The first hearing of the trial in which Mesopotamia News Agency’s (MA) Managing Editor Diren Yurtsever, MA Ankara News Chief Deniz Nazlım, MA reporters Berivan Altan, Selman Güzelyüz, Hakan Yalçın, Emrullah Acar, Ceylan Şahinli, Zemo Ağgöz JinNews reporters Habibe Eren, Öznur Değer and former MA intern Mehmet Günhan face “membership in a terrorist organization” charge will be held on Tuesday, May 16th at 10.00 am in the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court. Journalists Diren Yurtsever, Deniz Nazlım, Berivan Altan, Selman Güzelyüz, Hakan Yalçın, Emrullah Acar, Ceylan Şahinli, Habibe Eren and Öznur Değer were arrested on 29 October 2022 as part of the investigation initiated by Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office on October 20th while journalist Zemo Ağgöz and former MA intern Mehmet Günhan were released pending trial.In the 210 page-long indictment which he had filed on 8 February 2023, the prosecutor presented the statements of an anonymous witness and confessors, the news agencies the journalists work for, the editorial policies of these news agencies, 129 news articles published in the Mesopotamia News Agency and Fırat News Agency (ANF), the language used in these articles, social media posts shared by accounts belonging to the journalists or by accounts which the prosecutor claims to belong to the journalists, allegedly banned books and magazines which which the prosecutor claims were confiscated during house and office raids, events they had attended as journalists, phone conversations they had with news sources and colleagues, reports obtained from the Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK) as evidence for the charges.
Six line legal assessment in a 210-page long indictment: ‘They must be considered members of the terrorist organization’
Moving on from the statements of the anonymous witness and confessors who have been mentioned in numerous different investigations before, the prosecutor claimed that the Mesopotamia News Agency and JinNews operate under “the KCK Press Committee” and alleged that journalists produced news articles with the purpose of “inciting the public to hatred and hostility” and “propagating for a terrorist organization” under the orders of the terrorist organization. However, the charges of “inciting the public to hatred and hostility (Article 216 of the Turkish Penal Code)” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization (Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law and Article 220/8 of the Turkish Penal Code)” are not among the charges leveled against the journalists.In the indictment, the legal assessment of the evidence and charges leveled against 11 journalists, 9 of whom are still in pre-trial detention consisted of six lines. Disregarding the journalists’ statements and arguments, the prosecutor argued that “They must be considered members of the terrorist organization.”The conclusion of the indictment which included the sentencing request of the prosecution consisted of five lines. Without providing any legal reasoning or making any connection between the evidence and the charges and by only saying “for the reasons explained”, the prosecutor requested the journalists to be sentenced for “membership in a terrorist organization” under Articles 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code (Law No. 5237) and 5/1 of the Law on the Fight Against Terrorism (Law No. 3713).
129 news articles described as ‘so-called news’ presented as evidence against journalists
As evidence for the claim that the Mesopotamia News Agency operates under “the Press Committee”, the prosecutor presented 129 news articles. Seven of these articles were published in the Fırat News Agency (ANF) however, the prosecutor provided no explanation as to why these articles were included.The news articles, each referred to as “so-called news”, include news articles published on various dates between December 2020 and October 2022. These news articles cover various issues such as racially motivated attacks targeting Kurdish people in Konya and Antalya’s Manavgat district, racially motivated murder of the Dedeoğulları Family, racially motivated attacks targeting Syrian refugees in Ankara's Altındağ district, the 2021 Newroz celebration in Diyarbakır, allegations of the Turkish Armed Forces using chemical weapons against PKK members, statements regarding these allegations, the prison conditions of PKK leader Öcalan and the hunger strikes initiated in prisons related to Öcalan’s prison conditions.
