nurcan Baysal was called in for questioning over her posts on social media concerning letters sent by prisoners and two articles published online on Ahval.

Baysal gave her statement at the Diyarbakır Police Department on 31 March 2020. She was then referred to the Diyarbakır Courthouse. She was freed after giving her statement to a prosecutor and later to a judgeship.

Read the full article

Coronavirus cases in Turkey surpass 30,000, recoveries top 1,325

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Turkey increased by 3,148 to 30,217, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced Monday. Koca said in a statement he shared on his Twitter account that 75 patients have died in the last 24 hours, bringing Turkey's total virus death toll to 649.

According to the statement, 1,415 patients are in intensive care, while 1,326 have recovered so far. In the past 24 hours, 21,400 COVID-19 tests were conducted, while the total number has reached to 202,845. Koca noted that they aim to conduct 30,000 tests daily.

Turkey has taken a series of measures to try to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, from closing schools, quarantining more than 50 towns and areas, and imposing a 24-hour curfew for people under the age of 20. A similar quarantine for people above the age of 65 had previously been put into effect. People are barred from leaving cities in 31 of the country's 81 provinces. Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir, the country's most populated provinces, are included in this quarantine.


Turkey to build 2 more hospitals amid virus pandemic

Turkey will establish two more hospitals with a capacity of 1,000 beds each in Istanbul for amid the novel coronavirus pandemic across the globe, the country's president said Monday.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said following a virtual cabinet meeting that each of the hospitals would be on either side of the province divided by the Bosphorus Strait with one side in Europe and the other in Asia. "We will complete them quickly within 45 days and open them to the service of our people," he added.

He added that Turkish health care system surpassed the "important threshold" of 20,000 daily coronavirus tests. "We don't have any issues on diagnosis and treatment in our hospitals. Thankfully, we've so far not encountered any significant issues in terms of health services, food and sanitation supplies and public safety," he added.

Referring to a recent decision to distribute medical masks to people between the ages of 20 and 65 free-of-charge, Erdogan said local officials had begun distribution efforts, adding that the sale of masks is prohibited in the country. "We have enough mask stock and production plans for all of our citizens until the outbreak ends. As the state, we are determined to provide free masks to all our citizens," he added.


Turkish Treasury borrows $1.8B through auction

The Turkish Treasury borrowed nearly 12.6 billion Turkish liras (nearly $1.8 billion) from domestic markets on Monday.

Some 7.6 billion Turkish liras ($1.1 billion) in 14-month zero coupon Treasury bills -- first issue -- were sold in the first auction, the Treasury and Finance Ministry announced. The Treasury bills will be settled on Wednesday and mature on June 9, 2021. The total tender amounted to 11.4 billion Turkish liras ($1.7 billion), with a 66.7% accepted/tendered rate.

The Treasury said the term rate of the 427-day Treasury bills was accepted at 14.21%, while the annual simple and compound interest rates were 12.11% and 11.99%, respectively. In the second auction, the Treasury issued eight-year, CPI-Indexed G.Bond -- semiannually, reopen, 1.65% coupon rate -- totaling 5 billion Turkish liras (nearly $740 million).

The bonds will be settled on Wednesday with a maturity date of June 28, 2028. The total tender in the second auction amounted to 6.5 billion Turkish liras (nearly $961 million), with a 77.5% accepted/tendered rate.
The term rate of 3,003-day government bonds was accepted at 1.77%, while the annual simple and compound interest rates were 3.55% and 3.58%, respectively.

The Treasury also announced: "In order to increase domestic savings, broaden the investor base, and diversify borrowing instruments, Turkish lira-denominated, CPI-Indexed lease certificates will be issued to the banks through direct sale method on April 8 (settlement date)."


Probe launched into 750 people for ‘violating’ virus measures

Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül said on April 6 that probes have been launched into 750 people in 66 provinces, for not abiding by the measures the government has taken to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Investigations have been opened for 750 people in 66 provinces by chief public prosecutors’ offices,” Gül said.

