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Journalist Dicle Müftüoğlu released after 306 days in detention

Journalist Dicle Müftüoğlu released after 306 days in detention

Dicle Müftüoğlu, the co-chair of the Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG) and an editor at the Mesopotamia News Agency (MA), was released during the third hearing of the case against her, which was based on her journalistic activities. Müftüoğlu had been in custody for 306 days prior to her release. The trial took place at the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court on February 29, 2024.

Müftüoğlu faced charges of "forming and leading an organization" and "membership of an organization" due to her journalistic activities, including traveling for news reports, communicating with colleagues, and requesting special news from reporters as an editor at the news center. She attended the hearing via the Audio and Visual Information System (SEGBİS) from the Sincan Women's Closed Prison, as she was not brought to the courtroom. Müftüoğlu's lawyers, Resul Temur, Veysel Ok, Şule Recepoğlu, and Mehmet Emin Aktar, were present in the courtroom.

High security and widespread support observed at the trial

The courtroom and its vicinity at the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court were heavily guarded by police officers. Meanwhile, observers from various institutions attended the courthouse to watch the trial.

Notable attendees included Serdar Altan, co-chair of the Dicle Fırat Journalists Association; Gökhan Durmuş, president of the Turkish Journalists Union and its Diyarbakır representative Mahmut Oral; Turgut Dedeoğlu, president of the DİSK Press-Work; Erol Önderoğlu, Turkey representative of Reporters Without Borders; Deniz Tekin from the Media and Legal Studies Association; representatives from the Mesopotamia Women Journalists Association; and a delegation of international lawyers opposed to solitary confinement from the bar associations of Sweden, Norway, Italy, Spain, and South Africa, along with journalists.

Testimony from a confidential witness

During the hearing, a confidential witness testified that Müftüoğlu worked at the Mesopotamia News Agency, was responsible for female employees, and represented the agency at meetings with women's organizations. The witness stated, "She participates in trainings organized under the name of the Dicle Fırat Journalists Association and is one of the people who decide on the assignments after the trainings. She is responsible for the women working at MA and also requests articles and news from women on significant days for the organization."

Following the witness's statement, the judge asked, "Are these acts of journalism or organizational activities?" The witness described how Müftüoğlu requested special reports about women on significant days and anniversaries. The judge then inquired if the witness had any direct knowledge of Müftüoğlu's membership in the organization, to which the witness replied, "No. I think she conducted activities on behalf of the organization based on these actions."

Dicle Müftüoğlu's lawyer, Resul Temur, challenged the witness by asking, "You mentioned earlier that you attended meetings with women's organizations in Diyarbakır with Dicle. When did these meetings take place, with which organization, and where?" The witness responded, "I don't remember the date or the place," and also stated they could not recall the names of any organizations at the moment.

"No concrete evidence, only allegations and slander"

During her defense statement via the Audio and Visual Information System (SEGBİS), Dicle Müftüoğlu, who has been a journalist for 15 years and worked for the Mesopotamia News Agency, the Active News Agency, and the Dicle News Agency, besides being a director and founding member of the DFG, began by addressing the confidential witness's statement. "I assume the witness has no knowledge about journalism," Müftüoğlu continued, "There is no concrete evidence, only allegations and slander. There is a professional hierarchy within the news center. You have to hold meetings to organize your broadcast schedule."

Müftüoğlu explained the daily operations of the news center, saying, "Reporters present their suggestions, and editors at the news center also make suggestions on current issues. This is not an instruction. It is entirely a professional matter." She further detailed, "Every agency, every newspaper has an editorial line and produces news accordingly. When there's a significant event like a mine disaster in İliç, all reporters go there, and the news center makes suggestions. Yesterday, eight women were killed by men. In such a country, of course, the news center will discuss this, will talk with women's organizations, and will cover their struggle."

Continuing her defense, Müftüoğlu stated, "I attend statements from all women's organizations in that city. That is my duty as a journalist. The headquarters of MA is in Istanbul, so the witness's claim is false. Not a single one of their claims reflects the truth. There is an atmosphere of criminalizing professional activity."

