Van – First hearing of Sercan Akbaş, former editor-in-chief of Haber Erciş news web site, was held at Van 7th High Criminal Court today. Erciş Criminal Judgeship of Peace formerly issued an access ban for Haber Erciş web site, which reports local news in Van. Akbaş faces “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charges in this trial.
Akbaş, whom Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) represents in court, stands trial due to a single news report about the military operation in Afrin, Syria which was published on Haber Erciş web site January 21, 2018.
While journalist Akbaş did not attend the hearing, his lawyer represented him before court. Some journalists were also present to express their solidarity with Akbaş by monitoring the trial.
‘The concerned news story complies with journalism principles’
Akbaş’s lawyer Mustafa Murtezaoğlu stated that the concerned news story was reported using objective information and complying with journalism principles. Murtezaoğlu added, “The specific piece of news was published by national and international media outlets and Akbaş published the news on the website. He needs to have the capacity to mobilize people for the propaganda charge to be considered as a crime. This piece of news on a local website does not pose a threat. It cannot be considered as a crime as long as the news does not exceed the limitations of informing the public. The news story that’s presented as evidence should be evaluated within the scope of freedom of press.” Murtezaoğlu also requestsed Akbaş’s acquittal.
Murtezaoğlu said that it is against the law to consider the Erciş Municipality calendars seized at defendant’s home as criminal evidence.
Public prosecutor presented his final opinion as to the accusations and requested defendant’s acquittal and the return of his personal belongings that were seized during the police raid at his home. The court announced the verdict following a short recess and acquitted journalist Sercan Akbaş on all charges.
‘A mistake corrected’
Lawyer Mustafa Murtezaoğlu made a brief statement following the hearing and said that the verdict is satisfying. He further stated: “It is against the law to consider a calendar from a governmental body such as a municipality and a news report from international media outlets as a crime. Nevertheless, it is satisfying to see that the court recognized this mistake and corrected it during the trial process. Although it’s later than expected, we’re glad to see that our defendant is acquitted.”