The minister’s remarks came during a speech after a fourth coordination meeting, held for discussions on coronavirus measures, concluded with the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK), the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) and the Union of Turkish Public Notaries. Read the full article


Over 600 health workers contracted COVID-19

More than 600 health workers, who are battling on the frontline against the coronavirus pandemic, have test positive for the coronavirus, Milliyet newspaper has reported.

The number of infected among health professionals is feared to go higher once the tests results of health workers who had shown the symptoms of the virus are released.

In Istanbul alone, more than 100 doctors working at private hospitals have contracted the virus, while the total number of infected health workers is above 200, according to the Istanbul Medical Chamber.

“Some of our colleagues, who happened to test negative first because of either faulty sample collection or some other reasons, are still keep working. Regular tests should be run on health workers no matter if they show symptoms or not,” said Emrah Kırımlı from the Istanbul Medical Chamber. Read the full article


Death toll from coronavirus rises to 501

Turkey confirmed Saturday that 76 more people died from the coronavirus in the country over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 501.

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases surged to 23,934 as 3,013 more people tested positive for the virus in a day, according to data Health Minister Fahrettin Koca shared on Twitter.

So far, a total of 786 patients have recovered and been discharged from hospitals, while 1,311 patients are currently under intensive care units, Koca said. The recovery rate demonstrated a significant rise.

Also, 19,664 tests were conducted on Saturday, and the number of overall tests carried out so far reached 161,380.


Turkish builders sack 15,000 Istanbul workers, ship off sick without tests

Turkish construction companies in Istanbul have laid off more than 15,000 workers in the past 15 days as the outbreak of the coronavirus spread, Evrensel news website reported, citing a labour union.

The firms forced workers to sleep together in packed containers, fed them in crowded cafes and took no steps on hygiene, before shipping off the sick in buses to their home provinces without testing them for the illness, according to union Dev Yapı-İş, Evrensel said on Thursday.   

Many of the employees travelled to Istanbul from faraway towns and villages to find work and lived on building sites. Almost all of those dismissed have not received financial compensation stipulated by Turkish law, Dev Yapı-İş said.


Turkey arrests popular Twitter users for spreading ‘terrorist propaganda’

Turkish authorities on Friday arrested two of the three well-known anonymous Twitter users who were detained on Wednesday and Thursday.

Mesut Aykin, who reportedly runs the popular government-critical Twitter account “Türkiye Gerçekleri” (Turkey Facts), was detained in İstanbul on Thursday for alleged terrorist propaganda and brought to Ankara, according to the pro-government Sabah daily. The police conducted a search of his home, seizing digital material.

The authorities also arrested Oktay Yaşar, the alleged user of the Twitter account “Ankara Kuşu” (Ankara Bird), who was detained on Wednesday, as well as Ümit Kaya, who allegedly runs the account “Dr. Kulis Kuşu” (Backstage Bird) and was detained on Thursday.

The pro-government media said Aykin and Yaşar were investigated for spreading propaganda on behalf of the Gülen movement, which the Turkish government considers a terrorist group responsible for a 2016 coup attempt, allegations strongly denied by the movement. While no details were revealed about the investigation into Kaya, media reports said he used to be a consultant for Mehmet Bekaroğlu, vice chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). Read the full article

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey
Journalists Sadiye Eser, Sadık Topaloğlu, musician Yılmaz Çelik released; journalists, lawmakers face investigation over Covid-19 reports, posts

Sadiye Eser and Sadık Topaloğlu released pending trial

Mezopotamya news agency reporters Sadiye Eser and Sadık Topaloğlu, who were jailed pending trial on 3 December 2019, appeared before the 22nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 26 March 2020 for the first hearing of their trial on the charge of “membership of a terrorist group.”

Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court released Eser and Topaloğlu under an international travel ban and set 15 October 2020 as the date for the second hearing.