The news report about road closures due to heavy snowfall is also presented as evidence of the alleged crime
The prosecutor, without providing any explanation regarding its relevance, includes the Mesopotamia News Agency’s news report dated 18 January 2021 about road closures due to heavy snowfall in Van and Hakkari, as evidence of the alleged crime. The prosecutor argues that these “so-called news articles” prove that the agency operates under the influence of the terrorist organization and according to the ideology of the organization.
Prosecutor used the expression ‘so called’ 308 times and presented membership in a legal association as ‘criminal evidence’
The prosecutor presented the fact that journalists Öznur Değer, Deniz Nazlım and Zemo Ağgöz are members of the legally active Dicle Fırat Journalists Association as evidence to support the charges leveled against the journalists.The prosecutor who used the expression “so-called" 308 times, referred to the journalists in several instances as “so called journalists/reporters” and described the Mesopotamia News Agency and JinNews, as “so-called news agencies.”While there is no general legal assessment provided in the indictment regarding the crimes attributed to the journalists and the evidence presented for these crimes, it appears that in the section dedicated to journalist Habibe Eren and in which the evidence against her should have been listed, the prosecutor copy pasted text from journalist Diren Yurtsever's section.
Media outlets allegedly engaged in ‘organizational activities’: Mesopotamia News Agency,JinNews, Artı TV, IMC TV…
The prosecutor dedicated the 153 pages of the 210-page indictment to the history of the PKK/KCK and their activities between 2000 and 2007. The indictment also includes historical information about newspapers, magazines, radio stations, and television channels which are alleged to have engaged in the terrorist organization’s media activities. In addition to the Mesopotamia News Agency, JinNews, Yeni Yaşam, Medya Haber TV, and Artı TV, the indictment also includes media organizations such as IMC TV, Gün TV, and Dicle News Agency (DİHA), all of which were closed down in 2016 by a state of emergency decree. The prosecutor, who seems to have forgotten that Turkey signed the Protocol 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits the death penalty except in times of war, on 15 January 2003 and the Protocol 13, which completely abolished death penalty, on 9 January 2004, argued that the demands and activities for the “abolition of the death penalty” were among the activities of a “so-called Peace Project” and were within the scope of the terrorist organization’s activities.
Open source information is ‘intelligence’ and copyright payments are ‘evidence’
In order to support the allegation of “membership in a terrorist organization”, the prosecutor cited information about journalists and claimed that the information was obtained through “intelligence gathering.” However, the information presented as evidence against journalists contained information which could have been obtained from open sources. Among the information cited were the news agencies the journalists work for, their positions, their criminal records and their news articles.Referring to the information obtained from the Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK), the prosecutor presented the payments which the journalists received for their news articles and the transactions in bank accounts belonging to the journalists’ relatives as evidence for the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.” However, the statements indicating that the journalists used their relatives' accounts due to the possibility of seizure or existing seizures on their own accounts were not taken into consideration.
Deniz Nazlım was asked about payments for news articles and his membership in a journalists’ association
The questions asked to journalist Deniz Nazlım during his interrogation at the prosecutor's office were not included in the indictment since the journalist’s statement was taken by a prosecutor other than the prosecutor leading the investigation. It is understood from the journalist’s answers that Nazlım was asked about why he became a member of the Dicle Fırat Journalists’ Association, the news agency he worked for, payments made and received for news articles, events he attended to cover, books, magazines and notes allegedly found during a house search, as well as anonymous witness statements.Nazlım stated in his testimony at the prosecutor's office that he was subjected to torture while in police custody, threatened with the arrest of his family and coerced by the police to obtain another lawyer. The prosecutor, who did not include in the indictment Nazlım's statement contradicting the anonymous witness testimony, presented the news agency he worked for as an element of the alleged crime. Citing the vague and non-detailed statement of the anonymous witness, the prosecutor emphasized that “the suspect worked as the Ankara representative of the Mesopotamia News Agency for some time.”Ignoring Nazlım’s statements contradicting the anonymous witness, the prosecutor also disregarded the Cemil Uğur judgment of the Constitutional Court. In the said judgment, the highest court had ruled that a journalist’s place of employment cannot in itself be considered as “constituting a strong suspicion for a terrorism-related charge.”
