Van – The third hearing of the trial where journalist Dindar Karataş faces “membership of a terrorist organization” charges for his news reports and phone calls, was held today at Erzurum 3rd High Criminal Court. In their final opinion, the prosecutor requested Karataş’s punishment; the court granted the defense extra time to prepare their statements as to the final opinion and adjourned the hearing until November 16.
Journalist Karataş, whom the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) defends, appeared before court via the trial video-conference system (SEGBİS) from Van whereas his lawyer İrfan Sarı was present in the courtroom. Journalist Karataş was the first to speak at the hearing which started later than planned. Karataş repeated his previous statements and requested his acquittal. Lawyer Sarı also noted that there is nothing to add to their previous defense statements and requested his client’s acquittal.
Following the statements of the defense, the prosecution presented their final opinion as to the accusations. Linking Karataş’s professional work to “Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) Press Committee,” the prosecutor defined Mesopotamia Agency (MA) as a “news agency that reports in guidance of the organization.” Moreover, the prosecutor claimed that Karataş was organically linked to the organization and included in its hierarchical structure, and requested Karataş be sentenced to prison for 5 to 10 years on charges of “membership of a terrorist organization” under Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).
Following the prosecutor’s final opinion, lawyer Sarı took the floor once again and requested extra time to prepare their defense statements as to the final opinion. Accepting the request of the defense; the court ruled for the continuation of Karataş’s international travel ban, determination of whether there exists further evidence other than the present case linking Karataş to the organization, and the forcing of the witness to the courtroom before the next hearing. Hearing was adjourned until November 16.
Following MA Van Bureau’s news reports on the torturing of two citizens by soldiers in Van’s Çatak district, MA reporters Cemil Uğur and Adnan Bilen, Jinnews reporter Şehriban Abi and freelance journalist Nazan Sala were detained and arrested on the grounds that they were “reporting on social incidents against the state.” A few weeks after their arrest, journalist Dindar Karataş was also detained in Van. Police simultaneously raided Karataş’s home and MA Van Bureau, the searches lasted for a very long time. Once again all digital materials of the news agency were seized. Karataş was taken to Erzurum, where the investigation was being conducted, and arrested on “membership in a terrorist organization” charges on November 26, 2020.
Karataş’s indictment presents the tapes of his phone calls as evidence for the imputed offence. These records consist of Karataş’s talks with his news sources, which, according to the indictment indicate that Karataş was in “search for writing pro-terrorist organization news reports” and that he was “presenting the successful military operations against terrorists as ‘torture and cruelty towards the people’ and was employed by the terrorist organization’s media outlet, Mesopotamia News Agency.”