Mine Özerden Detained 700 Days on Unsubstantiated Allegations from Unidentified Informant

Mine Özerden Detained 700 Days on Unsubstantiated Allegations from Unidentified Informant



From Mine Özerden's standpoint, the Gezi Trial began with an unsubstantiated criminal complaint. Despite efforts, no informant was identified. Tax inspectors investigated the allegations but couldn't confirm them. The court ruled the phone taps used as evidence were illegal. Nonetheless, Özerden was sentenced to 18 years and has been in prison for nearly two years.

 "I've said this repeatedly, and I'll say it again: I still can't comprehend why I'm here, and there hasn't been anyone who could logically explain it to me yet."

With these words, Mine Özerden began her defense during the session of the Gezi Trial held at the Istanbul 13th Heavy Penal Court on October 8, 2021. She posed the same question during her defense at the session held on January 17, 2022. Özerden has been asking the same question at every hearing since the initial session of the Gezi Trial on June 25, 2019. However, in the years that have passed, she has received no answer to her question throughout the entire legal process.

Mine Özerden's lawyer requested an explanation from the prosecutor through the court regarding this matter. However, the court rejected the request: “The request for a statement from the Public Prosecutor regarding which acts and crimes are being attributed to the defendant Mine Özerden by the defense attorney has been rejected…”

The court failed to provide any justification or further clarification of the rejection. However, according to the Code of Criminal Procedure, every defendant has the right to effectively present their defense, and the right to "be informed." This means that prosecutors and courts are obligated to inform the defendant of the accusations against them to ensure a fair trial. The laws clearly state this right, however, Mine Özerden was not granted this right throughout the entire trial, and the judiciary system did not provide any logical explanation for this.

"Somebody must have made a false accusation against Mine Özerden"

Let’s ask a question of our own here: Is there no answer to Ozerden’s question in the 657-page indictment written by the prosecution, which led to Osman Kavala's aggravated life sentence and the  18-year sentences  that Mine Özerden, Çiğdem Mater, Tayfun Kahraman, and Can Atalay have been given in the Gezi Trials? They are currently convicted of serious charges such as "attempting to overthrow the Republic of Turkey by force and violence" and "aiding this attempt," which means the higher Court of Cassation also signed off on the decision.  In the document of approval released by the Court of Cassation, is there any answer to the aforementioned question?

No, there isn't!

Scrutinizing the Gezi Trial files, one question remains: Why is Mine Özerden in prison?

And you can't find the answer to that question. After poring over the files line by line, one can't help but be reminded of Kafka's novel, The Trial. So much so that you could replace the protagonist Josef K.'s name with Mine Özerden's: "Somebody must have made a false accusation against Mine Özerden, for she was arrested one morning without having done anything wrong."

This is exactly how the Gezi Trial, which today stands like a specter against the freedom of expression and assembly not only of the defendants but of the whole society, began for Mine Özerden.

The sole allegation originates from an unsubstantiated criminal complaint

Let's start from the beginning: On September 26, 2013, a "criminal complaint" was sent via email to the Istanbul Communication Electronics Branch Directorate. According to the indictment, the person, who didn't provide their name in "criminal complaint number 11167," claimed to have "important information regarding the Gezi protests" and alleged that "before the protests began in Taksim, Mine Özerden opened bank accounts for several individuals under the direction of Osman Kavala from the Open Society Foundation." According to the informant's claim, the money collected in these accounts was intended to purchase "gas masks, bandages, and goggles," which would then be "distributed to protesters."

In the thousands of pages of the Gezi Trial file, this is the sole allegation concerning Mine Özerden.

Following up on this allegation requires due diligence in seeking the facts. Unlike Kafka's novel, Özerden's experiences are not allegorical but real; she has been held in Bakırköy Women's Prison for nearly two years due to this unsubstantiated criminal complaint.

Fact one: Informant unidentified, allegation unsubstantiated

In the indictment, the prosecutor - after quoting the informant's claim in quotation marks and bold black letters - immediately indicates in the next sentence that they "could not locate the informant": "Upon the instruction of our Republic Prosecutor's Office, an investigation was conducted into the IP address to obtain a detailed statement from the informant, however, no identification was made."

In other words, the informant could not be found. So, were the bank accounts alleged by the informant opened?


That, in fact, is the following sentence, where the prosecutor offers his admission that the informant could not be found. In the indictment, Istanbul Foundation's 1st Regional Directorate’s  investigation  of the accounts of the Open Society Foundation, eventually preparing a report on this inquiry, but the report clearly stated that "no determination could be made regarding these allegations."

In other words, the claim of an unidentified informant could not be substantiated.

On April 22, 2022 Mine Özerden's lawyer submitted Tax documents, which proved that the informant's claim was false to the file.

The court dismissed the Tax Inspectorate report and did not consider it as evidence.

