Cumhuriyet trial drags another skeleton out of a prosecutor’s closet: He brought charges for libelling Fethullah Gülen!

Bülent Utku, presenting his defence at the second hearing of the trial in which seventeen of Cumhuriyet newspaper’s employees stand charged, eleven of them in pre-trial detention, said ‘You cannot conjure up an organisation out of Cumhuriyet.’

27 Temmuz 2017 Perşembe, 17:11
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With it having emerged that prosecutor Murat İnam, who compiled the investigation file into Cumhuriyet, stands charged of FETO membership with a double life sentence sought, it has now emerged that the hearing prosecutor Hacı Hasan Bölükbaşı once prosecuted our writer Mine Kırıkkanat for libelling Fethullah Gülen.
 
KEMAL GÖKTAŞ / CANAN COŞKUN
 
With prosecutor Murat İnam, who launched the investigation into Cumhuriyet, standing charged of FETO membership, it has emerged that the hearing prosecutor Hacı Hasan Bölükbaşı once drafted an indictment against one of our newspaper’s columnists Mine Kırıkkanat, saying, ‘You cannot libel Fethullah Gülen.’ After our paper’s lawyer Bülent Utku raised this fact at the hearing, prosecutor Bölükbaşı defended himself.
Bülent Utku, who has acted as our paper’s lawyer since 1992, stating at the start of his defence that the court bench had lost its impartiality with its scheduling order in which it accepted the indictment and ordered the continuation of pre-trial detention, said, ‘This scheduling order could only be framed under three scenarios. The ruling party is either applying pressure to your bench, or there is apprehension that it will apply pressure or your bench is more royalist than the king.’
Utku, noting that he was Ahmet Şık’s lawyer in the Odatv trial, said, ‘Zekeriya Öz, Nihat Aşkın, Mehmet Ekinci and Fikret Seçen sat opposite me. They played with their phones and stared into the air. But, they were on top of their cases.’
Right to courage
Utku, citing such examples of breaches of the law as the detaining of the HDP’s co-mayors and MPs, the imprisoning of hunger strikers Semih Özakça and Nuriye Gülmen, and President Erdoğan proclaiming Selahattin Demirtaş to be a terrorist, said, ‘This is the point that the conditions and spirit of the times have brought us to. I oppose these conditions and this spirit. People have the right to courage. I will exercise this right of mine to the last. This is a duty for jurists and journalists. Let them not shrink from exercising their right of courage. Cumhuriyet is one of the newspapers that is exercising this right to courage.’
Position in common with IS
Utku, recalling that the first target that night of IS militant Abdulkadir Masharipov, the perpetrator of the massacre at Reina on New Year’s Eve, was Cumhuriyet, said, ‘Whoever targeted Cumhuriyet in the past, those who do so today subscribe to different versions of the same conceptual world. They are those who hold a grudge against Cumhuriyet newspaper because it does not think like them, lays bare their own dark thoughts and deeds and fights them. The political will that arrests and detains Cumhuriyet’s management and some of its columnists in order to silence it through a political operation must come to its senses and immediately abandon the position it has adopted in common with IS.’
Prosecutor İnam’s will is compromised
Utku stated that prosecutor Murat İnam, who is conducting the investigation, was chosen because his will is compromised due to his facing charges in the FETO trial with an aggravated life sentence sought, and, noting that he was asked at Silivri Prison before being placed in a cell which organisation he had been detained for having links to, commented, ‘I said “FETO and PKK.” The prison officers said, “No way.” I showed them the record given to me during arrest procedures so they would believe it. They chose FETO and entered that. This is how the problem was solved.’
Millions of people could be accused
He continued, ‘I could explain the whys and wherefores with documents of my communications record with people who were ByLock users and FETO suspects, but I will not do this. It is impossible for communications of this nature to be accepted as evidence. Such a course of action would court disaster. It would serve to overturn the basic principles of penal law. Such a course of action would permit the door to be opened for millions of people to be accused.’
Balbay’s signature is present
Bülent Utku, stating in his defence that Mustafa Balbay came to the prison to visit him and he declined the visit, continued, ‘CHP Member of Parliament Mustafa Balbay has a tweet that was adduced as evidence for our detention. According to the indictment, our paper underwent a radical change in its editorial policy after Can Dündar took over as editor-in-chief. Mustafa Balbay’s signature is on the resolution making this appointment. I imagine that the prosecutor must have overlooked or forgotten that the person who appointed the editor-in-chief who served the purposes of terrorist organisations to the paper and who accused the paper of FETOism and Kurdism was Mustafa Balbay for him to have been able to accept and adduce that tweet as evidence. Balbay came on a visit to Silivri. Seeing him, I said, “I will not speak to you” and went back.’
Response to the Financial Crimes Investigation Board
