Diyarbakır – Journalist Ferhat Parlak, tried with a requested sentence of up to 15 years for journalistic activities and detained for the past 15 months, was released and issued a travel ban in the first hearing of his trial. Rejecting the accusations made against him and underlining the fact that he was a journalist, Parlak said, “I have waited 15 months for the day when I would appear in court and be able to explain these things.”
First hearing of Silvan Mücadele newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief Ferhat Parlak’s trial, where he is charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” was held at Diyarbakır 11th High Criminal Court today. He had been arrested on April 10, 2018 based on news published following the announcement of curfews in 2015 as well as content shared on social media, witness testimonies, a book he wrote and an interview he conducted in Kandil with KCK (Kurdistan Communities Union) leaders.
Journalist Ferhat Parlak and his lawyer Mehdi Özdemir were present in the courtroom. Parlak’s spouse and relatives, Turkey’s Journalists Union (TGS) Diyarbakır delegate Mahmut Oral, and journalists attended the trial to manifest their support. Parlak was the first to take the floor in the trial, which opened with the identification of the parties and a summary of the indictment being read out.
“How could I throw a molotov bomb with one hand while taking photos with the other”
Parlak’s defense opened with the following words: “I have been detained for 15 months.
I have waited 15 months for the day when I would appear in court and be able to defend myself against the accusations made against me.” He continued: “I am the Editor-in-Chief of Silvan Mücadele newspaper, which was founded by my father in 1987. I have carried out reporting and journalism for other newspapers and television as well.” In response to the his book Silvan, City of Martyrs being presented as evidence against him, Parlak said: “I wrote this book so that this suffering would never occur again. There is not a single decision ordering the ban or recall of the book. This book has received a banderole and can also be found in the Turkish Parliament’s Library.”
Parlak argued that both secret and public witness testimonies against him were incoherent, untrue, and made of lies; that they consisted of unfounded statements made about him by persons attempting to get rid of other accusations weighing on themselves.
He declared: “The claim that I threw a molotov bomb at an armored vehicle with one hand while taking photos with a camera in my other hand goes against the ordinary course of events. How can I take photos with one hand while throwing a molotov bomb with the other? There is a camera in every armored vehicle, if I had really thrown a molotov bomb, this footage would have appeared.” In relation to the news articles edited at Silvan considered as criminal evidence, Parlak defended the idea that other newspapers had also published similar news by presenting to the court several related newspaper clippings.
“I have been deprived of my freedom for the past 15 months”
As Parlak was still carrying out his defence, the Presiding Judge interrupted him saying, “I have already read your defence. There is no need for you to repeat it or go into any detail”. Pursuing his defence, Parlak declared that the person having given the secret witness statement according to which he gave that person an AK47, took their picture and “blackmailed” them into going to the mountains currently resided in Silvan and insisted that this witness claim was abstract and unfounded. Parlak pointed out the fact that the previously confiscated journalism record which had been given back to him from the judicial evidence unit in return for a voucher had again been confiscated 18 days later when his house was raided, and had been used as evidence against him. “I said to the prosecutor carrying out the enquiry, “You handed these over to me 18 days ago”. The prosecutor didn’t say anything, he only laughed at me”.
Parlak ended his defence with the following declaration: “I have been deprived of my freedom for the past 15 months. I miss my two beautiful daughters a lot. I want to have breakfast with them. I request my release.”
After Parlak, witness Bilal Cesur, attending the hearing from the court in Silvan via SEGBİS video conference system, denied the statements he had previously made against Parlak; “I know Ferhat Parlak as a journalist. I don’t know of any relationship between him and an armed organisation, I did not see him in the ditches. He would take pictures, he was a journalist. I have not witnessed any terror-related activities. My present statement is true, I request that this one be considered.”
The prosecutor, subsequently delivering his opinion, requested that in light of the qualification of the alleged offence and the present evidence situation, Parlak’s detention be continued and the missing elements of the file completed.
“Journalistic activities have been portrayed as terrorism”
Subsequently taking the floor to defend Parlak, his lawyer Mehdi Özdemir pointed out that he and his client did not agree with the prosecutor’s opinion that Parlak’s detention should be sustained, further arguing that secret witness statements were contradictory. “My client’s journalistic activities have been portrayed as terrorist activity. Witness Bilal Cesur has previously declared that my client carried out terrorist activities and now in court he has just declared the exact opposite. In his defence, my client has said that he was a journalist, that his activities were journalistic. My client has practiced journalism and journalism is not a crime,” he claimed.
Drawing the judges’ attention to the fact that his client was being judged regarding charges for which he had already been tried and acquitted by the Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court, Özdemir insisted that this trial was contrary to the ne bis in idem principle. Özdemir further argued that the interview conducted by his client with PKK leader Murat Karayılan during the “solution process” did not contain any terrorist propaganda, and brought to the Court’s attention the decision by the Constitutional Court that journalist Deniz Yücel’s rights had been violated, in an attempt to show that his client had only carried out his profession as a journalist. Reminding the Court that his client had been detained for a long period, Özdemir requested Parlak’s release.
Ordering a short recess after these arguments were heard, the court then announced its interim decision. The Court, noting that a significant amount of evidence had already been collected and in the absence of any concrete element to suggest that Parlak could try to flee, hide or spoliate evidence, ordered the journalist’s release from prison with an international travel ban. The trial is adjourned until 6 November.