Fact Two: No bank accounts opened; no purchase was made

Typically (in any rule-of-law state), when an informant cannot be found and an unsubstantiated criminal complaint is involved, the case is closed with a verdict of non-prosecution.

Moreover, according to the established jurisprudence of the Court of Cassation, evaluating a purely unsubstantiated complaint on its own is also unlawful. Thus, this jurisprudence also warranted closing the case at this stage.  The law is clear: you cannot prosecute anyone with a non-existent crime and an unsubstantiated allegation.

However, instead of closing the file at this point, the prosecutor opened another investigation completely unrelated to the Gezi inquiry. Mine Özerden was incidentally wiretapped within the scope of this investigation. It wasn't until much later, when the Gezi Trial indictment was prepared, that the fact Özerden had been coincidentally wiretapped in this investigation emerged. When her lawyer officially questioned this, it was revealed that Özerden had never been a suspect in this investigation. Furthermore, there was no wiretap order issued against her in this investigation. Her lawyer had requested wiretap orders from the court, neither the police nor the prosecution had submitted these orders to the file.

In one of these coincidental wiretaps included in the Gezi Trial indictment despite having no relevance to the Gezi investigation, Mine Özerden had a conversation with Osman Kavala on May 30, 2013. In this conversation, Mine Özerden mentioned to Osman Kavala that she had received "some offers." Someone suggested, "Let's buy gas masks and distribute them to the youth." The conversation continued with discussions on how this could be done, such as "maybe opening a bank account." It was nothing more than an exchange of ideas, with the conversation ending with the suggestion, "One of the volunteers could probably do that.”

The claim of the unidentified informant was based on this conversation. Özerden, who was coincidentally wiretapped in an investigation, where she was not a suspect, was accused on the basis of  this wiretap turned into a criminal complaint. Özerden's lawyer requested the full resolution of this wiretap. However, neither the complete resolutions of wiretaps nor the wiretap recordings were found by the prosecution and were never submitted to the file.

The conversation between Mine Özerden and Osman Kavala remained at the level of ideas because the content of the conversation was not substantiated during the investigation and trial process. No bank account was found to have been opened. Something that doesn't exist can't be found in the first place.

There is no evidence in the file that gas masks, bandages, or goggles were purchased. Not a single invoice exists, nor is there any evidence anywhere that these items were found.

So, suppose even one piece of evidence existed in the file - for example, if a bank account had been opened or if an invoice for goggles had been found - what would happen? Opening a bank account and buying gas masks, bandages, or goggles is not a crime under any law. Therefore, Özerden's lawyer brought goggles, gas masks, and bandages to the trial and asked the panel, "Is acquiring these items a crime?"

Fact Three: No Press Statements or Meetings were Found to Constitute a Crime or Incitement to Commit a Crime

Despite the lack of concrete evidence, the indictment directed the accusation of "aiding an attempt to overthrow the Government of the Republic of Turkey by force and violence" against Mine Özerden. To strengthen such a serious accusation, the prosecutor highlighted Özerden's voluntary coordination of the Taksim Platform and her continued membership in the board of directors of Anadolu Kültür, where she had worked years ago.

The Taksim Platform was established as a peaceful dialogue platform, holding weekly exchange of ideas meetings, and organizing art events. Although the activities of the platform fell within the scope of freedom of assembly and expression, it was criminalized in the indictment, yet no crime associated with the platform can be found.

Not a single press statement by the platform was included in the indictment. There was not any piece of evidence regarding which press statement or meeting of the platform, on which date, would constitute a crime according to the law. There was also no evidence that any post or statement released  by the Taksim Platform could constitute  a crime or incitement to violence in the indictment or the file.

The rationale behind the establishment of the Taksim Platform and all updates, statements and press releases ever released by the platform is still accessible today on the website So, if there had been even the slightest evidence that Taksim Platform was inciting violence, it would be easy for the prosecution to find and include in the indictment.

Moreover, the accusations against Özerden based on her membership in the board of directors of Anadolu Kültür were already refuted explicitly by the Tax Inspectorate report.

Fact four: Özerden was not in Istanbul during the Gezi protests.

It gets even stranger from here. In the indictment, Özerden is accused of organizing meetings of the Taksim Platform in Istanbul during the Gezi protests, attending the platform's meetings, and even participating in violent actions in Gezi Park.

But the problem here is this: Mine Özerden was not in Istanbul during the Gezi protests.

The Gezi protests began on May 31, 2013. However, Özerden was working at a language school in Fethiye from June 1 to July 31, 2013. Furthermore, not a single video, photograph, or technical surveillance recorded by the police indicating Özerden's presence in Istanbul during that period has been included in the case file.

However, official Social Security Institution (SGK) records proving Özerden's presence in Fethiye during that period were submitted to the court. But neither the prosecutor during the investigation process nor the Istanbul 13th Heavy Penal Court during the trial took this into account. The Court of Cassation 3rd Criminal Chamber, which upheld the 18-year prison sentence, also did not. .

