Our General Editor Murat Sabuncu, Executive Board Chair Akın Atalay, Book Supplement Manager Turhan Günay, publishing consultant and columnist Kadri Gürsel, readers’ representative Güray Öz, cartoonist Musa Kart, columnist Hakan Kara, and our lawyers Bülent Utku and Mustafa Kemal Güngör have been remanded in custody for five months under an investigation being conducted by Istanbul Republic Chief Prosecution Press Crimes Investigation Office prosecutor Murat İnam. Prosecutor İnam, who alleges that our columnists, cartoonists and managers, while not being members of the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organisation (FETO) and the PKK/KCK organisations, committed crimes on behalf of the organisations, is himself on trial before Penal Chamber No 16 of the Court of Cassation, with prison terms, one of aggravated life, one of life and one of up to 67 years, sought.
The crime: Journalism
In defendant-prosecutor İnam’s investigation, he is citing as evidence five articles and sixteen news reports over which there are pending trials and decisions to drop the charges. Given that some of the reports and articles he has included in his investigation date back some time, İnam is breaching the provision of the Press Law that imposes a four month-time limit for prosecution. Istanbul Penal Judgeship of the Peace No 9 judge Mustafa Çakar, who remanded our ten columnists, cartoonists and managers, citied these reports as grounds for the order. Objections to remand, on the other hand, have been denied in orders by penal judgeships of the peace that have been copies of one another. Our reporter Ahmet Şık has been on remand for three months charged with making FETO/ PDY and PKK/KCK propaganda in his reports and Twitter posts. Included in the file against Şık, who was detained in 2011 for one year in the Oda tv investigation - later considered to have been a ‘conspiracy’ - are news reports about which decisions to drop the charges have been passed.
Silivri Prison No 9, where our columnists, cartoonists, reporters and managers are being held, is a prison at which rights such as meetings with lawyers, communications and conversation are denied under arbitrary circulars. The right to send and receive letters in prison has been usurped in an arbitrary manner under a circular sent to the prison by Deputy Istanbul Republic Chief Prosecutor İsmail Uçar. It is stated in the circular that letters and faxes are denied for the duration of the state of emergency to suspects detained as part of investigations into the crimes and acts of attempted coup, but these do not number among the charges levelled against our eleven reporters and managers. The objection that our columnists and managers lodged one month ago against this restriction has yet to be ruled on by the Enforcement Judgeship.
Our columnists, cartoonists, reporters and managers are only permitted to speak to their families and lawyers for one hour a week, and meetings with lawyers take place in the company of a warder and with a recording made. Our colleagues, who are held in three-person cells, have been unable to see one another for the five months they have been in the same prison because the cells do not look onto one another. With open visits at the prison conducted once every two months, our ten columnists, cartoonists and managers have been able to see their families twice and Ahmet Şık once. The objection against the restriction on meetings with lawyers has yet to be ruled on. According to Decree with the Force of Law number 667, a different prison regime may be applied to detainees charged with offences against the constitutional order and the functioning of this order, national defence and state secrets, espionage and offences falling within the scope of the Law for Combating Terrorism. However, the charges levelled against our remanded columnists and managers do not fall within the scope of the Law for Combating Terrorism.
The Constitutional Court remains silent
Our ten columnists, cartoonists and managers made an individual application to the Constitutional Court in December 2016 on the grounds that their rights to personal security and freedom and freedom of thought and the press had been violated and that restrictions on these freedoms permitted under the European Convention on Human Rights had been used contrary to their purpose. The Constitutional Court has not even included this application made four months ago in its schedule. Consequently, our paper’s lawyers have applied to the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of our columnists and managers for the passing of a ‘release’ order.