The investigation put together to silence Cumhuriyet essentially collapsed the moment it emerged that it was being conducted by a prosecutor himself facing FETO charges. In spite of this, a remand order was issued by Penal Bench of the Peace number 9 in a decision in which reports and articles were equated with ‘terrorism’. In the course of three months, there has been no deviation from this stance, which is constantly reiterated, in rulings on objections made against the remand order and in review of remand. The unfounded nature of the Cumhuriyet investigation became evident from the outset through the failure for any concrete evidence to be adduced apart from news reports. This explains the effort to lend the investigation legitimacy through the raising of accusations and discussions of a change to its ‘editorial line’ and ‘editorial policy’ informed by interpretations and suppositions couched in such terms as, ‘Cumhuriyet suddenly changing its statist, traditional, secular and neo-nationalist line and targeting the state.’ In fact, as is stated in the articles under which the Cumhuriyet Foundation was established, the purpose of Cumhuriyet’s existence has been deemed to be ‘the establishing of true democracy and winning over society to secularism.’ As to the basic principles to be observed in achieving these aims, these are indicated to be the Declaration of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the path of ‘enlightenment’ that Atatürk’s revolutions and principles have opened up. Along with the absence of the component of any crime from the publications cited by the prosecution as evidence of guilt, there is also absolutely no breach of these principles. The news reports serving as grounds for remand are as follow:
THE DANGER IN THE STREET
* ‘The newspaper’s headline on 17 July 2016 took the form ‘The danger in the street’ and, by turning posters of our President that were attached to tanks into headline news, the incident of going out into the street and standing up for democracy was seen as being dangerous ...’
The headline news underlying this particular accusation against Cumhuriyet set out to convey a concern that was widely felt in society. Cumhuriyet, in passing on this concern in this report, made no statement at all that portrayed going out into the street in opposition to a coup as being a ‘danger.’ On the contrary, it was stressed that certain worrying events in the course of these street demonstrations were the work of certain groups that broke off from the citizens who went into the streets in opposition to the coup. On top of this, the warning was made that these groups’ actions overshadowed the democratic protests. Part of the report read as follows: ‘The actions of certain groups that broke off from the demonstrations being held outdoors following the 15 July coup attempt in Turkey, which has experienced the 6-7 September events and the Maraş and Madımak massacres that have become black stains on history, are overshadowing “democratic protests”.’
* “The rally that was held at Yenikapı and was staged in opposition to the coup with more than five million people in attendance was targeted with it headlined ‘Democratic shortcoming’ ...’
That the failure to invite the HDP to the rally at Yenikapı was a major shortcoming was expressed by many politicians and commentators, not least the CHP. Cumhuriyet also perceived the absence of the HDP from the venue to be a shortcoming but made no statements that ‘targeted’ the rally. In the report in Cumhuriyet on the Yenikapı meeting, those in attendance were described as, ‘Millions of citizens who opposed the coup’ and the size of the crowd was stressed.
THE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY’S LORRIES
* Under the title, ‘The very weapons that Erdoğan said were non-existent,’ information and photographs that should have been kept confidential relating to the halting of the intelligence agency’s aid lorries, which has been substantiated by the courts to be a FETO plot, were published as headline news ...’
The reports that led to journalist Can Dündar and our Ankara representative Erdem Gül being sentenced to five years’ imprisonment were considered by the court to amount to the ‘publishing of confidential documents.’ With the Constitutional Court ruling that there had been a breach of rights in which it determined that Can Dündar and Erdem Gül’s detention was in violation of the law and statute, it being stated that what they were charged with amounted to journalistic activity, the Serious Crime Court decided to release them. In breach of one of the basic rules of law of ‘non bis in idem’, i.e. that a second investigation cannot be launched into the same act and a punishment cannot be awarded for a second time for the same act, the report about the intelligence agency’s lorries has been included in this investigation.
INTERVIEW WITH THE PROSECUTORS
* ‘The inclusion in Cumhuriyet newspaper of reports and one interview relating to the Ergenekon prosecutors in the 17-25 December coup attempt process and their interviews with general publications manager Can Dündar’
The interviews conducted with the prosecutors have been put forward as evidence of ‘terrorism’ in total disregard of the fact that in these interviews, which were conducted in line with one of the most fundamental rules of journalism, the breaches of the fundamental principles of penal law and unlawfulness of the 17-25 December investigations were also queried and opposing questions were also asked
AYDIN ENGİN’S ARTICLE
* The article written by Aydın Engin on 13 July 2016 and entitled ‘Peace in the world – so at home what?’
The 15 July coupists proclaimed themselves to be called the ‘Peace at Home Council’ in the announcement they had read out on state television. The attempt is made to create a link between the coup and the article penned by Aydın Engin two days prior to the coup simply due to the reference to Atatürk’s ‘Peace at home and peace in the world’ statement. In fact, Engin in his article was inquiring whether the rhetoric of peace being touted in foreign policy on that date would have a domestic impact. He stands accused of ‘terrorism’ for a column that contains an outright call for peace.