Even if it were the opposite, if Mine Özerden were in Istanbul during that time, it still wouldn't prove anything. Being in Istanbul during the Gezi protests, organizing a meeting, or attending one is not a crime. On the contrary, the right to assembly and freedom of expression are protected by the Constitution.

Fact Five: Wiretapping is Illegal

So, what was written about Mine Özerden on all those pages in the indictment whenthere was no concrete evidence of a crime against her?

The indictment merely contains pages of phone conversations between Özerden and her friends! These conversations delve into personal matters, discussing, for instance, the exhaustion of life and the beauty of getting away from some stressors of life. In one conversation, for instance, Mine Özerden advises a friend to attend a conference in Istanbul where world-renowned philosophers Slavoj Žižek and Alain Badiou are speakers. The conference, titled 'Globalization and the New Left,' was organized by Bakırköy Municipality and MonoKL publications. However, this advice was included in the indictment as if it were a crime.

Similarly, Özerden's response of "enjoy the beautiful weather, how lovely" to a friend saying "the weather was even better two or three days ago" is also included in the indictment as part of these casual conversations. None of the phone taps contain any reference to the organization of the Gezi protests. Instead, they clutter the file. Moreover, these wiretaps are illegal!

The Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court, which handled the case, determined that the wiretaps were illegal. In its decision dated February 18, 2020, acquitting 16 defendants in the Gezi trial, including Osman Kavala, Mücella Yapıcı, Can Atalay, Yiğit Aksakoğlu, Tayfun Kahraman, Çiğdem Mater, Mine Özerden, Yiğit Ekmekçi, and Ali Hakan Altınay, the court made the following legal assessment:

"We have 53 wiretap orders in our file. It is understood that the first wiretap order was issued for the offense of 'forming and leading a criminal organization,' not for the offense of 'crimes against the government.' Later, it was observed that Article 312 of the Turkish Penal Code (crimes against the government) was added to the requests and decisions for extending the wiretapping. However, Article 312 was not among the crimes subject to legal wiretapping as listed in Article 135/8 of the Criminal Procedure Code at that time. There is no wiretap order issued after that date. Therefore, it is accepted that the wiretap recordings are in violation of the law and are illegal evidence, considering the established precedents of the Court of Cassation and the principle that 'the fruit of the poisonous tree is also poisonous.' Hence, the wiretaps included in the indictment are considered as prohibited evidence."

In other words, all phone conversations used as evidence against Mine Özerden, along with other defendants, were the fruits of the poisonous tree. In summary, the real crime was the wiretapping of phones.

But as if that weren't enough, a new term called 'revaluation' was coined to justify the inclusion of wiretap recordings in the indictment. The indictment stated that "the revaluation of all evidence concerning the investigation, especially the wiretaps, was ordered." However, there is no procedure called 'revaluation' in the Code of Criminal Procedure. Mine Özerden asks: "Isn't this openly insulting to use the word 'revaluation'?"

They Were Convicted with the “Poisonous Fruit of the Poisonous Tree”

Ultimately, the acquittal verdicts were overturned. Despite no additional evidence being presented to substantiate the allegations, the convictions handed down by the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court on April 25, 2022, against Osman Kavala, Can Atalay, Çiğdem Mater, Mine Özerden, and Tayfun Kahraman were upheld by the Court of Cassation's 3rd Criminal Chamber.

Osman Kavala, who was sentenced to an aggravated life sentence for the allegation of "attempting to overthrow the Government of the Republic of Turkey," has been in prison for over six years. Can Atalay, Çiğdem Mater, Mine Özerden, and Tayfun Kahraman, who were each sentenced to 18 years in prison for "aiding this attempt," have been deprived of their freedom for 700 days.

Responding to our questions from prison, Mine Özerden made the following comment regarding the entire legal process:

“Not only do the institutions and decision-makers of the country I am a citizen of fail to protect our rights, but they also increasingly violate our fundamental, constitutional, and legal rights more and more everyday. For nearly two years, we have been deprived of our physical freedom without reason, evidence, or truth...

I find myself involuntarily caught in a senseless quarrel of irrationality and illogic. We are continuously instrumentalized by different political segments with various affiliations. My wish is for people from all walks of life to stand up against injustice and for a collective will demanding basic human rights to emerge.”

Mine Özerden still awaits a logical explanation as to why she is being tried, why she is being punished, and why she has been held at Bakırköy Women's Prison for years.

Instead of explaining, the judiciary merely extends to her the poisonous fruit of a poisonous tree.


Medya ve Hukuk Çalışmaları Derneği (MLSA) haber alma hakkı, ifade özgürlüğü ve basın özgürlüğü alanlarında faaliyet yürüten bir sivil toplum kuruluşudur. Derneğimiz başta gazeteciler olmak üzere mesleki faaliyetleri sebebiyle yargılanan kişilere hukuki destek vermektedir.