İstanbul – Due to the COVID-19 precautionary measures, a limited number of observers and press members were allowed in the courtroom for the eighth hearing of journalist Deniz Yücel’s trial. Officials from the German Consulate General and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu were among those monitoring the hearing.
Lawyer Veysel Ok represented journalist Deniz Yücel at the hearing in which the prosecutor repeated his opinion requesting Yücel’s punishment for “making terrorist propaganda” and “provoking the people to hatred and animosity”.
Presenting his meritorious defense statement, Lawyer Ok pointed to the illegal procedures that took place during the investigation process, the shortcomings of the indictment and reminded the court of the Constitutional Court decision that found Yücel’s imprisonment in violation of his right to personal security and freedom.
‘After he willingly went to testify, Yücel was imprisoned for one year as part of another investigation’
Remarking that Yücel had first been called to testify as part of the investigation into the leaking of emails of the then Minister of Energy Berat Albayrak by RedHack, Ok stated:
“Yücel had willingly gone to the Police Headquarters to testify where he was only asked if he knew the other defendant journalists, as part of an investigation that was initiated a while ago. He was not asked a single question regarding the investigation, or presented with any evidence. After being held in custody for 13 days, his case was separated from what is generally known as the RedHack case, and he was imprisoned pending trial for a year due to this other investigation, of which he spent 10 months in complete isolation.”
‘Yücel’s world view, his profession and his journalism is on trial’
Highlighting the fact that the indictment, which was prepared after Yücel’s one-year imprisonment and only consisted of his news stories and articles published in Die Welt newspaper, was only two and a half pages long, Ok said, “This indictment and its appendix, was a great disappointment for us and the public. Such an important investigation consisted nothing more than a report which was not even a proper text, and was filled with erroneous article and news story translations.”
Reminding the court to take into consideration the Turkish Constitutional Court decision, Ok said, “Deniz Yücel’s world view, his profession and his journalism is on trial here.” Ok pointed to the fact that the prosecutor had not made a sufficient research and repeatedly wrote some statements from the indictment. Then he went on to explain the content of each news story and article that was involved in the indictment, stating none of them could be considered to constitute a crime.
‘Was it the people of Germany, or the people of Turkey that was ‘provoked to hatred and animosity’?’
As for the accusation of “provoking the people to hatred and animosity”, Ok asked the court who was provoked, “Was it the people of Turkey or Germany? Was this article arranged to protect the people of Turkey, or Germany? The answer is of course, very clear, it is the people of Turkey. Whereas my client writes in German, and his work is published in Germany.”
In concluding his defense statement, Ok reminded the court of a number of decisions and jurisprudences of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the Turkish Constitutional Court which constitute legal precedents, and requested the acquittal of his client.
The panel of judges stated they required time to examine and evaluate lawyer Ok’s defense statement which he had also presented in writing, and adjourned the hearing until 16 July 2020.
Constitutional Court decision had ruled that Yücel’s detention was in violation of ‘freedom of expression’
The Turkish Constitutional Court had decided on 28 May 2019 that Deniz Yücel’s detention was in violation of his right to security and freedom of expression, stating, “News reporting based on interviews is one of the most important tools of the press’s role in securing public interest. A journalist being indicted for publishing the opinions of another party in the form of an interview could obstruct the press’s contribution to the debate on issues that concern public interest.”
The Court had stated that they were not convinced by the allegations that journalist Yücel seemed to be approving of the interviewee’s opinions and that he asked questions in a way that would lead to terrorist propaganda.
The ruling insisted that articles that were presented as evidence in Yücel’s arrest warrant should be evaluated as political criticism, which are thus protected under freedom of expression, stating that these articles cannot be used as strong evidence of a committed crime.