Deniz Tekin, Muş – İdris Sayılğan, a reporter for the now-defunct Dicle News Agency, faced terrorism charges at Muş 2. High Criminal Court. Sayılğan will remain detained based on the ‘strong criminal suspicion’ the court has for him.
Sayılğan was detained on October 24 2016 after being accused of ‘membership in a terrorist organization’, a charge which arose from his reporting on local events in the Kurdish city of Muş. Sayılğan, who is being represented by Zelal Pelin Doğan of the Media and Law Studies Association’s Legal Unit, has been unable to attend any of his court hearings in person because he has been detained 450 kilometers away in Trabzon Prison.
Family members of Sayılğan, such as his father Ramazan Sayılğan and relative Süphiye Sayılğan, were present at the hearing. Sayılğan appeared via the judicial teleconferencing system SEGBİS.
The prosecution began the hearing by requesting Sayılğan continued detention on the grounds of their ‘strong criminal suspicion’ and Sayılğan’s alleged high escape risk.
Sayılğan responded to the prosecution’s allegations by presenting his defense statement, in Kurdish, to the court. “The indictment proves that I am an opposing journalist and that this lawsuit is a political one. This indictment is the proof of these. As much as the lawsuit has a political agenda, it is also constructed upon false evidence. I had submitted a 10 page long written defense statement to the court. I want to add a few things to that. Pages 158, 159 and 160 of the indictment are completely full of lies. Page 158 claims that I had called the state forces as ‘occupying forces’. There is no evidence in the indictment to back this up. Also there is the claim that I had written ‘the operations of the state are not legitimate whereas the defense of PKK is’. This is another lie.”
Doğan, Sayılğan’s lawyer, then rose to argue that forcing Sayılğan to only appear in court via SEGBİS was a violation of his right to a fair trial. She went on to argue that Sayılğan’s 719 day ordeal is designed to suppress his journalistic work. “The imprisonment of journalists due to their professional work does not only violate their right to free expression and press, but also the public’s right to information.”
She then criticized the evidence presented by the prosecution. “The tape records presented as evidence in the indictment are solely the phone calls of my client, with his news sources. If the evidence in the case file is to be reviewed by a third party expert, the expert report will state that my client is a journalist. The decisions of the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights clearly states that journalism is not a crime. Journalist Sayılğan has been imprisoned unlawfully for a very long time. His detention has exceeded the limit of being a legal measure. I request his release.”
After a short recess, the court chose to adjourn the hearing until December 24. Until then Sayılğan and four other defendants will remain detained.
Updated: November 30 2018