Lawyer Temur: "The witness is imprisoning us in absence and wants us to prove the non-existence."

Subsequently, Dicle Müftüoğlu's lawyers made their defense against the confidential witness's statements. Lawyer Resul Temur said, "The fundamental purpose of the question we asked the witness was to see if they had any knowledge. Their response revealed they had no information or firsthand experience. The confidential witness is acting with a motivation to punish." Temur continued his defense by stating, "The confidential witness goes beyond their testimony and assumes the role of the prosecution. They are leaning towards a collective accusation and aim to collectively punish journalists. These statements should not form the basis of the judgment. They imprison us in non-existence and want us to prove non-existence. This is where our dilemma begins; we cannot prove non-existence. Therefore, the statements of the confidential witness should not be taken as a basis for the judgment."

Lawyer Temur mentioned that Müftüoğlu had previously been tried in the 5th High Criminal Court and that the current trial was identical to the previous one. They obtained an expert opinion from Dr. Timuçin Köprülü regarding this matter. Timuçin Köprülü from Atılım University submitted his expert opinion to the court, stating, "This case is repetitive. The case should be dismissed."

Lawyer Ok: "We request Dicle's acquittal; otherwise, you would have terrorized the profession."

One of Dicle Müftüoğlu's lawyers, Veysel Ok, began his defense against the confidential witness's statements. Ok said, "I am ashamed to have to explain this again. Every sentence used by the confidential witness concerns every journalist in this room. We have been explaining journalism to you for three sessions. This case has transcended Dicle; you are criminalizing all journalists based on the witness statement."

Lawyer Veysel Ok posed a question to the court panel: "Everyone takes orders. Reporters also give orders. Does the capture of Öcalan not have news value? Does something have to please you to be newsworthy?"

Ok continued his defense by stating, "MA is a legal agency. You cannot criminalize a journalist for working for this agency. The Constitutional Court says this in the 'Cemil Uğur decision.' Müftüoğlu has been in custody since World Press Freedom Day, May 3. You are not convinced, but 20 international organizations have issued statements vouching for Müftüoğlu's journalism. Ten months is a long time for a journalist. If no release is granted, if a sentence is issued, you will have punished all journalists."

Ok concluded his remarks by saying, "We request Dicle's acquittal; otherwise, you would have terrorized the profession, and this will go down in history."

Lawyer Recepoğlu: "Even if there were ten more witnesses, an acquittal should be issued."

Lawyer Şule Recepoğlu, in her defense, stated, "Since 2016, thousands of journalists have been tried, and the outcome has been this: The accusations are weak, and the collected data does not constitute evidence. Today, in this session, we faced a statement from a witness lacking supervision and reliability."

Recepoğlu argued, "Even if there were ten more witnesses in this case, an acquittal should still be issued from this session," requesting Dicle Müftüoğlu's acquittal.

"Being tried in custody based on unfounded allegations is an oppression for me."

In the prosecutor's opinion on the merits of the case, the continuation of Dicle Müftüoğlu's detention was requested, citing "witness statements, phone records, and a strong suspicion of crime." In response to the prosecutor's opinion, Dicle Müftüoğlu stated:

"For 10 months, I have been tried in custody as a journalist. This is an obstacle to press and freedom of expression in itself. There is an investigation initiated by a witness statement. During the trial process, these statements were refuted, and concrete evidence was presented. Being tried in custody against allegations that do not reflect the truth is an oppression for me. It also prevents me from performing my profession. I request the rectification of this injustice and my victimization and my release."

In defense against the prosecutor's opinion, lawyer Veysel Ok mentioned that journalist Sedat Yılmaz, who was tried on the same charges, was acquitted in the morning, stating, "There shouldn't be such contradictions between courts. We request an acquittal."

The court decided to release Dicle Müftüoğlu. The panel, imposing a travel ban, decided to inquire with the Police whether there is another investigation file concerning Dicle Müftüoğlu. Sending the case file to the prosecutor for preparation of their opinion on the merits, the court postponed the next hearing to June 13, 2024.


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