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Oğuz Güven demolishes charges over Tweet with documents

Cumhuriyet.com.tr Editor-in-Chief, Oğuz Güven has appeared before a judge in connection with a post made on Cumhuriyet newspaper’s Twitter account about the death in a traffic accident of Denizli Republic Chief Prosecutor Mustafa Alper.
Yayınlanma tarihi: 18 Eylül 2017 Pazartesi, 10:55

Güven, who, with Sabah newspaper gunning for him, remained in detention due to an announcement Tweet that was corrected in the space of 55 seconds, said that the investigating prosecutor had passed judgment by reading intention while ignoring newspapers that ran the same headline. Güven, who demolished the indictment in his defence, has had his case adjourned until 17 October.

Cumhuriyet.com.tr Editor-in-Chief, Oğuz Güven, who spent one month in detention in relation to an announcement Tweet that was amended in the space of 55 seconds concerning the death of Denizli Republic Chief Prosecutor Mustafa Alper, who lost his life as the result of a traffic accident, has appeared before a judge.

Our paper’s website cumhuriyet.com.tr gave news of Chief Prosecutor Alper’s death in a traffic accident with the announcement Tweet, “A lorry mowed down Chief Prosecutor Mustafa Alper, who drafted the first Fethullah Gülen Terrorism Organisation (FETO) indictment.” The expression “mowed down” was only used in the announcement Tweet and was not included in the news content. The Tweet was deleted in the space of 55 seconds, but Sabah newspaper used a screenshot to place the website in the firing line. One of the prosecutors who drafted the Cumhuriyet indictment, Yasemin Baba, who made a record in connection with the investigation, did not even see the content of the report over which charges have been raised as the announcement Tweet was deleted. The indictment drafted by Prosecutor Celal Sarıdere, to whom Baba transferred the investigation after having made the record, was leaked to Sabah newspaper before it was given to our paper’s lawyers. In the indictment in question, Güven’s imprisonment for up to ten and half years was sought on charges of organisational propaganda and “printing and disseminating terrorist organisations’ publications.”

The first hearing held at Istanbul Serious Crime Court was attended by Journalists on the Outside and Güven's journalist friends to stand by Güven. In his defence, Güven requested that the video of this accident be shown to better explain why they had used the expression “mowed down” which is a term used in a traffic context and is in widespread use. Güven, continuing his defence after the footage had been viewed, said, “As you have seen, a horrendous accident that makes one quiver took place and the chief prosecutor unfortunately lost his life when he was crushed beneath the lorry that first mowed him down and then tipped onto his car.”

Suspicion of assassination

Güven, noting that they reported the news in question on Twitter at ten o’ clock in the form, “The chief prosecutor and his police guard have lost their lives in a traffic accident and the lorry involved in the accident is reported to have fled,” said, “Later, news came from the agency that the deceased chief prosecutor was the prosecutor who had drafted the first FETO indictment. I asked the colleagues to indicate this in the headline. Just at that moment, the colleagues said that camera footage of the accident had come in. We all watched it together. While we were watching, one of our colleagues said, ‘The lorry well and truly mowed him down.’ The accident appeared to be suspicious. At this, we hastily deemed it fitting to use this headline to draw attention to the suspicion of assassination.”

Competition and speed factors

Güven, stating that word “car” had been forgotten in the endeavour to bring out the news as soon as possible in the flurry of the competition introduced by the internet, the speed factor and confinement to 140 characters, said, “Certainly, there was no intention of tweeting, ‘A lorry mowed down the chief prosecutor.’ I myself noticed the error 55 seconds after the Tweet in question had been posted and deleted it. It was corrected to, “‘Chief Prosecutor Mustafa Alper, who drafted the first FETO indictment, tragically lost his life in a lorry accident’.”

