Van – Final hearing of the trial where journalist Arif Aslan faces “membership in an armed terrorist organization” was held today at Van 5th High Criminal Court. Aslan was detained in front of the Van Municipality Building while taking photos, on March 31, 2017. The prosecutor had requested the punishment of Aslan in their final opinion, however the court decided to acquit Aslan of the charges.
Aslan, whom the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) defends, did not attend the hearing himself and was represented by his lawyers Murat Timur and Cihat Durmaz. Lawyer Erselan Aktan, who was going to join via the judicial conference link SEGBİS from İstanbul, could not attend the hearing due to technical problems. The hearing, which could not be monitored by an audience or press members due to the precaution against the COVID-19 pandemic, began with usual identity checks.
‘My client is a member of the Journalists’ Union of Turkey’
Lawyer Timur was the first to deliver his defense statement at the hearing. He started by underlining the fact that Aslan is a journalist and added: “My client owns an international press card and he is a member of the Journalists’ Union of Turkey. The relevant documents are already there in the case file. Aslan was there as a journalist and he was taking photos in order to do his job.”
‘Relating news photography with ‘reconnaissance’ is absurd’
Lawyer Durmaz remarked that Aslan was there to do his job and said, “It is impossible to relate news photography with reconnaisance. These are photos taken in broad daylight, right beside law enforcement officers. It is absurd to link them to reconnaisance. The fact that Aslan shot the same frame over and over again is because of his reflex as a journalist.”
‘Prosecutor claims Aslan is not a journalist based on the governorship’s letter’
Durmaz also touched upon the prosecutor’s statement regarding Aslan not owning a yellow press card by saying, “The prosecution claims that our client is not a journalist, based on the governorship’s official letter. The official document demonstrating that Aslan indeed works as a journalist, was sent out by the Journalists’ Union of Turkey and was not taken into consideration by the prosecutor. Why is this document sent out by the union, of which all journalists are a member, is not included in the prosecutor’s final opinion? Moreover, my client had his press card on him when he was detained. Let alone the press card, a minor internet search would reveal numerous news reports, both national and international, penned by my client.” Durmaz completed his defense statement by requesting Aslan’s acquittal.
Court decides to acquit Aslan
Following the defense statements, the panel of judges ruled for the acquittal of journalist Aslan and noted that a detailed ruling would be issued later.
“I suffered from many unjust treatments throughout the four-year trial process. It is pleasing that the truth about the basis of the proceedings have finally come out,” journalist Aslan commented on the acquittal decision.
Noting that he wishes the release of all of his colleagues deprived of their freedoms, Aslan said, “I know that they are being tried for their journalistic activities as well. We will continue to defend journalism and insist on our profession.”