İstanbul, Turkey – The case of detained journalist Ziya Ataman could be going to the Constitutional Court now that the Legal Unit of the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) has applied to the Court requesting his release.
The application, filed in early November, argues that Ataman’s detention violates his right to freedom and security and his right to a fair trial. Veysel Ok, Head of the MLSA’s Legal Unit, commented that “Ziya Ataman was targeted for his journalistic work he conducted in mainly Kurdish-populated areas of Turkey. He has been in detention for over two years, solely based on a witness statement, which was later retracted by the witness. The court has refused to release him despite the only evidence against him being retracted. Ziya also suffers from a serious health condition. Ziya’s detention violates his right to freedom and security and his right to fair trial which are protected under Articles 5 and 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). We have applied to the Constitutional Court and requested a ‘priority review’ of our application. We will eventually bring Ziya’s case before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) if we are to obtain no result from our Constitutional Court application.”
Ataman has previously worked as a distributor for pro-Kurdish newspapers and as a reporter for the now-defunct Dicle News Agency (DİHA). He has been detained since April 11 2016, and has been accused of participating in clashes between Turkish security forces and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants. These clashes took place in Sırnak’s Beytüşşebap district in 2015, however little to no reliable evidence has been presented showing Ataman was involved and in what capacity.
In addition to ‘priority review’ of their application and Ataman’s immediate release, Ataman’s lawyers are also requesting that 50 thousand lira be provided as compensation for his unjust detention. They argue that Ataman’s detention has exceeded the limits of a precautionary measure and has involved into unwarranted and illegal punishment.
Ataman’s detention became even more controversial after one witness, whose statement constitutes a major part of the evidence arrayed against Ataman, withdrew their testimony and said it was extracted through torture. Should this be true, said Ataman’s lawyers, then the evidence was unlawfully obtained and cannot be used in court.
Ataman has been unable to appear before the court in-person at any time during his two-year detention, and has had to submit defense statements via SEGBİS, a judicial conferencing system. Ataman’s lawyers argue that this is a violation of the principle of ‘face-to-face confrontation’ and therefore undermines ‘the right to fair trial’.
Ataman’s application concludes by noting that lower courts have previously rejected all of the objections filed against his detention without even reviewing the defense statements or the evidence contained in the case file.
Updated: November 27 2018