KADRİ GÜRSEL’S ARTICLE
* ‘Through the making of messages with “subliminal content” in the column entitled “Erdoğan wants to be our father” that Kadri Gürsel wrote on 12 July, rebelling against an elected President and other such illegitimate means were proposed ...’
The penal bench of the peace has made a tragicomic accusation by following the lead of the investigating prosecutor who has adroitly detected the subliminal message in Gürsel’s article criticising Erdoğan. In fact, Gürsel in this article suggests that Erdoğan wishes to be the country’s “father” for humorous effect and recommends “lighting a cigarette and not putting it out” in opposition to Erdoğan so as to signal that he has finished himself off politically even if it will have no other effect. The bench, however, considers this article to be ‘rebellion’!
SAME HEADLINE AS ZAMAN
* ‘The appearance of the same headline in Zaman newspaper and Cumhuriyet newspaper on 16 February 2016 (Bomb at the heart of the state)’
Conclusions are drawn from the appearance entirely by coincidence of the same headline of ‘Bomb at the heart of the state’ about a bomb that went off in Merasim Street in one of Ankara’s most central locations at a distance of ten metres from the Chief of Staff, Forces Commands, Parliament and the Prime Minister’s Office. In fact, in the world of journalism other newspapers have found themselves going ‘snap’ with their headlines on more than one occasion and this kind of unwelcome coincidence is a frequently encountered thing. The following examples can be cited of ‘snapping headlines’ that derive from the nature of the reported events and can be said to be coincidences:
* The Sözcü and Özgür Gündem newspapers, in their 15 March 2016 editions, had the identical headlines ‘A plague on your Prime Ministry’ in connection with the bomb that went off in Ankara’s Kızılay Square.
* On 27 March 2014, in reporting the cassette plot against Deniz Baykal, the headline ‘Baykal Cassette Earthquake’ appeared in Habertürk and ‘Cassette Earthquake in Politics’ in Zaman newspaper.
* The Sözcü and BirGün newspapers compared the Prime-Minister of the day, Erdoğan, to Hitler in their 21 February 2014 editions. Sözcü came out with the headline, ‘Look at the Coincidence,’ while BirGün’s was ‘We noticed a resemblance between you and someone.’
* As to the pro-government newspapers, they have appeared with common headlines especially in the Gezi period and in connection with the Egyptian coup. On top of this, these headlines, rather than being coincidence, were prepared and planned ‘snaps’ resulting from prior mutual negotiations.
TENS DEAD IN THE BASEMENT
* ‘In the report entitled, “Raid on the basement – tens dead,” the attempt was made to portray PKK terrorists as being innocent and it was reported that the injured were not taken into ambulances ...’
It was stated in the reports that the allegations were raised by HDP spokespeople. Over and above this, the alleged violation of the right to life was covered in a balanced manner drawing on information obtained from official sources. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein described the news emanating from the South-East as being ‘worrying’ and called for an independent investigation to be launched. The European Court of Human Rights passed measure orders in the course of the events in Cizre.
* ‘Events in which Nusaybin was targeted and trenches rigged with bombs were dug and our citizens and our soldiers and policemen were killed by the PKK terrorist organisation were covered as “Nusaybin demolished” ...’
The report was based on a photograph that was taken in Nusaybin and showed the town having been fully demolished. It was stated in the report, ‘Yüksekova, Sur, Cizre and Şırnak. And now Nusaybin, too. The ruined towns left over from operations and clashes.’
SAYING ‘GULENISTS’ IS ALSO A CRIME
The bench did not consider the serial about FETO that our lawyers submitted to the file to be evidence of the newspaper’s anti-FETO stance. It is asserted in the decision that in the first articles of the series, ‘It is not said to be a terrorist organisation and it is stated far more to be the Gülen movement or the Gulenists.’ In fact, the series, which addressed from various perspectives the way in which the devotees of Fethullah had organised within the state for years and had transformed into FETO, was even entitled ‘FETO and its Servants.’
THERE IS NO EVIDENCE CONCERNING FETO
It is asserted in the remand order that, ‘In connection with electing members of the Cumhuriyet Foundation management board, illegal actions were taken so that persons would be included in management who had connections with the FETO terrorist organisation or wished to enter cooperation with this organisation, and this matter is pending before the judiciary.’ In fact, not a single piece of evidence was adduced as to any member of the management board having connections with FETO.
In the file, alongside the above, the attempt has even been made to put forward as ‘evidence’ for the charges certain opinion pieces and other newspaper reports which are entirely subjective and totally unfounded, and have for the most part been penned on the basis of personal opinions and thoughts or even personal grudges, and social media posts of a similar nature.