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Murat Sabuncu: The history of our paper is replete with those who got into hot water

The trial in which our newspaper’s employees are being held in detention on baseless allegations with our newspaper’s editorial policy made the subject of charges continued today at Istanbul Serious Crime Court No 27.
Yayınlanma tarihi: 06 Kasım 2017 Pazartesi, 10:39

Our Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu, making a defence at the trial, said, “Those who enter the journalistic profession in Turkey, especially those working on Cumhuriyet newspaper, do their job alive to the risk of getting into hot water. The history of our paper is replete with those who got into hot water.”

The trial in which our Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu, Executive Board Chair Akın Atalay, reporter Ahmet Şık and accounting employee Emre İper are being held in detention on baseless and illogical allegations with our newspaper’s editorial policy made the subject of charges continued today at Istanbul Serious Crime Court No 27. At the trial, Cumhuriyet newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu submitted a defence.
 
Murat Sabuncu, reminding the presiding judge of the Ikarus example given in his defence on 12 September, said, “It is known that, despite the warnings, Icarus got close to the sun with his jacket and wings of wax and, with his wings melting, fell and died. Those who enter the journalistic profession in Turkey, especially those working on Cumhuriyet newspaper, do their job alive to the risk of getting into hot water. The history of our paper is replete with those who got into hot water and were made to get into hot water.”
 
The full text of the defence Murat Sabuncu made in court follows:
 
This was an operation that was staged for the first time in Turkey’s history against such a large number of managers and columnists from a newspaper.
 
Today is 31 October 2017. A full year has passed since I lost my freedom. In common with the other sixteen Cumhuriyet columnists and managers 365 days ago. This was an operation that was staged for the first time in Turkey’s history against such a large number of managers and columnists from a newspaper. At these hours last year we were in the custody suite in the cellar of the Counterterrorism Branch. The rulership’s propaganda instruments had long since started their vilification campaigns against these journalists whose professional lives had lasted anything from 28 to 60 years. Aspersions were cast at us of aiding all organisations out there mentioned in the same breath as terrorism, principally FETO. Before three days had even passed, the first scandal broke out. The prosecutor who had launched the investigation into us on the aspersion of aiding FETO was being prosecuted with an aggravated life sentence sought for being a FETO member and conducting activities. The Justice Minister of the day, Bekir Bozdağ, described the situation as “unfortunate” but did not take the prosecutor off the case. In fact, we saw on perusing the 30 binders annexed to the indictment that prosecutor Murat İnam worked on the case until the indictment was completed but could not or was not invited to append his signature to it. The indictment drafted by such a prosecutor naturally enough resembled his own situation. Without stretching things out let us move on to a brief summary.
 
An aggravated life sentence is sought on FETO charges for the prosecutor who initiated the investigation
 
THE PROSECUTOR ON THE CASE: Prosecutor Murat İnam who initiated the investigation on the Cumhuriyet case and played the leading role in drafting the indictment that led to our detention is an individual who is standing trail on FETO charges with an aggravated life sentence sought.
 
The Expert on the case was also specially selected
 
THE EXPERT ON THE CASE: Of course, the prosecutor’s expert had to be special, too. A person was found who is not named on lists of judicial experts. His name is Ünal Aldemir. Examining Cumhuriyet’s headlines over four years (you will realise that the word “examine” has a different sense here), and, based on the headlines that he cherry-picked from among them, most of which had not been previously subject to investigation by the press prosecution, accused us of aiding all terrorist organisations in the country. So, who is this expert? An individual who has never engaged in journalism in his life and graduated as a computer engineer, and is of a pretty young age. Of the same length as my professional life. Or of half the length of Orhan Erinç’s professional life. I imagine there is no need to stress that he has pro-regime sympathies. And we proved this from his Tweets at the first hearing.
 
One of the witnesses has enough clout to constitute a group in his own right. He is Turkey’s best-read writer.
 
THE WITNESSES ON THE CASE: They need to be separated into groups.
 
First group: Fethullah Gülen’s people. Having spent the vast bulk of their lives, 25-30 years, at his command, they are the founders, administrators or even spokespersons of many of the formations over which charges are raised today. Individuals ranging from Hüseyin Gülerce to Latif Erdoğan. You as presiding judge even saw no need to hear them, because their testimony was fabricated out of “conjecture” and associated aspersions.
 
Second group: Colleagues with whom we worked for many years on Cumhuriyet. In fact, their comments on the aspersions cast at us did not find their way into the indictment. You, too, heard and examined them in the trial on 11 September. Almost all said that they spoke to the prosecutor at great length and this was condensed and part of it distorted, and they gave testimony in our favour.
 
