Journalist DefenseJournalists in Prison

Lawyers for journalist Aziz Oruç to seek justice in Armenia and Turkey

Lawyers for journalist Aziz Oruç, arrested in the Doğubayazıt district of the northeastern province Ağrı on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” in December 2019, have said they will fight a legal battle in Turkey and Armenia on the grounds that both countries have violated the journalist’s right. 

The Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA), which represents Oruç, is planning to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) after exhaustion of domestic remedies in Armenia and Turkey in collaboration with Armenian and international lawyers.

Oruç, who had been working in Iraq since 2017, was detained by Armenian border police late last year for carrying a forged passport. Because he had entered Armenia from Iran, he was unlawfully returned to that country, where officials dragged him to the Turkish-Iranian border, where they allegedly left him for dead in freezing temperatures. At the border, he was able to contact People’s Democratic Party (HDP) officials Abdullah Ekelek Muhammet İkram Müftüoğlu. The three were detained by Turkish gendarmerie along the Ağrı-Doğubeyazıt highway on 11 December and later arrested on 18 December by a Doğubeyaz Court. In a statement it released on 11 December, the Ministry of Interior called the journalist a “terrorist”.

Case to be taken to ECHR after legal battle

Providing information about the journalist’s case, MLSA Co-Director Veysel OK said, “The case of Aziz Oruç is the toughest one among all the other detained journalists in Turkey. Aziz has been subject to tremendously unlawful treatment by Armenia, Iran and Turkey. He was tortured, and he was left for dead. Unfortunately, our chances of taking legal action against Iran seem to be considerably limited. However, both Turkey and Armenia are members of the Council of Europe and they are both party to international conventions. We will be conducting a legal process in Armenia with local lawyers. Armenian officials didn’t process Aziz’s application for asylum and he was unlawfully returned to Iran. We will take the case to the ECHR after exhausting domestic remedies in the Armenian court system.”

Ok stated that his team also planned to start a legal process in Turkey by filing an objection to the arrest of Oruç. Saying that there was a confidentiality order on the case, Ok added that they were going to apply to the Constitutional Court following a review of their objection. 

Ok further stated that MLSA Legal Unit was waiting for the indictment which Doğubayazıt Chief Prosecutor’s Office will prepare.

Lawyers for Oruç also stated that they would carry out ECtHR-related processes in collaboration with lawyers from the London-based Media Legal Defense Initiative (MLDI).

Who is Aziz Oruç?

Oruç, who started journalism as a correspondent for the Dicle News Agency (DİHA) in 2013, moved to Sulaymaniyah, Iraq in 2017 where he worked as an editor and translator for Roj News.

Oruç chose to work in Iraq because of the legal pressures he faced. Oruç has many ongoing cases in Diyarbakır and İstanbul from the time when he was a reporter at DİHA. He was sentenced to 6 months and 3 months in prison in 2012 and this sentence is currently under review by the Court of Cassation.

“Journalism is not a crime”

MLSA lawyer Mustafa Murtezaoğlu visited Aziz Oruç in Patnos Prison on 7 January 2020. Oruç said journalism was an indispensable part of his life and added: “Being a journalist was challenging with all the oppression and unlawfulness in Turkey. Despite this situation, I continued my journalistic activities with devotion. Speaking up for the peoples being subject to the same oppression gives me much strength and eases my conscience while I am behind bars. It gave me great happiness when the same people whom I spoke up for stood up for me and other journalists in my situation when we needed them. This showed the importance of solidarity. Although we always say that ‘journalism is not a crime’, journalism is unfortunately criminalized in Turkey.”

Calling on his fellow journalists to show solidarity with those being persecuted for their journalism, Oruç said “I fondly salute all my colleagues and send my regards.”