Isminaz Temel is a reporter and editor for the socialist Etkin News Agency (‘ETHA’) who spent more than 16 months in pre-trial detention on charges of “membership of a terrorist organisation” and “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organisation.” She was released from prison in February 2019 but is subject to a travel ban. She cannot visit her mother, who has medical conditions and lives abroad, due to the travel ban imposed.
Released pending trial. The next hearing will be held on 12 October 2021
On 19 October 2017, Temel was taken into custody together with one of her colleagues, Havva Cuştan, and several lawyers in a series of house raids that took place in Istanbul, as part of an operation launched into the members of ESP (The Socialist Party of the Oppressed) and EHB (The Law Office of the Oppressed). She was held in custody for seven days. On 25 October 2017, she was placed in pre-trial detention upon the decision of the Istanbul 1st Magistrates Judge for terrorism-related charges. She was brought to the Bakırköy Women’s Prison.
Two indictments issued against Temel were later merged into one case before the Istanbul 27th Assize Court. In reference to the first indictment, the prosecutor accused Temel of being in charge of the Socialist Women’s Assembly (SKM), which they described as linked to the “terrorist organisation: Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP)”. They also described ETHA as MLKP’s “media organ”, accusing the organisation of “propaganda for the terrorist organisation MLKP”. A second indictment was issued charging Temel with promoting propaganda in support of a terrorist organisation, for being the publisher of a book entitled ‘the Immortal Song of the Immortal Woman’. According to the prosecution, the book references the structure of the MLKP and other terrorist activities.
If convicted, Temel faces between 10 to 15 years in prison.
The evidence against İsminaz Temel for the charges against her included anonymous statements, photos of her at certain events and funerals, and a book.
After nine months of pre-trial detention, the first hearing was held over two days on 16 and 17 July 2018 in which 23 defendants, including İsminaz Temel, faced terrorism-related charges, overseen by the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. The hearing, which was monitored by P24, was attended by the same police officers who initially arrested and interrogated Temel.
Temel, referring to the accusations in the indictment, deplored that ETHA has been considered as “the publishing organ of a terrorist organisation” and its articles treated as evidence. “ETHA is a news agency looking to embrace all the segments of society,” she said. Temel acknowledged having attended all the events and demonstrations cited in the indictment, but stressed that she had been present as a journalist and also highlighted the fact that attending press statements or marches shouldn’t be considered as a crime.
After 16 months of pre-trial detention, she was finally released pending trial at the third hearing in February 2019 but is subject to a travel ban.
In July 2019, ARTICLE 19 drafted an expert opinion to the case, noting that the use of anonymous witness testimony, as in the present case, significantly undermines the right to a fair trial, particularly the equality of arms principle. The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights (Commissioner for Human Rights) noted as much in a 2012 report following his visit to Turkey.1Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Report following his visit to Turkey, CommDH(2012)2, 10 January 2012, para. 85-86. In particular, he was concerned about the admissibility of anonymous testimony in circumstances where it bore no connection to substantial points in the indictment or the use of hearsay testimonies that weakened the position of the defence.2Ibid.
In the analysis of the case, we argued that the prosecution relies on evidence that constitutes solely acts of expression, some of which were made in Temel’s work as a journalist and some which could be considered political speech linked to her role within a legal and political organisation. Furthermore, ARTICLE 19 stated that Temel’s criminal prosecution is based on a legal provision that lacks the criterion of foreseeability, therefore constituting an interference that is not prescribed by law according to the ECHR. Finally, ARTICLE 19 submitted that the criminal prosecution of Temel violates her right to freedom of expression.
In the subsequent hearings after the release of Temel, her and her lawyer’s requests for lifting the travel ban have been repeatedly rejected by the court. Notably, on 23 September 2020, in the 10th hearing of the trial, which was monitored by P24, İsminaz Temel’s lawyer Ömer Çakırgöz submitted to the court a medical report showing Temel’s mother’s medical condition and asked the court to lift the travel ban imposed on his client so that she can visit her mother, who lives abroad. The court rejected the request. Temel’s lawyer objected, citing the medical report he submitted to the court. Other lawyers representing Temel’s co-defendants also asked the court to lift similar restrictions imposed on their clients.
The court rejected all requests to lift the international travel ban imposed on the defendants. Elaborating on their decision, the presiding judge reportedly said other judges in criminal courts overseeing “terrorism” trials faced investigations after they ruled to lift travel restrictions. “Therefore, we are unable to lift travel restrictions before we announce our judgment in the trial. In the case against Can Dündar, the court lifted his travel ban and Dündar left the country. In order to prevent a similar situation, at this stage we reject such requests,” the judge reportedly said, adding that they could only lift international travel restrictions “when it becomes certain that a judgment of acquittal will be rendered.”
