Case Monitoring

Court acquits journalist Dindar Karataş of “membership of a terrorist organization”

Van – The fourth hearing of the trial where journalist Dindar Karataş, whom the Media and Law Studies Association defends, is accused of “membership of a terrorist organization” was held today at Erzurum 3rd High Criminal Court; Karataş was acquitted due to insufficient evidence.

Mesopotamia Agency (MA) reporter Dindar Karataş’s fourth hearing was initially scheduled for yesterday, but got delayed by the judicial panel as they were going to attend a funeral ceremony. Karataş and his lawyer Erselan Aktan both attended the hearing via SEGBİS, Karataş from Van 4th High Criminal Court, and Aktan from İstanbul 22nd High Criminal Court. Karataş’s other lawyer, İrfan Sarı was physically present at the Erzurum 3rd High Criminal Court.

“My news report on torture should have been considered as a denouncement” 

Journalist Karataş was the first to take the floor at the hearing, which started later than planned. In his defense against the final opinion of the prosecutor delivered during the previous hearing, Karataş said: “The fact that my news reports are being cited as criminal elements is unacceptable. It is also really bizarre that a couple news reports were selected from among hundreds. News reports are formed on the basis of a determination. It is in the hospital reports that those people in Tutak were subject to torture, but I am being tried here. My report should have been considered as a denouncement.”

Karataş added: “My reports on prisons are also included in the case file. I have spent time in prison and I experienced worse than what is told in those news reports. I was under physical and technical surveillance for six months. Working for MA is presented as if it means to work for a terrorist organization. This is an official news agency and I still work there.”

“Prosecution attempts to determine even the syntax of news reports”

Following Karataş, lawyer Aktan took the floor and noted that his client conducted an extensive research and reported on an incident of torture, and published it on a legal website. Aktan said: “A villager was killed in Tutak, and my client reported on it. He spoke with the close ones and lawyers of the villager, in addition to taking statements from relevant circles and rights defenders. His report includes enough data and information for an investigation and trial to be launched against this violation of right to life. However no investigation was launched by the prosecution. Moreover, the prosecution acts as if it is the editor of the journalist, attempts to determine even the syntax of news reports, which falls out of its scope. Additionally, it highlights something called “management of perception” in their final opinion, however this concept has no legal basis.” Requesting the acquittal of his defendant, lawyer Aktan stated that the case file consists of nothing that could constitute the crimes imputed against his client.

Lawyer Sarı took the floor after Aktan and remarked his client’s profession. He said: “My client works for a news agency; there is no obligation for all to work for Yeni Şafak. One can work for an opposing outlet. He was subject to technical and physical surveillance following his reporting on torture in Tutak, and nothing came out of it. My client stands trial for his reporting.”

Following the defense statements, the court ruled for the acquittal of journalist Karataş,  due to insufficient evidence for the imputed crime.

Case background

Following MA Van Bureau’s news reports on the torturing of two citizens by soldiers in Van’s Çatak district, MA reporters Cemil Uğur and Adnan Bilen, Jinnews reporter Şehriban Abi and freelance journalist Nazan Sala were detained and arrested on the grounds that they were “reporting on social incidents against the state.” A few weeks after their arrest, journalist Dindar Karataş was also detained in Van. Police simultaneously raided Karataş’s home and MA Van Bureau, the searches lasted for a very long time. Once again all digital materials of the news agency were seized. Karataş was taken to Erzurum, where the investigation was being conducted, and arrested on “membership in a terrorist organization” charges on November 26, 2020.

Karataş’s indictment presents the tapes of his phone calls as evidence for the imputed offence. These records consist of Karataş’s talks with his news sources, which, according to the indictment indicate that Karataş was in “search for writing pro-terrorist organization news reports” and that he was “presenting the successful military operations against terrorists as ‘torture and cruelty towards the people’ and was employed by the terrorist organization’s media outlet, Mesopotamia News Agency.”