Van – The second hearing of the trial where journalist Dindar Karataş faces “membership in a terrorist organization” charges due to his news reports and phone calls, was held today at Erzurum 3rd High Criminal Court. The trial will resume in September.
Mesopotamia Agency (MA) reporter Dindar Karataş, whom the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) defends, attended the hearing from Van via the judicial-conference link, SEGBİS, whereas his lawyer İrfan Sarı was physicall present before the panel of judges.
The journalist had spent almost three months in pre-trial detention, following his detainment in Van on November 24, 2020, before being released at his first hearing held on February 9.
“My news report should have been considered a criminal complaint”
Karataş was the first to deliver a statement at the hearing, which began later than planned. In his defense statement, he touched upon the news report presented as evidence for crime in the case file, which covered the December 2019-incident in Ağrı’s Tutak district where a villager was killed and many were subject to torture while being detained by law enforcement officials. “My news report should have been considered a criminal complaint both by the court and the public,” he said and reminded the court that the judiciary should have taken action regarding the practice of torture instead of prosecuting the journalist who covered the incident.
“As a journalist I continue to do my job,” remarked Karataş and added: “The case file consists of my news reports. They are based on concrete information and documentation, thus cannot be considered a crime.”
Next person to take the floor was defense lawyer Sarı, he requested the completion of the missing documents in the case file.
Following the defense statements, the panel of judges made an interim decision and ruled for the continuation of the judicial control measures imposed upon Karataş, which comprises an international travel ban. The court also decided to take witness statements at the next hearing, for which the date was set to September 7.
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. He spent almost three months in pre-trial detention in Erzurum H Type Prison, before being released at his first hearing held on February 9.
Karataş’s indictment presents the tapes of his phone calls as evidence for the imputed offence. These records consist of Karataş’s phone calls 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.”