Ağrı – Third hearing where journalist Aziz Oruç is tried for “membership in a terrorist organization” based on his social media posts and news reports he penned, was held today at Ağrı 2nd High Criminal Court. The court ruled for the release of Oruç, who has been in pre-trial detention since December 18, 2019.
Joining the hearing from Patnos L Type Prison via SEGBİS (video-conference link), journalist Oruç underscored the fact that there is no sufficient evidence in his case that supports the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.”
“I am a journalist, and I am Kurdish; none of which is a crime”
Noting that his only occupation is journalism, Oruç said his unlawful entry into the country could not be linked to being a member of an organization: “I have been a journalist for many years. I worked in Diyarbakır, Van, Bingöl and Ankara. Most recently, I was working in Hewlêr. I was prosecuted for using a fake passport in Iran, and fined. I demanded the Iranian officials to send me to Turkey, they refused. Thus, by my own means, I came to the country. I am being tried for entering the country unlawfully, on charges of ‘membership in a terrorist organization.’ What does unlawful entry have to do with membership? How can the former be presented as evidence for the latter? I am a journalist, and I am Kurdish, none of which constitutes a crime. All this time, I have been unlawfully detained. I demand my release.”
Following a short recess, the court announced its interim decision and ruled for the release of Oruç, who has been in detention since December 18, 2019, with judicial control measures. Next hearing will be held on April 16, 2021.
“Statement released by Ministry of Interior delayed Oruç’s release”
Lawyer Erselan Aktan noted that the court could not present any evidence for membership or propaganda charges to the case file, and added that the requests of the defense had not been taken into consideration. Aktan said:
“The investigating authorities were of the opinion that our client crossed the border unlawfully, and considered that as sufficient evidence for the imputed offense. Accordingly, the court prolonged the detention period based on that opinion. Finally today, we received a decision of release. However this process caused so much suffering for Aziz Oruç and his family.”
Implying a causal relationship between the prolonging of Oruç’s detention and the statement released by the Ministry of Interior, lawyer Aktan said: “Without resting on any substantial evidence, the Ministry of Interior announced the detainment of Oruç, as the ‘detainment of a terrorist’. What followed was the exertion of the investigating and prosecuting authorities to not fall behind. The stress and pressure caused by the statement prevented any form of progress that could be made in the case. The decision to release Oruç, has come very late. That is why we have also filed an application to the Constitutional Court last week.”
Aziz Oruç, who is represented by Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA), was detained by Armenian border police late last year for carrying a forged passport. He was unlawfully returned to Iran despite his request for political asylum, where officials dragged him to the Turkish-Iranian border and left him for dead in freezing temperatures. Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Doğubayazıt Co-Chair Abdullah Ekelek and Muhammet İkram Müftüoğlu helped Oruç and saved his life after he crossed the border by his means. Ekelek and Müftüoğlu were arrested with Oruç on December 18, 2019 on charges of “willingly aiding and abetting a terrorist organization” and were released pending trial after the first hearing. Among those who are tried for helping Oruç are Mesopotamia News Agency (MA) editor Dicle Müftüoğlu, Turgay İlboğa and Yücel İlhan.