The Constitutional Court (AYM) rendered its decision on the application filed by the Legal Team of MLSA on behalf of journalist Cemil Uğur. The Court found that the six months long pre-trial detention of journalist Cemil Uğur was unconstitutional and through detention his “right to liberty and security” as regulated by the Article 19th of the Constitution was violated.
The court also ruled that it is “unnecessary” to examine separately the claim that Uğur’s freedom of expression and freedom of the press, arguing that the detention constituted a violation in terms of the right to liberty and security.
Arguing that the main motivation behind the journalist’s arrest and the subsequent pre-trial detention was baseless, the Court reasoned that the prosecution failed to provide evidence for the claim that “the journalist operated in line with the Article 14th of the Agreement of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK)” and ruled that the journalist should not have been charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” because of the content of his news reports.
In its decision, the Court also referred to the prosecution’s claim that the Mesopotamia News Agency, which some of the journalists tried in the case worked for at that time, “operated in line with the directives by the terrorist organization” and argued that “In the arrest warrant, it was stated that the news agency where the applicant worked, produced news reports in favour of the terrorist organization, however, no news reports belonging to the applicant were provided for the claim. It cannot be put forward that the fact that the applicant’s employment at such an agency can be considered to constitute a crime without taking into account the contents of the news reports penned by the applicant.”
The court ruled that there is no need to evaluate Uğur’s articles on villagers Osman Şiban and Servet Turgut who were tortured by the security forces. The Court justified its decision by arguing that even though Uğur was asked about these articles during his questioning, these articles were not mentioned in the request for the arrest warrant and the indictment.
AYM judged that Uğur’s claim that his right to liberty and security was violated, was admissible. The Court ruled that through unlawful detention, Uğur’s right to liberty and security as guaranteed by the Article 19th of the Constitution was violated and ordered that he be paid 67.500 Turkish Liras compensation for non-pecuniary damages.
Adnan Bilen, Cemil Uğur, Şehriban Abi and Nazan Sala were arrested on October 9, 2020 after their news report and were held in pre-trial detention for nearly six months before being released pending trial at the first hearing held on April 2, 2021.
In their news report, journalists broke the story of how villagers in Van’s Çatak district were tortured by the security forces and that Osman Şiban and Servet Turgut were thrown off from a helicopter by soldiers. It was later found out that illegal evidence was cited against the journalists in the indictment. Journalist Sala, who is among the journalists whom MLSA represent in court, faces additional “terror propaganda” charges. Sala was indicted on November 18, 2021. In the new indictment prepared by the Van Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, Sala has been charged with additional “membership in a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charges because of an investigation led by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in 2009.
At the fourth hearing of the trial held on January 6, 2021, all the journalists were acquitted of “membership in a terrorist organization” charge. The court, however, sentenced journalist Nazan Sala to 1 year 3 months in prison for “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charge. The court’s deferred the announcement of the verdict for Sala.