There is a third group: In fact, this is a single person, but he has enough clout to constitute a group in his own right. He is Turkey’s best-read writer. He is such an important and reliable witness that he received an award from Gülen, then returned the award and, having done so, wrote articles in support of Gülen. When our lawyer Tora Pekin reminded him of that article that he wrote after having made the return, he confessed to having written it at his boss’s request and order. I will make a small aside here. Do you know why we are in detention today and why a total of seventeen people are on trial today? Because we take orders from nobody. I do not much care for using slang. But I can clearly say the following. The person who gives orders to Cumhuriyet staff has yet to be born. Is this something that just applies to today? Of course not. This is in this paper’s genes. In every period in which there has been a deviation from democracy, those who cannot tolerate Cumhuriyet, i.e. independent voices and journalism, have attempted to silence it by torturing and imprisoning this paper’s writers and managers, closing the paper and trying to strangle it economically. Both following the 1971 memorandum, and following the 1980 fascist coup, and at the time of Ergenekon, and also now. But Cumhuriyet’s people were not, have not been and will not be cowed.
 
The top part is FETOism and the bottom part is Atatürkism
 
Let us come to the last witness I am going to discuss, to Alev Coşkun. To his “spectacle that evokes tears” over the paper. He mentions two dates, and I am going speak about both of them today. First, the Gülen report.
(Image of the newspaper dated 23 May 2015)
Within the FETO-AKP war that flared up three years ago between the former coalition members, the report in which Fetullah Gülen alludes to President Tayyip Erdoğan’s son in law and says that Berat Albayrak paid a visit there and “Called my humble abode a mansion”. Alev Coşkun does not like its position and asks if it can be here. He asserts that no such report has ever been included on the front page in the paper’s history. Our lawyer Tora Pekin showed reports about Gülen that appeared on the front page while Alev Coşkun was a foundation member, but Coşkun was not satisfied with this and said, “On the front page but a bit lower.” Coşkun has a formula whereby if a paper carries a report at the top it is not news coverage, but the one below is news coverage. The top part is FETOism and the bottom part is Atatürkism. You dismiss the bottom part as nonsensical rambling but we are made use of because of this.
 
What did he write in the series of articles?
 
Let us now turn to Coşkun’s second headline.
(Image of the 24 May 2015 headline)
Gülen and Erdoğan appear side by side in a photograph accompanying the above-masthead headline. How can this be? In fact, I, too, would like to ask precisely this. How can this be? How can it be that we set out to try a newspaper by looking only at the photographs instead of the news? How can it be that a presiding judge like you with experience in press trials did not direct the question, “You have become fixated on the photograph and its position, but you have not spoken about the content at all. Criticism of the content?” to this character. Note that this report is part of one of Turkey’s most important sociologists Prof. Dr. Tayfun Atay’s “Party, Religious Order, Brotherhood” series. And it constitutes a scientific text criticising religious brotherhoods of “conglomeration”.
 
This is what one of the people Atay interviewed is reported to have said in the series:
 
“Religious orders are today vanishing thanks to the doors opening up onto conglomerates.”
 
“He says every brotherhood gives rise to a kind of brotherhood fanaticism through becoming engrossed by its own crowd of people and the heart of the matter is that they worry about losing customers.”
 
He also conveys the following from another source:
 
“You will remember the PEEs of one period. Public Economic Enterprises. Now there are BEEs. Brotherhood Economic Enterprises.”
 
In the series, Tayfun Atay looks at the parting of ways between the AKP and Gülen from both a scientific and political viewpoint. He draws attention to differences over Gülen’s pronouncement in the aftermath of the Mavi Marmara incident, “If only there had been consultation with Israel.” He says the following in his analysis:
 
“On the one hand, there is a brotherhood that is still sensitive and cautious about acting in compliance with the global system’s economic-political necessities. On the other hand, there is the AKP that has availed itself of the opportunities that the same system has opened up to it and has come to power but sometimes cannot help acting out the remnants of the national view deep in its cultural genetics.”
 
There is reference in the series to other religious orders and brotherhoods that from time to time have been influential in Turkish politics.
 
So, what it boils down to is that, had Alev Coşkun not just looked at the photographs and read, he would have read an article with scientific content. He would have seen how the group nowadays known as FETO was criticised, not through swearing but penmanship. Had he read this series, what should have evoked his tears was not Cumhuriyet’s reporting, but the way the authorities to which he reported his old paper using smears nurtured this structure and dragged the country into chaos.
 
I have currently served as long as if I had been given a three-year jail term
 
Learned Presiding Judge, I wish to emphasise a number of points relating to you.
 
You made an address immediately before the interim ruling following the first five-day hearing between 24 July and 28 July. You said in one part of it, “I want to finish this trail before this year is out.” I said to myself on that day, “The presiding judge is saying that until that final hearing that he proposes to hold in December, that is for another five months, he will keep several people from among us in detention pending trial.” Two hearings and three months have passed since that address. My guess turned out right. We will remain in detention until the end of this trial that may end in December or the first months of 2018. You will also hand down the sentences to us in a trial in which you have kept seven people in detention pending trial for nine months, one person for eleven months and two people for twelve months so far. For example, mine must be at least three years, because I have currently served as long as if I had been given a three-year jail term.
 
