Case Monitoring

The trial of journalists Koens and Nagtzaam has been adjourned until May

MAHKUM ABİ*

Edirne – The first hearing of the trial where journalists Olaf Koens and Pepijn Nagtzaam whom MLSA represents in court, face “defying the Law on Military Forbidden Zones and Security Zones no. 2565” was held in the Edirne 5th Criminal Court of First Instance. The court adjourned the trial until May 12, 2022 so that the case file can be completed.

The first hearing of the trial where journalists Olaf Koens and Pepijn Nagtzaam who were detained last September in Edirne while covering the pushback of refugees by the Greek Army face “defying the Law on Military Forbidden Zones and Security Zones no. 2565” was held in the Edirne 5th Criminal Court of First Instance. Journalists Koens and Nagtzaam attended the hearing together with Attorney Erselan Aktan.

At the hearing, which began after a roll call, journalists provided their statements via a translator. Olaf Koens, who took the floor first, stated that he has worked all around the world as a journalist and he came to Edirne, after hearing the reports that refugees who were trying to cross the border were pushed back violently by the Greek security forces. Arguing that they had no idea that it was a forbidden military zone, Koens stated that “I wanted to see how the refugees were pushed back. I drove into the area and there were no signs around.” Koens shared with the court that they used a navigation app to go to the area where refugees were reportedly pushed back and that there were no warnings in the app either that the area was a forbidden military zone.

Pepijn Nagtzaam who took the floor after his colleague stated that he agrees with Koens’ statement. Nagtzaam continued, “The road was open and there were no signs around. There were also other people on the road.” Nagtzaam told the court that even though they immediately stopped the car after hearing the soldiers and identified themselves as members of the press, they were taken into custody on the spot.

In his defense, Attorney Erselan Aktan emphasized that his clients have the press card issued by the state and that they went to the region as numerous journalists did upon invitation by Turkish authorities. Continuing his statement, Attorney Aktan argued: “There is no solid proof that my clients entered that zone secretly and under false pretenses. They went there in the morning with their equipment using the highway where they were eventually stopped. Not only that they had no intention of committing any offense, but also the elements of the alleged crime did not even occur. In fact, the administration has responsibilities so that this offense is not committed: they must put up signs and warnings in different languages and they must regulate entry to such areas accordingly. Concluding his statement, Attorney Aktan presented to the court the case files of journalists who were also represented by MLSA and who were acquitted of the same charge. 

Taking the floor after the defense, the prosecutor requested that the case file be completed.

Announcing its decision after a short break, the court decided that law enforcement officers who wrote the custody report be heard and that an expert’s report be prepared on whether or not the area in question was a forbidden zone, if so what is its status and in what manner the area has been declared to be a forbidden zone and adjourned the trial.

*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 MLSA.