Ağrı – Seven months after being arrested on “membership in a terrorist organization” charges, journalist Aziz Oruç appeared before the court for the first time today. All six defendants, of which three are in pre-trial detention, presented their initial defense statements during this hearing. Ruling for the continuation of journalist Oruç’s imprisonment, the court released two other defendants and adjourned the trial until September 21, 2020.
Oruç, who had been working in Iraq since 2017, 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 and had been in pre-trial detention since then.
The first hearing of the trial was held at Ağrı 2nd High Criminal Court today. Journalist Oruç faces “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorist propaganda” charges, whereas the five other defendants are accused of “willingly aiding and abetting a terrorist organization.” Mesopotamia News Agency (MA) editor journalist Dicle Müftüoğlu, Turgay İlboğa and Yücel İlhan are the three defendants tried without detention for helping Oruç to be picked up near the border by Ekelek and Müftüoğlu.
Due to COVID-19 measures, journalists and relatives of the defendants were not allowed in the courtroom, however the hearing was monitored by Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS) Diyarbakır representative Mahmut Oral along with a number of other press members.
Imprisoned defendants Oruç, Müftüoğlu and Ekelek joined the hearing via the video-conference link (SEGBİS) from Patnos Prison where they are held. Other defendants in the case were present in the courtroom alongside their lawyers. After the identification procedures, the court resumed the hearing with taking the defense statement of each defendant.
Following the statements, the prosecutor presented their opinion requesting the release of Abdullah Ekelek and İkram Müftüoğlu with judicial control measures, and the continuation of journalist Aziz Oruç’s detention.
The court recessed for a short while for a private deliberation. The panel of judges decided in accord with the prosecutor’s opinion and released Ekelek and Müftüoğlu with imposing judicial control measures. The court ruled to keep journalist Aziz Oruç in pre-trial detention.
The trial will resume on September 21, 2020.