Erzurum – First hearing of the trial where journalist Dindar Karataş faces “membership in a terrorist organization” charges based on the news reports he penned and his phone records, was held today at Erzurum 3rd High Criminal Court. The court ruled for the release of Karataş, imposing an international travel ban over him.
Journalist Karataş, whom Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) defends, attended the hearing from Erzurum H Type Prison via the judicial video-conference link, SEGBİS, whereas his lawyer İrfan Sarı was physically present at the courtroom in Erzurum. Karataş’s other lawyer, Erselan Aktan, joined the hearing from the İstanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan. Mesopotamia Agency (MA) reporter Karataş stated that his news reports constitute no crime and that the records clearly show that his phone calls were all regarding his journalistic activities.
Karataş’s lawyer Sarı said that the charges against his client were not based on any reasonable grounds and added, “It is obvious that my client is a journalist and his works do not constitute the imputed offence.” Lawyer Aktan noted that the court should stop prosecuting journalist Karataş, and focus on the news he reported. Aktan said, “Journalist Karataş’s news report is not an evidence for crime, but an indictment that should put the court into action. Karataş investigated and reported on the killing of Murat Kaya by security forces. No effective investigation was conducted regarding the murder of Murat Kaya, moreover the journalist who reported on it is being prosecuted. The duty and responsibility of the court is not to prosecute the journalist with such a far-fetched indictment, but to investigate a violation of the right to life, shed light on it and finally bring the perpetrators to justice.”
After a short recess, the court decided to release journalist Karataş with an international travel ban. Next hearing will be held on May 27.
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.”