İstanbul – Due to content shared on Twitter, Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) İstanbul chair Canan Kaftancıoğlu faces charges of “defamation against the President,” “defamation against a public officer in relation to his office,” “openly insulting the Republic of Turkey,” “openly inciting hate and hostility,” and “spreading terror propaganda.” The first hearing of the trial took place before the İstanbul 37th High Criminal Court today.
Several members of the provincial CHP branch, members of Parliament, numerous lawyers, diplomats and journalists were at the İstanbul courthouse in Çağlayan this morning to show solidarity with Kaftancıoğlu. The courtroom in which the trial took place, on the fifth floor, was jam-packed. Seats, but also the corridor between those seats and the space outside of the courtroom were filled with spectators. Those present at the trial were over 30 lawyers representing Kaftancıoğlu; lawyers of President Erdoğan, claimant in the case, Fırat Yıldız and Muhammed Cemil İmamoğulları; as well as the other plaintiffs, Dursun Acet, Ebubekir Demircan, Ekrem Çakır, Ekrem Demircan, Elif Pilavcı, Emin Bayar and Emin Karabıyık’s lawyer Hasan Oğuz Altınkaynak.
Kaftancıoğlu: “It would have been inappropriate for me to be busy with personal matters during the election period”
Kaftancıoğlu, who spoke first in the hearing, noted that the time between the notification of the indictment against her and the hearing coincided with the election period and requested additional time for her defence, declaring: “Given my responsibilities during the electoral period, I could not even meet with my lawyers. In any case it would have been inappropriate to fill my time with personal matters at such an important time.”
In response to Kaftantcıoğlu’s request, Presiding Judge Akın Gürlek stated: “It has been unanimously decided that the request be rejected, for sufficient time has been granted.” The fact that Gürlek spoke of unanimity without having consulted or even spoken to other judges Ferhat Gülbağça and Ferhat Şahin to negotiate drew everyone’s attention.
Right afterwards, Kaftancıoğlu’s lawyer Figen Güler noted that her client was an important political figure and requested additional time. “If your panel has opposite opinions we ask that it be recused because our right to defence is being violated,” said Güler. Lawyer Doğuşcan Aydın Aygün stated, “This situation is a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and of Article 36 of the Constitution. We therefore reject the panel of judges.”
Following these affirmations, judge Akın Gürlek, without considering the recusal requests, proceeded to give the plaintiffs’ lawyers permission to speak. Lawyer Altınkaynak argued that Kaftancıoğlu “posted tweets offending veterans of July 15th.” Erdoğan’s lawyer Yıldız then said that they had filed a criminal complaint against Kaftancıoğlu on January 25th 2018, and that “she acknowledged her tweets before the indictment was drafted.” “She defended herself very well during live broadcasts,” he added.
Gürlek: “I will remove the audience if there’s commotion”
Kaftancıoğlu’s lawyer Güler reacted to this statement by saying, “You’re accepting the requests for intervening without reviewing our recusation request first.” President Gürlek issued a warning to lawyer Aygün for “disturbing the trial’s peace” by speaking without permission. These words provoked laughter in the courtroom. Gürlek issued a warning to the audience this time, saying “I will remove the audience from the courtroom if there’s commotion again.”
While Erdoğan’s lawyer Yıldız was about to end his statement, Ömer Kavili, one of the lawyers who was present in the courtroom, asked: “How was he [Erdoğan] harmed [by the tweets], I wonder.” In response to this interruption, judge Gürlek said, “Have defendant Kavili leave the room.” Gürlek calling Kavili the “defendant” caused laughter and protests inside the courtroom.
Gürlek went on and said, “It was decided unanimously that defense lawyer Ömer Kavili shall be removed from the courtroom for disrupting the order and peace of the hearing.” Kavili mentioned that Gürlek reached this decision without even discussing the issue with his colleagues and added, “I wish you at least asked the other judges about this. Akın, you did this in Silivri as well. I invite you to abide by the law.” Kavili then left the courtroom without further protest.
CHP MP Turan Aydoğan, who was in the audience, approached Gürlek and said, “You saying that you would empty the room and throw all audience members out was recorded on SEGBİS.” Gürlek then replied, “This is not the parliament, you cannot speak before I give you the floor.” Erdoğan’s lawyer Ferhat Yıldız intervened; “You cannot reprimand the judge,” he said.
Following the complainants’ request to intervene in the case, Gürlek announced that all requests to intervene have been granted and the request to recuse the judges were rejected unanimously.
After this decision, Kaftancıoğlu’s lawyer Ergün Özer took the floor and said: “You heard the requests to intervene before reviewing the request for the recusal; this is improper.” Lawyer Figen Güler stated, “Your panel has lost its impartiality.” Lawyer Süleyman Peker demanded once again that the panel of judges recuse the case.
Next hearing is on the same day as the Gezi trial
Gürlek asked the public prosecutor of his opinion. Prosecutor Alaattin Çolak noted that he does not have a request at this stage.
Following a short break for deliberation, the court announced its interim decision. The court decided to grant Kaftancıoğlu extra time for her defense statement but emphasized that this extra time was given for one time only. The court also decided to adjourn the trial until July 18th, 2019.
Lawyers demanded the next hearing to be scheduled on a different day, explaining that the Gezi trial was going to be held on the same day. Judge Gürlek ignored these requests and left the courtroom.