Istanbul - An application was filed to the Constitutional Court (TCC) on behalf of Mesopotamia Agency (MA) reporter Cemil Uğur, Jinnews reporter Şehriban Abi and freelance journalist Nazan Sala, who were detained during raids in their homes on October 6 and arrested three days later. Journalists Cemil Uğur, Şehriban Abi, Adnan Bilen and Nazan Sala were detained in raids in their homes that took place simultaneously with raids in MA’s Van Office on the morning of October 6. On October 9, they were arrested on the grounds of “reporting on social incidents against the state” by the Criminal Judgeship of Peace. The lawyers of the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA), who represent Uğur, Abi and Sala, took the detention of the journalists to the TCC. So far, no indictment has been prepared against the journalists who have been in prison for 42 days under the allegation of “membership in a terrorist organization”. According to the MLSA lawyers, the detention and arrest of their clients is unfair and unlawful since it violates the “right to liberty and security of person” which is guaranteed in Article 19 of the Turkish Constitution and in Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). In the application to the Constitutional Court it was recalled that in order to arrest a person, the existence of a “strong suspicion” that this person committed the crime is necessary. It was also explained that the reason for the journalists’ arrest were their professional activities, which was demonstrated clearly by physical evidence of books, newspapers and notes for news that were presented as elements of crime during the interrogations of the journalists.
“Journalists were arrested for reporting on the torture of Turgut and Şiban”
The MLSA lawyers emphasized that for an arrest warrant to be issued against a person, a “reason for arrest” is required in addition to a strong suspicion. They underlined that there were neither suspicions that their clients would run away nor that they would destroy evidence. In the application, in which the alleged reason for arrest was claimed to be implausible and insufficient, it was asserted that the public debate caused by the torture of the citizens detained in Van was the real reason behind the arrest warrants. Accordingly, it was pointed out that the reporting by the journalists, which brought the incident to the public agenda, bothered the government officials.
“Arrest warrant was issued in bad faith to prevent the journalists from doing their job”
Besides stating that the arrest warrant was unlawful, the application pointed out that the evidence brought up as basis for the allegation of “membership in a terrorist organization” falls completely in the scope of journalistic activities. Thus, it “cannot be accepted as necessary and proportionate intervention” in terms of freedom of expression and freedom of press in a democratic society. Accordingly, it was claimed that the journalists’ right to freedom of expression protected by Articles 25, 26 and 28 of the Constitution and Article 10 of the ECHR was violated. Finally, the application stated that the arrest of the journalists was intended to prevent them from doing their job. Thus the arrest warrant is claimed to have violated the related Article 13 of the Constitution and Article 18 of the ECHR, which forbid the restriction of people’s rights and freedoms in bad faith.
In the morning of October 6, Mesopotamia Agency’s (MA) Van Office, and the homes of many reporters including those from Jinnews, were raided by the police. MA reporters Adnan Bilen, Cemil Uğur and Jinnews reporter Şehriban Abi, alongside freelance journalist Nazan Sala were taken into police custody. After a three and a half day period of detainment, the journalists were arrested by the criminal judgeship of peace. Among those detained were Yeni Yaşam daily distributor Fehim Çetiner and former distributor Şükran Erdem, who were released with judicial control measures.