Turkish court sentences journo to two years for ‘targeting’ public official

A Turkish court has sentenced journalist Barış Terkoğlu to a two-year prison sentence for “targeting individuals involved in counterterrorism efforts.” The charge concerned two news articles detailing the court rulings from then-judge and current deputy Justice Minister Akın Gürlek.

Duvar English

A Turkish court on May 2 sentenced journalist Barış Terkoğlu to a two-year jail sentence for two news articles “targeting” a public official employed in counterterrorism. 

The charge concerned one article published on the online news outlet OdaTV which Terkoğlu was the editor in chief of, and another Terkoğlu penned for the daily Cumhuriyet. 

Both articles were about the then-chief judge of Istanbul’s 14th Penal Court, Akın Gürlek, and his politically motivated rulings. Gürlek had filed a criminal complaint against the journalist.

During the hearing, Terkoğlu pleaded innocent and held that judicial officials were citizens, therefore their actions and decisions were subject to criticism. 

“My writing criticizes the judicial system as a whole, and cannot be considered personal targeting,” he continued.

Terkoğlu also maintained that the article on OdaTV was taken from the ANKA News Agency, and he could not be tried for a piece written by another agency.

Regarding his Cumhuriyet piece, Terkoğlu said he criticized Gürlek for making politically motivated rulings. These lawsuits worked to curb criticism, he held. 

Gürlek notoriously sentenced multiple opposition figures of Turkey to prison as a judge, including journalist Can Dündar, Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, head of Turkish Medical Association Şebnem Korur Fincancı, and former Republican People’s Party (CHP) Istanbul chair Canan Kaftancıoğlu. 

He was then appointed to a “first class” judgeship by Turkey's top judicial body HSK against its own charter, as Gürlek refused to implement a Constitutional Court ruling regarding CHP MP Enis Berberoğlu.

The court found rights violations in Berberoğlu’s 2016 imprisonment and demanded his release. As the presiding head of the Heavy Penal Court, Gürlek refused to comply with the court order. 

According to the HSK's own charter, judges who defy Constitutional Court orders are not allowed to be promoted.

Gürlek has since been appointed deputy justice minister per a presidential decree signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.