Buse Söğütlü: All the trial practice of judge Akın Gürlek is newsworthy

Buse Söğütlü: All the trial practice of judge Akın Gürlek is newsworthy
The sentencing hearing of the trial where journalist Buse Söğütlü faces “disclosing or publishing the identity of a public official on anti-terror duty and identifying such persons as a target” charge because of her tweet criticizing Akın Gürlek, the former presiding judge of İstanbul 37th High Criminal Court will be held tomorrow. Söğütlü stands trial because of her tweet criticizing Akın Gürlek who was the former presiding judge of the İstanbul 37th High Criminal Court where several political trials including the trials of Selahattin Demirtaş, Canan Kaftancıoğlu and the lawyers of the Progressive Lawyers Association (ÇHD) were held. In her tweet criticizing Gürlek, Söğütlü commented that “If Hitler rose from his grave and sat in Akın Gürlek’s chair, he probably would have uttered the same sentences. One should be aware of the gravity of his position, never mind the vocational ethics and all.” Journalist Söğütlü commented on the trial she had to endure because of this tweet and said: “We are almost at the end of the trial but, there have been numerous rights violations during the process.”

‘For various reasons, my statement was not taken by the prosecutor’

Söğütlü says that she went to the prosecutor’s office twice to provide her statement after she’d learned that there was an investigation going on against her: “For various reasons, my statement was not taken at the prosecutor’s office, and I was taken into custody during a criminal record check. My phone was confiscated ‘for inspection’ despite the fact that I already claimed responsibility for my tweet and my news reports. My phone is yet to be returned, by the way. After two days in custody, I was released without even seeing the prosecutor’s face. Merely a couple of months after this ordeal, the indictment consisting of a few sentences was accepted by the court and the investigation was turned into prosecution.”

‘Akın Gürlek sent a letter to the court to influence it’

Pointing out the many unlawfulness she has been subjected to throughout six hearings, Söğütlü continues: “The first of many unlawfulness in the trial was the court’s decision to inquire with the National Intelligence Agency, The Counter- Terrorism Department and the Police Intelligence Department whether or not I have any ‘terrorism affiliation.’ After three months of investigation, all these institutions submitted their reports in which they concluded that there is no such affiliation. Even if they concluded otherwise, it was the court’s decision to inquire that was unlawful to begin with as it had nothing to do with the case file. After I was ‘cleared’ by these reports, the court decided that I provide my statement against the ‘insulting a public official’ charge which was not in the indictment. Precisely at this moment, Judge Akın Gürlek submitted a letter to the court in an attempt to influence it. This was the second unlawfulness during the trial.” Arguing that Akın Gürlek who was supposed to be the complainant in the case interfered with the process, Söğütlü stated that “He claimed in his letter that I am consistent on committing the crimes of ‘displaying those anti-terror duties as target’ and ‘insulting public officials’ by attaching several tweets I had posted about the trial. I mean, he suddenly became the judge of the case where I am being tried.  This was a blatant interference with the trial, and the fact that the court accepted to include his petition in the case file meant that the court was okay with this interference.”

‘My passport was confiscated even though there was no such decision’

Söğütlü says that her rights to travel and education were violated because of this trial: “I was admitted to the JiR Programme of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) but I lost the fellowship because I could not travel. My passport was confiscated when I was taken into custody while following up on a news report, and my passport has not yet been given back to me because ‘I have an ongoing trial in a high criminal court. I mean because of the trial initiated upon complaint by Akın Gürlek, I was deprived of my rights to travel and education both as a citizen and a journalist. Even though there is no international travel ban imposed on me in this case, I think they saw fit to have this ‘precaution’ since it is Akın Gürlek we are talking about.” 

‘The aim is to intimidate journalists who report on unfair trials’

Söğütlü thinks that the sentence will not be fair and just arguing that “I think that the very ordeal I have been forced to endure early in my career is to intimidate young journalists who report on unfair trials in the country.” Concluding her remarks, Söğütlü said: “All the trial practice of Akın Gürlek whose name is uttered again and again in the parliament is newsworthy. This kind of thing is newsworth all around the world. Regardless of the sentence that will be handed down on February 3rd, I will continue to report on unlawful practices including that of Akın Gürlek. No one can be tried for doing their job and no one can be systematically harassed by judicial authorities for doing their job. Journalism is not a crime.”

Medya ve Hukuk Çalışmaları Derneği (MLSA) haber alma hakkı, ifade özgürlüğü ve basın özgürlüğü alanlarında faaliyet yürüten bir sivil toplum kuruluşudur. Derneğimiz başta gazeteciler olmak üzere mesleki faaliyetleri sebebiyle yargılanan kişilere hukuki destek vermektedir.