Prosecutor interpreted Selman Güzelyüz tagging Greenpeace on social media as ‘defaming the state’
In the section related to journalist Selman Güzelyüz, the prosecutor included the anonymous witness statement about the journalist. In the cited section of the statement, the anonymous witness referred to Güzelyüz and said “During his activities in Ankara, he was among those who covered the news related to the General Headquarters and Provincial Office of the Peoples’ Democratic Party.” Following such a statement, the prosecutor asked Güzelyüz “What is the purpose of Mesopotamia so-called news agency following the news stories related to the General Headquarters and Provincial Office of the Peoples’ Democratic Party?”The prosecutor asked why Selman Güzelyüz used the term “Kurdistan” in the news articles he shared on his personal social media account and also inquired about why Güzelyüz tagged Greenpeace when he shared news articles about large-scale tree cutting which were taking place in Şırnak at that time. The prosecutor disregarded Güzelyüz’s statement in which the journalist explained that he tagged Greenpeace because the news article he had shared contained quotes from Greenpeace.The prosecutor used the expression “news/instruction content” while referring to Selman Güzelyüz's social media posts through which he shared news articles and asked the journalist whether he retweeted the Mesopotamia News Agency’s news article titled “Racist Attack Targeted a Kurdish Family in Elmadağ District. Woman with 5 Children Forced out of the Neighborhood.”
News articles Berivan Altan was ‘ordered to produce’: the Dedeoğulları Family massacre, court hearing reports
According to the statement taken by the leading prosecutor from journalist Berivan Altan, she was asked about the reasons for not having a Social Security Institution (SGK) record, whether she possessed a press card, if she and the Mesopotamia News Agency have connections with the terrorist organization, the anonymous witness statement, her news articles, her participation in events which she had covered, phone conversations, her social media posts, books and magazines allegedly found during a house search.Moving on from the anonymous witness statement, the prosecutor asked Altan “Who ordered you to produce news articles for the Mesopotamia News Agency?” Assuming that Altan wrote about the racially motivated mass murder of the Dedeoğulları Family and prison conditions of PKK leader Öcalan upon orders from the terrorist organization, the prosecutor also presented Altan’s monitoring of court cases as a criminal element.
Holding Mesopotamia News Agency’s microphone and being a parliamentary reporter cited as evidence against Diren Yurtsever
The social media posts Diren Yurtsever had shared on her personal account which contained news articles from the Mesopotamia News Agency and JinNews, as well as the image of journalist Yurtsever holding the agency's microphone during a broadcast on the Mesopotamia News Agency's YouTube channel, were presented as evidence against the journalist. In the indictment, Diren Yurtsever's participation in a protest for the purpose of news coverage, holding the Mesopotamia News Agency’s microphone during the protest, and the slogans chanted during the protest were cited as elements of the alleged crime.Though the anonymous witness statement about Yurtsever was not given in the indictment, the prosecutor made an assessment based on the anonymous witness statement and emphasized that Yurtsever was “the representative of the Mesopotamia News Agency's Istanbul office, was responsible for covering the parliament in Ankara, and hosted a program on a media channel called Medya Haber, which is affiliated with the terrorist organization.”In addition to the allegedly prohibited publications which the prosecutor claimed were seized during the search at Yurtsever's house, the press card issued by the Mesopotamia News Agency and notes containing a list of sick detainees/prisoners were also presented as criminal evidence. In the indictment, it was also revealed that Yurtsever’s phone conversations were obtained when the journalist’s phone was wiretapped. The prosecutor interpreted Yurtsever talking to someone and saying “You can send books or letters” referring to a person in prison as “conversations containing subliminal messages.”