It was a Tweet that not even ten people saw

Güven, saying, “People I cannot call journalists at Sabah newspaper made a news story out of a Tweet that probably not even ten people saw,” said that an investigation was launched over this Tweet that prosecutor Yasemin Baba never saw, either. Güven, stressing that no such expression was in the report and its headline, said, “Since it was absent, there is no such document or evidence in the indictment. However, even though the prosecution has no evidence, it alleges that this was made into the page’s headline.” Güven, stressing that had they intended as alleged by the hearing prosecutor to make Gülen brotherhood propaganda, they could not have described the prosecutor as being the one “who drafted the first FETO indictment,” commented, “It is unfeasible and impossible both to speak of the Fethullahist Terrorist Organisation and make brotherhood propaganda. This is contrary to logic and reason.”

Those who made Emre Uslu a police officer are in the state administration

Güven, stressing that when evidence was being gathered the law also contemplates the gathering of documents favourable to the defendant, said, “This is because if they looked at the page, they would see that we reported and criticised, speaking of a ‘disgrace to humanity,’ comments made on Twitter by persons, currently on the run, who made immoral comments about this news and are known to everyone.” However, the prosecutor has never had any such intention.” Güven had the following to say about Emre Uslu, one of those to comment beneath the Tweet in question:

“When I take Emre Uslu to task, let the fact not be forgotten that this individual was the state’s police officer and he performed anti-terrorist duties in one period. Let us not forget that, while I as a socialist and atheist am being connected to a religion-based organisation that is contrary to my personal nature and prosecuted for making FETO propaganda, many of those who made them police officers are still in the state administration.”

Güven said, “If the learned prosecutor looked at Tweets I have written in the past, he would see the extent to which I battled with FETO when current administrators and ministers had nothing but adulation for Fetullah Gülen and saw no fault in him. But, having dredged through my Tweets and being unable to find any component of a crime, it did not suit him to see them.” Güven, saying if the Tweet in question had been examined in conjunction with the content of the report, it would have emerged that there could not even be any question of an incitement to violence or praise, serving the purposes or encouragement of a terrorist organisation at all, stated that he had no criminal intent.

The TRT, Sabah and Yeni Şafak also said “mowed down”

Güven, pointing out that the expression, “an artic mowed down” or “a lorry mowed down” was very frequently used in reports on traffic accidents, gave examples of reports in which the TRT, Sabah and Yeni Şafak used the expression “mowed down”. Güven read reports of the accident in question in newspapers such as Türkiye, HaberTürk, Takvim, Milliyet, Akşam and Akit, and said the following:

“In looking at these headlines, let us not also forget the fact that we speedily composed the headline on the internet at the time of the incident, while the newspapers had a period of eight to nine hours before them for the headline they would run in connection with an incident in the morning. The prosecutor, who reads our intentions and prosecutes, has more or less ignored this headline of Türkiye newspaper. He also paid no heed to the words “a lorry mowed down” in Habertürk. When you look at all the headlines, the suspicion of assassination strikes you. So, if we look at these headlines with the prosecutor’s logic of reading intention, all these headlines were run to intimidate other judges. If we look at these headlines again, in the prosecutor’s words, have not all the newspapers fitted the bill and made terrorist organisation propaganda? Have they not spread the same fear? But, for some reason, I alone was detained and am on trial.”

 “It is intentional that I alone am facing prosecution.”

In his defence Oğuz Güven presented the court with the headlines that HaberTürk and Türkiye newspaper had run and footage of TRT News’ social media posts in connection with the same story. Güven, recalling the post at issue in the investigation that Cumhuriyet.com.tr made in the immediate aftermath of the incident and deleted 55 seconds later, and, referring to the expressions “mowed down” and “crushed like paper” that were contained in HaberTürk and Türkiye newspaper’s headlines put together eight hours later, said, “It is intentional that I alone am facing prosecution.” Oğuz Güven also submitted TRT News’ social media post to the court.