A report about the hearing can be accessed here.

Musician Yılmaz Çelik released pending trial

The first hearing in the trial of musician Yılmaz Çelik on terrorism-related charges took place on 26 March 2020 at the 2nd High Criminal Court of Tunceli. In its interim ruling, the court released Çelik under an international travel ban and adjourned the trial until 14 May.

Çelik was arrested on 8 December 2019 following a concert appearance in Tunceli. He was jailed pending trial on the charges of “membership of a terrorist group” and “terrorism propaganda.” Çelik’s social media posts are held as evidence against him.

Newspapers excluded from running public ads may be banned in prisons

clause preventing newspapers that are banned from running public ads by the Press Advertising Agency (BİK), such as Evrensel daily, from being distributed in prisons was reportedly included in a bill that will enable early release for up to 100,000 prisoners. The bill, the third “package” in the government’s Judicial Reform Strategy, is expected to be passed by the Parliament next week.

Independent newspaper Evrensel has been subject to a public ad ban since September 2019 on the grounds of “bulk buying.”

HDP lawmaker Gergerlioğlu faces investigation

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation against Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu over a social media post he shared on 25 March 2020, in which he wrote about claims that an inmate in the Ankara Sincan L Type Prison had tested positive for Covid-19. The investigation alleges that Gergerlioğlu’s social media post “caused panic and fear among people.”

İz Gazete reporter called in for questioning over Covid-19 coverage

Tugay Can, a reporter for the Izmir-based newspaper İz Gazete, was called in to give his statement on 25 March 2020 at the Izmir Police Department’s Cyber Crimes Unit. Can was questioned on the allegation of “causing panic and fear among people” in relation to a news report about two medical professionals in Izmir who reportedly tested positive for Covid-19.

Jailed journalist Aziz Oruç’s wife questioned over social media posts

Jailed journalist Aziz Oruç’s wife Hülya Oruç is facing an investigation on the allegation of “causing panic and fear among people” over her social media posts about fears of Covid-19 spread in prisons. Oruç gave her statement on 24 March at the Diyarbakır Police Department as part of the investigation launched by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Local journalists detained over Covid-19 coverage

İsmet Çiğit, founder and columnist of Ses Kocaeli, a local newspaper based in Kocaeli, was taken into custody in the early hours of 19 March 2020 in his apartment in the northwestern province. Çiğit was arrested in connection with a news report the newspaper published in its online edition on 18 March, about two individuals in Kocaeli who reportedly died of Covid-19. Authorities released Çiğit when Güngör Arslan, another columnist and a co-founder of the newspaper, who came to the police station where Çiğit was being questioned, said he wrote the report, upon which he was taken into custody. Arslan was released after giving his statement to the public prosecutor the next day.

Trials postponed as part of measures against spread of Covid-19

Trials and other legal procedures at numerous courthouses across Turkey -- except for trials of persons in detention on remand -- were temporarily put on hold as of 16 March 2020 as part of measures against the spread of Covid-19 in Turkey. Courts will remain open for emergency procedures.

The trial of journalist Rojhat Doğru, scheduled for 24 March at the 8th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır, was postponed to 18 June 2020.

Journalist Beritan Canözer’s trial, scheduled for 25 March at the 11th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır, was postponed to 17 June 2020.

Journalist İdris Sayılğan’s trial, scheduled for 25 March at the 2nd High Criminal Court of Muş, was postponed to 13 May 2020.

The trial of journalists Sibel Hürtaş and Hayri Demir, which was set to resume on 26 March at the 15th High Criminal Court of Ankara, was postponed until 25 June 2020.

List of journalists and media workers in prison 

As of 27 March 2020, at least 100 journalists and media workers are in prison in Turkey, either in pre-trial detention or serving a sentence. The full list can be accessed here.


Council of Europe media freedom alerts: Turkey

Journalists Arrested in Major Clampdown 2016-17-18-19

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