Prosecutor copied the text about Yurtsever and pasted it to the section related to Habibe Eren
The questions asked to journalist Habibe Eren during her interrogation at the prosecutor's office were not included in the indictment since the journalist’s statement was taken by a prosecutor other than the prosecutor leading the investigation. According to the answers included in the indictment, Eren was asked about the news articles she shared on her personal social media account. Eren pointed out that among those social media posts were also news articles from the agency she worked for. Eren emphasized that she shared those posts as part of her professional activities. Eren stated that she exercised her right to remain silent because she and her colleagues were subjected to reverse handcuffing and ill-treatment at the Ankara Provincial Police Headquarters.It was observed that the 10-line statement of the anonymous witness, which contained allegations against Eren, consisted of abstract claims and easily accessible information. In the assessment section dedicated to Eren, an important detail highlighting the careless preparation of the indictment was noted. It was observed that the section concerning Diren Yurtsever was copied and pasted into the part where the evidence regarding Eren should have been individually evaluated.
Phone conversation which proved that she was covering the racist attacks against Syrian refugees cited as evidence against Öznur Değer
Journalist Öznur Değer also stated during her interrogation at the the prosecutor's office that she had been subjected to torture while in police custody. From Değer's responses, it is understood that she was asked about why she became a member of the Dicle Fırat Journalists’ Association, her relationship with some of the journalists mentioned in the investigation, whether she had a press card, why she received the award given to journalist Güler Yıldız Bastion by the Ankara Branch of the Architects' Association, her social media posts, news articles about racially-motivated attacks against Kurdish citizens, wiretap recordings and the testimony of the anonymous witness.During her interrogation at the prosecutor's office, Değer pointed out that the Mardin Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office carried out a criminal investigation on the grounds of the same social media posts she was asked about and that investigation resulted in a decision of non-prosecution. However, the prosecutor disregarded this information and cited the same social media posts as evidence against the journalist.Arguing that Değer had phone conversations which “involved discussions about incidents involving Syrian individuals in the Altındağ district”, the prosecutor presented Değer's phone conversation with her colleague Zemo Ağgöz, regarding her coverage of the racially motivated attacks on Syrian refugees in Ankara's Altındağ district as an incriminating element.
Zemo Ağgöz's conversations with colleagues and news sources were presented as criminal evidence
Journalist Zemo Ağgöz was released to house arrest after her interrogation at the police station. Ağgöz was asked similar questions during her interrogation at the prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor presented Ağgöz’s phone conversations as evidence against the journalist. Ağgöz’s wiretapped phone conversations with her news sources and colleagues were about the racially motivated attacks against Syrian refugees in Ankara’s Altındağ district and the racially motivated murder of the Dedeoğulları Family in Konya.In his assessment, the prosecutor alleged that “[Ağgöz’s] detected activities are of nature beyond being a member of a terrorist organization and therefore [Ağgöz] is a member of the terrorist organization.”
Emrullah Acar’s membership in an association was presented as ‘organizational activity’
Journalist Emrullah Acar stated during his interrogation at the prosecutor’s office that he was detained for six days in a similar investigation carried out by the Malatya Chief Public Prosecutor's Office in 2021 and that this investigation resulted in a non-prosecution decision. Acar emphasized that he also won the case he filed regarding the unjust period of detention in that investigation.The undisclosed details of the testimony of the anonymous witness were presented as evidence against Acar in the indictment. The indictment included the statement of the anonymous witness who claimed that Acar “engaged in organizational activities within the press committee on behalf of the Mesopotamia News Agency.” Furthermore, according to the testimony of the anonymous witness, Acar's membership in the Dicle Fırat Journalists’ Association, a legal professional organization, was also considered as “organizational activity.”Based on the statement of the anonymous witness, the prosecutor claimed that the money sent to journalist Acar from the official account of the Mesopotamia News Agency and by his colleagues was not intended for copyright payments or agency expenses but rather was made for organizational purposes.