He continued, ‘Included as the element of an offence in the Financial Crimes Investigation Board Report is my working on an insured basis for HDP MP Erol Dora eleven years ago. The law does not countenance evidence or the adducing of economic ties as they have set about it. So, all I can say is “Give me a break”.’
Life full of struggle
Utku, stressing that, in view of his legal experience and practice and life practice, those who are staging this operation could not accuse him of coup involvement and aiding coupists, said, ‘If you look at the Intellectual’s Petition drawn up under Aziz Nesin’s leadership, the first blast against the 12 September coupists, you will see my signature. The same applies if all these years later you look at the announcement made in opposition to the 27 April Memorandum. My life is full of struggle against coups and coupists.
Let nobody worry, either. This period is transient. Democracy, human rights and the values of the rule of law must come into ascendance and install themselves properly, because these values are both local and universal. The struggle that has until now been waged by the family of humanity is the result of a struggle that has been waged with loss of blood and life. Nobody’s strength suffices to eliminate and remove the gains that have been made thanks to humanity’s great struggles. The future in our Turkey, too, is on the side of human rights, the rule of law and democracy. History always eventually flows in this direction. Let nobody suppose that they have stopped or halted this flow, or can halt it.’
 ‘Let them apologise to Arcayürek and Cumhuriyet
The prosecutor asked if he had read Fethullah Gülen’s books and followed news about him. He replied, ‘I have seen Gülen in states in which he is incomprehensible and crying his eyes out on social media and TV stations. I have not read his books. Had I done so, he would not have duped me, like he did some, because it is generally those who wish to be duped and are prone to be duped who are duped. I have not read Gülen’s books, but, I have read the submissions in the many lawsuits and complaints he has brought against Cumhuriyet and its columnists, and the indictments in the trials that were held.’ Utku, stating that one of these was the indictment drafted against one of our late columnists, Cüneyt Arcayürek, for his article entitled ‘The Fethullah Gülen germ’, said, ‘This trial resulted in a 700 lira fine and we paid it. But, let this now be refunded in a resolution under a decree with the force of law and let them spare us bother. Along with this, let them apologise to Arcayürek and Cumhuriyet.’
 ‘You cannot conjure up an organisation out of Cumhuriyet
Bülent Utku wound up his defence with the words, ‘Let those in opposition to the struggle for democracy, human rights and the rule of law not get their hopes up, let them not raise their spirits in vain. You cannot conjure up an organisation out of Cumhuriyetnewspaper. If you are looking for an organisation, look in the file and you will easily be able to find it there. You cannot, through unlawful and illegal practices, establish links between Cumhuriyet newspaper and FETO and PKK and DHKP/C. Let nobody test the law’s stubbornness, because you are no match for its stubbornness. Because it has become installed and taken root through centuries of accretions. It will eventually defeat you. The law is stubborn. It holds to account. If, despite this, I am to be accused, please let one who is without sin cast the first stone. The preference is yours, the discretion is yours, the decision is yours.’
Defence by the prosecutor
Utku, in response to prosecutor Hacı Hasan Bölükbaşı’s objection that, ‘He has been speaking for five minutes without reference to the indictment,’ commented, ‘Learned prosecutor, there is a section entitled “God’s cudgel” in my defence. It refers to you. Just as we exposed FETO’s game, I will describe how you defended Fethullah Gülen.’ Utku, citing examples of lawsuits that Fethullah Gülen brought against Cumhuriyet columnists, stated that he acted as lawyer for our columnist Mine Kırıkkanat, who was tried for libelling Fethullah Gülen at Istanbul Penal Court of First Instance No 2 on 8 April 2014, and, despite applying for Gülen to be summoned to the hearing, this application was denied.
It transpires that the prosecutor who drafted the indictment against Kırıkkanat for libelling Fethullah Gülen through her article entitled ‘The world is a lie and the drug is from the company’ dated 23 July 2013 was the current hearing prosecutor, Hacı Hasan Bölükbaşı. Bölükbaşı, who was forced to defend himself in the face of Utku’s accusation, said, ‘Leaving the accusations to one side, the scheduling procedures and the court bench have been brought up for debate. I have seen no defence on the merits. I have been acquainted with you before. I performed many duties for the time I served in the Press Crimes Investigation Bureau and I drafted decisions to drop the charges or indictments. You cannot deny the charges I dropped. I do not have to reply to this. You issue a decision and say that you are submitting this as evidence. I think that, like every prosecutor, I, too, passed decision in keeping with my duty and objective, independent principles, and within statutory legislation. Certain imputations have been made, but I do not wish to reply. I do not want to make things personal in this way and take the proceedings in other directions. I think the other prosecutors have performed their duty within the statutory legislation.’