Detained journalists Tunca Öğreten and Mahir Kanaat participated at the hearing held today at Istanbul Serious Crime Court No 29 via a video link from Silivri Prison. The journalists on pretrial release, Ömer Çelik, Derya Okatan, Eray Sargın and Metin Yoksu, took their places in the courtroom. Turkish Journalists Association Chair Turgay Olcayto, Turkish Representative of Reporters Without Borders Erol Önderoğlu, Journalists Union of Turkey Chair Gökhan Durmuş and ÖDP Chairs Board member Alper Taş were also present in the courtroom as spectators. Presiding judge Mustafa Çakar said that the file had not returned from the expert. Berat Albayrak’s lawyer Hatice Özay stated that the former continued to press his complaint. Subsequently, the hearing prosecutor was asked for his opinion. The prosecutor sought an extension of detention order in a clichéd opinion referring to the gravity and seriousness of the offence, citing the nature of offence and the presence of concrete evidence pointing to the existence of strong suspicion of guilt that it had been committed.
“I have been detained for one year”
Following this, Tunca Öğreten addressed the court to make his counterstatement to the prosecutor’s opinion. Öğreten, saying that he had been in detention for one year, indicated that for the second time he was seeking justice in the hope that his unjust treatment would end. Öğreten said he had served in all kinds of arduous fields of the journalistic profession, including war journalism. Öğreten, noting he had never felt the degree of tension such as he was now, said, “I have been deprived of my freedom and separated from my wife for one year due to an aspersion by a person whose name and reputation are unknown and has no compunctions about describing himself as a hacker.”
“Journalists do not take instructions”
Öğreten, saying, “Journalism is a profession, like being a prosecutor or judge, which must be performed with personal dignity and remaining true to principles and conscience,” pointed out that journalists, in common with members of the judiciary, took instructions from no one. Öğreten, saying that he was 36 years old, said, “I have not led a dishonourable life to the extent that I would accept an instruction from someone. Let us assume that somebody attempted to give an instruction. The reports I have made are out there. I did not perform that instruction, anyway.” Öğreten, pointing out that the news had not been denied by minister Albayrak, recalled that when he reported on the emails they had at the time been shared with millions of people and had entered the public domain.
The President’s call
Öğreten also recalled the Paradise Papers that were published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists along with 96 media organisations of which Cumhuriyet is also a media partner. Öğreten, stating that the reports he made bore an exact similarity with this leak, pointed out that nobody had been arrested or detained due to these reports. Öğreten further recalled CHP General Chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s documents concerning Erdoğan’s brother-in-law establishing a company on the Isle of Man. Referring to Erdoğan’s call following these comments for the transaction slips to be disclosed to the public prosecution or the media, said, “This, in any case, is the procedure that applies everywhere in the world. Both the person who just now is before you and obliged to defend himself and also that very person to whom the President referred to disclosure being made is me.”
“So as not to weigh on your consciences”
Öğreten said that when evaluated on the basis of universal law, human rights, freedom of expression and the press, democracy and the principles of journalism, he was unable to explain why he was in detention. Öğreten, saying that the court bench did not have this explanation, either, commented, “If you hold me in custody for ten years, not one, you will also realise at the conclusion of this trial that I am innocent. Hence, I wish to be placed on pretrial release so that my unjust treatment does not continue further and the unjust treatment I am undergoing does not weigh on your consciences in the future.”
BirGün newspaper employee Mahir Kanaat, who subsequently addressed the court, recalled that he stood charged with creating the Twitter chat group about the leaked emails at issue in the prosecution. Kanaat, stating that the RedHack group had announced that they created the chat group at issue on 18 March 2017, asked, “Indeed, why would I set up a chat group about emails that were not even in my possession?” Kanaat then replied to a charge made against him that he accessed the 17-25 December case reports from people belonging to the Fethullahist structure. Kanaat indicated that if you searched under “17-25 December case report” on an internet search engine, 547,000 results were obtained and one of these results was the page “adalet.biz” frequently used by members of the judiciary. Kanaat, pointing out that the case report in question was also on this site, stressed that when the case report was downloaded onto a computer its essential features were the same as the case report prepared by the police, and said, “You will not find an ounce of FETOism or any such thing in me. I am a solid ÖDP supporter.”
Tunca Öğreten and Mahir Kanaat released
The court ordered Tunca Öğreten and Mahir Kanaat’s release subject to release conditions. The hearing was adjourned until 3 April 2018 at 11.00 hours.
Detained journalists Tunca Öğreten and Mahir Kanaat released