Hakan Yalçın and Mehmet Günhan were accused on the grounds of copyright payments
According to his statement in the indictment, the prosecutor asked journalist Hakan Yalçın similar questions. Presenting the payments Yalçın received for the news articles he produced as an incriminating element, the prosecutor argued that Yalçın has “money transfer relationship with members of DİHA” but failed to explain the meaning of the expression “members of DİHA.”From the answers given by Mehmet Günhan to the questions asked during his interrogation at the prosecutor's office, it is understood that Günhan was asked about the Mesopotamia News Agency where he completed his internship, his relationship with the detained journalists, his diary seized by the police during a house search, phone conversations, and the payments he received during his internship. However, the prosecutor made no evaluation about Günhan in the indictment.
Ceylan Şahinli’s cohabitation with Emrullah Acar considered a criminal element
During her interrogation at the prosecutor’s office, journalist Ceylan Şahinli was asked about materials allegedly confiscated during house and office searches and reports obtained from the Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK). Journalist Şahinli denied that the digital material belonged to her. The prosecutor did not include the statement of the anonymous witness regarding Şahinli in the indictment. However, based on the testimony of the anonymous witness, the prosecutor presented Şahinli's affiliation with the Mesopotamia News Agency, her alleged financial relationship with the journalists detained within the scope of the investigation and her cohabitation with Emrullah Acar as criminal elements.
Same anonymous witness and confessors in many cases: Journalists Yılmaz and Müftüoğlu were arrested, lawyer Resul Temur detained
In the indictment, the statements of the anonymous witness and confessors, whose testimonies appeared in many other investigation and case files, were primarily relied upon as the basis for almost all of the charges leveled against the journalists. The statements of the anonymous witness who had testified against 11 journalists were also used in the criminal investigation as part of which journalists Sedat Yılmaz and Dicle Müftüoğlu were arrested on 3 May 2023.Lawyer Resul Temur, who represents 11 journalists in the Ankara case, was taken into custody in Diyarbakır on 25 April 2023 following a raid on his home as part of a major criminal investigation led by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. A raid was also conducted on Temur's office during which all of his case files were seized.
Journalists Diren Yurtsever, Deniz Nazlım, Berivan Altan, Selman Güzelyüz, Hakan Yalçın, Emrullah Acar, Ceylan Şahinli, Habibe Eren and Öznur Değer were arrested on 29 October 2022 as part of the criminal investigation initiated by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. Journalist Zemo Ağgöz and former intern Mehmet Günhan who were among those detained were released with judicial control measures imposed upon them. On 25 October 2022, the day when 11 journalists were taken into custody, the Ankara General Directorate of Security posted a tweet on its official account. In the tweet through which the footage of journalists being detained was also served, the Ankara police announced the apprehension of “11 individuals who were carrying out organizational activities at the Mesopotamia News Agency which operate under the PKK/KCK terrorist organization’s press committee.” After having been brought to Ankara, the detained journalists were interrogated by nine different prosecutors.The indictment against the journalists was filed on the 102th day of their imprisonment and was accepted by the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court. On 14 February 2023, the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court held preliminary proceedings and set the date of the first hearing.The court had also decided to continue the pre-trial detention of nine journalists and to continue the judicial control measures imposed upon Zemo Ağgöz and Mehmet Günhan. At the preliminary proceedings, the Ankara court had also decided to ask for the files of cases in which some of the journalists previously stood trial and to hear the anonymous witness at the first hearing on 16 May 2023.*This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. The work may be used and redistributed for non-commercial purposes with proper attribution to the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA).
Medya ve Hukuk Çalışmaları Derneği (MLSA) haber alma hakkı, ifade özgürlüğü ve basın özgürlüğü alanlarında faaliyet yürüten bir sivil toplum kuruluşudur. Derneğimiz başta gazeteciler olmak üzere mesleki faaliyetleri sebebiyle yargılanan kişilere hukuki destek vermektedir.