The trial is currently ongoing before the Istanbul 27th Assize Court. The next hearing is scheduled to be held on 12 October 2021.
- Article 314/2 of the Criminal Code “membership of armed terrorist organisation”
- Article 5/1 of the Anti-Terrorism Law
- Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terrorism Law
Timeline of the trial
Temel is arrested and detained by law enforcement officers together with one of her colleagues, Havva Cuştan, and several lawyers in a series of raids in Istanbul.
The Istanbul First Criminal Court of Peace places Temel in detention pending trial. (Decision 2017/395)
The Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court decides to merge two indictments against İsminaz Temel relying on the Article 8 and subsequent articles of the Turkish Criminal Procedure Law.
First hearing of the trial is held with the presence of the police officers who arrested and interrogated her at the police department.
The judge refused the lawyers’ request for the removal of the police officers from the courtroom on the grounds that the hearing is open to the public.
At the end of the hearing, the court orders the release of five defendants, including Havva Cuştan, under judicial control measures while eight defendants, including Temel, are ordered to remain in prison, on the grounds that they “might tamper with evidence” and the possibility of “flight risk.”
Second hearing is held. Temel gives her defense statement.
Explaining that she has been a journalist since 2006, she tells the court that the accusations against her in the case file are based in their entirety on her journalistic work. She states, “As for the ‘flight risk’ claim, I can definitely say that in this case, where I know I am absolutely right, I will continue until the end [of the proceedings] to defend my stance. I am sure that all defendants in this case, including myself, are going to be eventually acquitted. So I demand that [the court] put an end to this unlawfulness today, and I request to be released pending trial.”
The court rules for the continuation of Temel’s pre-trial detention.
Third hearing of the case is held. Temel is finally released after 16 months of pre-trial detention.
The court imposes an international travel ban on her and requires her to report to a police station once a week.
Fourth hearing takes place.
The court rules to release the last two jailed defendants in the case, Coşkun Yiğit and Erkan Kakça. The court rejects the request to lift the travel ban imposed on İsminaz Temel.
Fifth hearing is held.
The panel of judges has been changed. ARTICLE 19 expert opinion is submitted to the court. The court rules for the continuation of the travel ban.
Sixth hearing takes place.
The court once more rejects the request of defence lawyers to lift the travel ban for all defendants.
Seventh hearing is held.
İsminaz Temel’s lawyer submits medical reports concerning the illnesses of Temel’s mother, who lives abroad and needs to undergo an operation. The defence lawyer requests her travel ban to be lifted, even if for a short period, so that Temel can visit her mother. The court rejects the request and rules to continue the travel ban against all defendants.
Eight hearing of the case is held.
Temel’s lawyer’s request for lifting the travel ban so that she can visit her ill mother is rejected.
The ninth hearing of the case could not be held due to Coronavirus pandemic measures.
The trial postponed to 23 September 2020.
The 10th hearing of the trial takes place. The panel of judges has changed again, including the president of the court.
İsminaz Temel’s lawyer again submits to the court a medical report showing Temel’s mother’s medical condition and asks the court to lift the travel ban imposed on his client so that she can visit her mother. The court rejects the request. Temel’s lawyer objects. Other lawyers representing Temel’s co-defendants also ask the court to lift similar restrictions imposed on their clients.
The court rejects all requests to lift the international travel ban imposed on the defendants. Elaborating on their decision, the presiding judge said other judges in criminal courts overseeing “terrorism” trials faced investigations after they ruled to lift travel restrictions.
The 11th hearing of the trial is held.
The court again orders the prolongation of the travel ban against all other defendants, including Temel.
The 12th hearing is held, in which one of the defendants in the trial gives her defence statement.
The court adjourns the trial until 12 October 2021.
ARTICLE 19 calls for acquittal of İsminaz Temel and lifting of the travel ban imposed against her. We call on the Turkish authorities to free the many other writers, journalists, human rights defenders and opposition politicians jailed for exercising their right to freedom of expression.
The content of this case file was prepared in partnership with P24 https://www.expressioninterrupted.com/isminaz-temel/ and with the information that were retrieved from Press in Arrest http://pressinarrest.com/gazeteciler/isminaz-temel/.
Relevant reports / articles
Turkey: Expert opinion on charges against journalist Isminaz Temel
The content of this case file is based on an unofficial translation of the materials from Turkish. We take no responsibility for errors in the analysis above from any inaccuracies or errors in the translation.