ECtHR convicts Turkey in RedHack case for violation of freedom of expression and press

Arrested for having reported on the hacked emails of the then Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Albayrak, journalists Kanaat and Öğreten will be paid damages as the ECtHR has concluded that their freedom of expression and press was violated.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has concluded that the rights of journalists Mahir Kanaat and Tunca Öğreten were violated by their arrest for reporting on the emails of the then Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Berat Albayrak that were leaked by RedHack.

The ECtHR has indicated that downloading and reporting on the emails of Berat Albayrak, who is also the son-in-law of President and ruling AKP Chair Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, falls within freedom of press. The related emails of Albayrak were also published in WikiLeaks.

The ECtHR has noted that charging journalists Kanaat and Öğreten with "being members of a terrorist organization" without any concrete evidence due to the news that they reported was not lawful.

'The court acted arbitrarily'

The court has concluded that the warrants for the detention and arrest of the journalists were not sufficiently justified.

Referring to the accusations that Öğreten had links to the "Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C)" and that Kanaat had links to the "Fethullahist Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Organization (FETÖ/PDY)", the ECtHR has indicated that "there is no fact or information."

The European Court of Human Rights has said that the local court which ruled for the arrest of the journalists acted arbitrarily.

It has also found it in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) that the access of the journalists' attorneys to the file was restricted due to the confidentiality of the investigation and that they could not raise an effective objection to their arrest for this reason.

Concluding that "the right to personal liberty and security" and "freedom of expression and press" of journalists Mahir Kanaat and Tunca Öğreten have been violated, the ECtHR has ruled that Turkey shall pay 38 thousand 250 Euro in total to the journalists in damages.

According to the judgement of the ECtHR, Öğreten will now be paid 5 thousand 700 Euro in pecuniary damages, while both journalists will each be paid 14 thousand Euro in non-pecuniary damages. Turkey will also pay 2 thousand 250 Euro for the court expenses.

What happened?

On December 25, 2016, BirGün employee Mahir Kanaat, Diken news website's former editor Tunca Öğreten, closed Dicle News Agency's News Director Ömer Çelik, its former reporter Metin Yoksu, Yolculuk Newspaper's Chief Editor Eray Sargın and Etkin News Agency's Managing Editor Derya Okatan were detained for reporting on the emails of Berat Albayrak, the then Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, that were shared by RedHack.

Held in detention for 24 days, Öğreten, Kanaat and Çelik were arrested; the other journalists were released on January 17, 2017.

Çelik, Okatan, Yoksu and Sargın were charged with "propagandizing for an organization", "blocking, damaging information system, destroying or changing data", while Kanaat was charged with "membership of an organization" and Öğreten was charged with "committing crimes on behalf of the FETÖ and DHKP-C as a non-member."

Arrested as part of the same investigation, the files of Die Welt reporter Deniz Yücel, journalist Fatih Yağmur and one person coded as "unknown person" were separated from the file of the other defendants.

The indictment was prepared six month later and the first hearing was held on October 24, 2017. Ömer Çelik was released at the first hearing. At the second hearing of the trial held on December 6, 2017, Tunca Öğreten and Mahir Kanaat, arrested for 323 days, were released with an international travel ban and a judicial control measure of giving signatures twice a week

The individual applications of Öğreten and Kanaat to Turkey's Constitutional Court remained inconclusive.