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Court rules to keep journalist Aziz Oruç in detention

Ağrı – Journalist Aziz Oruç, who has been in pre-trial detention since 18 December 2019, appeared before Ağrı 2nd High Criminal Court today for the second hearing of the trial where he is charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorist propaganda”. The court ruled to keep Oruç in pre-trial detention and adjourned the hearing until 9 November for the completion of missing documents in the case.

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 in pre-trial detention until the first hearing, which was held on 21 July, where the court ruled for their release.

‘All I did was practice journalism’

The hearing began with regular identification procedures, and continued with the defense statement of journalist Oruç. Repeating his previous statements, Oruç noted that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, his detention not only deprived him of his freedoms but also constituted a threat against his life. Oruç said, “I am not a member of any organization, my case makes that apparent. All I did was practice journalism” and demanded his release. 

‘Res judicata should apply in this case’

Oruç’s lawyers Erselan Aktan and Erhan Çiftçiler noted that “res judicata” should apply in the case and said, “Certain matters where Oruç has already been tried for are unlawfully included in this case. There appears to be no solid evidence indicating that Oruç was engaged in any activity other than practicing journalism”. Lawyers demanded the continuation of the trial without detention. 

HDP Doğubayazıt Co-Chair Ekelek and Müftüoğlu, who are charged with “willingly aiding and abetting a terrorist organization without being a member” joined the hearing physically and submitted their defense statements. Court ruled to lift the judicial control measures imposed upon Ekelek and Müftüoğlu who were released at the first hearing held in July, after spending seven months in pre-trial detention.

Other defendants who are tried without detention, Dicle Müftüoğlu, Turgay İlboğa and Yücel İlhan did not join the hearing. The court ruled to keep journalist Aziz Oruç in pre-trial detention and adjourned the hearing until 9 November, 2020.