İstanbul – The trial of six journalists who are accused of terror and propaganda related charges for reporting on the emails of Turkey’s former Minister of Energy and President Erdoğan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak, which were leaked by Turkish hacker group RedHack, was adjourned until April.
The sixth hearing for six journalists who are standing trial because of their journalistic activities on charges of “acquiring personal data through illegal means and/or publishing them”, “hindrance or destruction of an information system, deletion or alteration of data”, “membership to a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” was held at İstanbul 29th High Criminal Court. While Derya Okatan, Tunca Öğreten, Mahir Kanaat and their lawyers were present at the courtroom, journalists Metin Yoksu and Ömer Çelik were out of town, thus attended the hearing via SEGBİS. Eray Sargın, who is being exempted from the hearings, did not attend the hearing. The hearing started late at 10:25 instead of its scheduled time, which was 09:30.
The prosecutor requested a new indictment for Çelik
The prosecutor requested the continuation of the judicial control measure since the legal status of the journalists has not changed and asked to await the digital forensic report. Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office had previously launched an investigation on journalist Ömer Çelik, alleging that he “made propaganda for a terrorist organization” at Dicle Haber Ajansı, which he was a manager of in 2015. However, referring to this case for which Çelik was arrested on charges of the same crime and continues to stand trial, Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office gave a verdict of nolle prosequi on 10 July 2018 and sent the file over to İstanbul 29th High Criminal Court. The prosecutor argued that the non prosequi verdict given for Çelik constitutes as evidence, and requested the file to be sent to İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for the recission of the nolle prosequi verdict. The prosecutor also requested a new indictment to be drafted.
Journalists who are standing trial without detention stated that they are being tried for their occupational activities, and demanded their digital materials to be returned and their international travel ban to be lifted. “When our house was raided, all our computers and phones, including my wife’s computer, were confiscated. It’s been two years now. We want to take our computers and phones back. I’ve been attending all the hearings since my release and believe that I will be acquitted in the end. As a journalist, I need to travel often and I request my international travel ban to be lifted,” Öğreten said.
Following Öğreten, journalist Okatan took the floor and stated: “We’re facing injustice here. We were detained on account of our journalistic activities. Journalism is not a crime; the news stories that we report are real. I demand my acquittal.” Attending the hearing via SEGBİS, Yoksu demanded his international travel ban to be lifted and stated: “Firstly, I would like to emphasize that our journalist friends and lawyers who never leave us alone at our hearings give us strength. We are only doing our jobs, it’s journalistic activity that is standing trial here.”
Öğreten’s lawyer Sevgi Kalan-Güvercin referred to precedent rulings by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and claimed that the judiciary control decision has turned into a punishment. Expressing that their primary demand is to have the judicial control lifted, Kalan-Güvercin stated: “The indictment does not include any evidence other than my client’s news stories. Taking the current situation into consideration, we demand the return of confiscated materials and the judicial control decision to be lifted. In addition, we have a request to be exempted from the hearings.”
Stating that he does not agree with the prosecutor’s opinion, lawyer Özcan Kılıç said: “The news stories that were included in the file which was given a nolle prosequi verdict are mentioned here as well. Therefore, there is no need for a new indictment to be drafted.” Then, the prosecutor took the floor and requested the rejection of all demands.
Judicial control measure is not lifted
Following the lawyers’ defense statements, the panel of judges recessed prior to announcing their decision. The interim decision ruled waiting for the expert report, which has been awaited for some time now, and for the continuation of the judiciary control measure. The panel of judges accepted the prosecutor’s request regarding the file on journalist Çelik, which was given a non persequi verdict, and ruled that the file must be sent vover to İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office. The next hearing will be held on 16 April.