Güven, stating that the retweeting by his journalist friends of an interview at Qandil published in Cumhuriyet newspaper was appended to pad out the indictment against him, read positive pronouncements about Öcalan from figures such as Orhan Miroğlu, Beşir Atalay, Bülent Arınç, Yiğit Bulut and Cem Küçük. Güven, speaking of the hundreds of interviews conducted with PKK people at Qandil and mountainous areas within the country on dates when the solution process was continuing, said, “In fact, the press conference at which the PKK announced it would take its arms abroad was even attended by the state’s Anadolu Agency reporter. But, Prosecutor Celal Sarıdere more or less ignores this reality of two and a half years ago and has brought no charges. Thousands of people retweeted these two Tweets that I also posted and no investigation has even been launched into them, but I stand charged in relation to this.”

The prosecutor read intention and passed judgment

Güven, noting that the situation had nothing to do with the law, continued as follows:

“The prosecutor read intention and passed judgment, and set about looking for evidence of this. As a result of these efforts, I spent 32 days in Silivri number 9 prison but I wish to recall that the indictment appeared speedily and I was freed under your court’s release order. My request of you is, in striving for Turkey to be a law-based, democratic and modern country and to bring about freedom of thought and expression, is for you not to create a new crime in the form of reading intention. I seek my acquittal in this trial which does not accord with any rule of law or penal article.”

Record on a Tweet that remained public for 55 seconds

Tora Pekin, one of our paper’s lawyers, speaking after Güven, said with reference to the record that initiated the inquiry, “How can a Tweet that remained public for 55 seconds be turned into a record by means of one clerk in the prosecutor’s room? I leave this to your imagination. Such a thing is impossible. We realise this to be so from the mention of a report in the record. But, there is no such expression in the report. Had the indictment been drafted late, Oğuz Güven would still be in detention, because it would have been impossible to overrule this order by the penal judgeships of the peace.”

Time requested for the opinion

For his part, the hearing prosecutor, who announced his opinion on the file, requested time for the documents submitted to the file to be examined and to express an opinion on the merits. The bench adjourned the hearing until 17 October.

THIRTY DAYS IN DETENTION

The indictment against Oğuz Güven, who was detained for the Tweet reading, “A lorry mowed down Chief Prosecutor Mustafa Alper, who drafted the first FETO indictment” posted on Cumhuriyet newspaper’s website, was drafted by Istanbul Republic Chief Prosecution’s Press Office. Güven's trial was sought with the demand that he be imprisoned for from two and a half years to ten and a half years on charges of “making a terrorist organisation’s propaganda” and “printing and disseminating terrorist organisations’ publications.” Güven, who remained in detention for thirty days while the investigation continued, will reply to the charges against him today.

His colleagues did not leave him alone 

Turkish Journalists Association Chair Turgay Olcayto, CHP MP Barış Yarkadaş, the CHP jurist Turan Aydoğan along with Güven's journalist colleagues came to the Istanbul Judicial Complex at Çağlayan to monitor the hearing.

Detained on 15 May 

Oğuz Güven, whom the Istanbul Republic Chief Prosecution’s Press Office accuses of having committed the crime of “making terrorist organisation propaganda”, was detained on 15 May by Istanbul Penal Judgeship of the Peace No 2. The court asserted in its order that a Tweet reading “A lorry mowed down Chief Prosecutor Mustafa Alper, who drafted the first FETO indictment” was posted on Cumhuriyet newspaper’s website, Oğuz Güven had a legal responsibility to check Tweets and the wording “A lorry mowed down” was specifically selected to create the impression in society of what would later befall those who drafted indictments against FETO, rather than to sensationalise and emphasise the news. Güven said in his defence, “I did not post the Tweet you have read. One of my editors posted this Tweet. I am the website’s editor-in-chief. In any case, I intervened in 55 seconds. We post 200-300 Tweets daily. An error occurred here. We corrected it in 55 seconds. There is no such headline and expression in our news report.”

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