Journalist Melis Alphan faces up to 7.5 years in prison for sharing picture from 2015 Newroz

The first hearing of the trial into journalist Melis Alphan where she faces “terror propaganda” charges for sharing an image from the 2015 Newroz celebrations took place at the Istanbul 32nd Heavy Penal Court on April 6. In their final opinion, the prosecutor asked the court to sentence the journalist up to seven and a half years in jail.

The first hearing of the trial into journalist Melis Alphan took place on April 6.

Duvar English

A Turkish prosecutor on April 6 demanded up to seven and a half years in prison for journalist Melis Alphan for sharing a picture from the 2015 Newroz celebrations in southeastern Diyarbakır.

During the first hearing of the case at the Istanbul 32nd Heavy Penal Court, the prosecutor presented their final opinion (“esasa ilişkin mütalaa”) as to the accusations and requested Alphan's conviction for “terrorist propaganda” for the 2015 picture posted on her personal Instagram.

Alphan gave her defense at the court, saying the case launched against her can “not be explained through conscience, law or logic.”

“I was not even there [where the photo was taken]. The accusations against me concern the flags which people in the photo are holding. A lawsuit is launched against me just for sharing a photo. A crime is being made up about me. I have not committed these crimes [mentioned in the indictment]. I request my acquittal,” daily Sözcü quoted Alphan as saying.

“It is so obvious that the accusations against me have no connection whatsoever to the law. It is not possible to understand the purpose of this weak indictment which has been drafted swiftly. If the aim is to send a message to some places, I cannot grasp that,” she further told the court.

Afterwards, Alphan's lawyer Tolgay Güvercin addressed the court, saying the prosecutor does not explain in the indictment how a photograph can “make terror propaganda.”

“In its judicial opinions, the Court of Cassation looks at if there is a call for violence, invitation for an armed rebellion or hatred speech. The prosecutor has not even explained how they came up with the charge of propaganda from this photograph,” Güvercin said.

Granting the journalist and her lawyers time to prepare their final defense statement, the court adjourned the trial until May 21.

Alphan had previously noted that the investigation against her was launched due to a Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) flag being visible in the relevant picture.

She had also said that the images from the Newroz celebration had been at the time simultaneously broadcast across mainstream media outlets.

The posts about Newroz, celebrated most widely among Turkey's Kurdish community, have become criminal elements as a result of the change in the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) approach to Kurds in Turkey.

Any activity related to Kurdish politics, culture, or even language, can be used as grounds for legal action against the government's critics in AKP's Turkey.

At the time of the 2015 Newroz celebrations, the state was in the midst of "peace talks" with the PKK, which collapsed later that year.