At the hearing on 11 September, one of our lawyers, Fikret İlkiz, referred to Sisyphos in one part of his defence. You responded to this with the example of Icarus. At that time, I thought two things about you. The first was, how lovely, the learned presiding judge likes mythology as I, too, do. He has probably read Azra Erhat’s dictionary of mythology. Secondly, the learned presiding judge was telling us that we would get into hot water. It is known that, despite the warnings, Icarus got close to the sun with his jacket and wings of wax and, with his wings melting, fell and died. Permit me to tell you something. Those who enter the journalistic profession in Turkey, especially those working on Cumhuriyet newspaper, do their job alive to the risk of getting into hot water. The history of our paper is replete with those who got into hot water and were made to get into hot water. These figures are all currently remembered with respect. If in fact the power that gets people into hot water is the rulership and journalists stop doing their job for fear of getting into hot water, then we really will be in hot water. I did my job and if I get out I will do my job again, that is journalism unfearingly. So, learned presiding judge, keep us inside for as long as you can and put us in as much hot water as you can.
 
Those who today swear the hardest at Gülen were then keeping time with the FETOists in saying “Not for journalism.”
 
The hearing of 25 September. The 28 February process. I was working on Milliyet newspaper. I was a young journalist. I was 29. I was on trial at the State Security Court for a report I made. The person who wanted me tried was the commander in charge at the time, Çevik Bir. My lawyer that day was Köksal Bayraktar. Tough times that the coupists said would last a thousand years. I was on release pending trial. My lawyer Köksal Bayraktar defended me and journalism with very robust talk in the courtroom. Twelve years elapse. This time Köksal Bayraktar is the journalists’ lawyer in the Oda TV trial. Our colleagues had been detained under the smear, “They are not being tried for journalism” the patent for which is still in use today and whose patent holder is fugitive prosecutor Zekeriya Öz. Those who today swear the hardest at Gülen were then keeping time with the FETOists in saying “Not for journalism.” Those days were the days of coalition between the ruling party and Gülen. A tiny group of journalists was trying to explain the FETO conspiracy. In just those days, Köksal Bayraktar embarked on many a hearing and explained in robust and clear language that this was just journalism. A further six years elapse. Courtrooms once again. This time I, too, am in detention. Köksal Bayraktar is not my lawyer, but from time to time he makes defences on behalf of us all. Only, there is a situation that I am encountering for the first time. It is a situation that I have not encountered in the previous trials. You intervene using harsh language against a lawyer who has devoted fifty of his years to the law and you do not even accept the legal text that he cites as a reference. At that time, I say to myself: “What can we get across to a presiding judge who has no toleration for one of his colleagues?”
 
I will thus not go on at great length. I will round up as follows.
 
The final thing I will say on this matter is as follows. Doğan Akın recalled it on T 24. The date was 10 February 1987 (Front page of the newspaper here). The subject is Cemalettin Kaplan referred to as the local Khomeini and who was living in Germany. The file that had been made Cumhuriyet’s headline news was entitled “Cemalettin Hodja”. The signature was that of Uğur Mumcu, whose path Coşkun accuses Cumhuriyet management of deviating from saying that religious order news would not have appeared on the front page.
 
CONCLUDING WORDS
 
The interim ruling will be announced presently. You will order extension of detention. We will be handcuffed in the room right next to the door. We will be taken down to floor minus seven the in the lift. We will be put in the vehicles and taken to Silivri prison where we have stayed for one year under aggravated conditions of detention, the first nine months of which were severe solitary confinement conditions. Even if it has grown dark we will lean our heads against the windows and attempt to record the silhouette of Istanbul into our memories. Then the arrival at the prison: handcuffs taken off, a body search and we will be in our cells by midnight. I have got into a habit. The first thing I have done on returning from the three hearings at which interim rulings were announced has been to read the final part of Socrates’ defence. I get onto my bed next to the iron-barred window and from there observe the wire-covered sky. I think of the journalists, rights defenders and parliamentarians who have been detained for making recourse to their freedoms of thought and expression. I have memorised it, but I still read it from the book once more.
This is what Socrates says at the end of his defence:
SOCRATES’ DEFENCE:
BUT ENOUGH. IT IS NOW TIME TO LEAVE – FOR ME TO DIE, AND FOR YOU TO LIVE – THOUGH HISTORY WILL WRITE WHICH OF US HAS THE BETTER DESTINY.
I REPEAT THE SAME TO YOU.
BUT ENOUGH. IT IS NOW TIME TO LEAVE – FOR ME TO GO TO SILIVRI, TO THE CELL, AND FOR YOU TO LIVE – THOUGH HISTORY WILL WRITE WHICH OF US HAS THE BETTER DESTINY.
31.10.2017

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