Numerous police officers in uniforms sit among audience in courtroom during latest hearing of case at 2nd High Criminal Court of Muş

Özkan Küçük

Journalist Idris Sayilgan (the correct spelling of the journalist’s name bearing special letters of the Turkish alphabet is: İdris Sayılğan) who has been in pre-trial detention for over two years, was ordered to remain behind bars at the end of the fifth hearing of his trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group.” 

The hearing took place on 24 December at the 2nd High Criminal Court of Muş. 

Three people from the families of each defendant in the case as well as press members were admitted to the courtroom as viewers. All members of the audience were subjected to body search. They were also ordered to turn off their mobile phones. Not all audience seats in the courtroom were occupied but numerous police officers in uniforms sat among the audience throughout the hearing.

At the start of the hearing, Sayilgan’s lawyer Barış Oflas addressed the court and requested a suspension by reason of judicial question on the grounds of an application they lodged with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) concerning Sayilgan’s lengthy pre-trial detention.

The court rejected Oflas’s request and went on to hear the prosecutor’s final opinion of the case. The prosecution requested that Sayilgan and other jailed defendants in the case be convicted of “membership in a terrorist group” and the continuation of their detention.

“What I did was journalism and journalism is not a crime”

Sayilgan addressed the court from the Trabzon E Type Prison via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS. In his defense statement he gave in Kurdish, Sayilgan said he did not trust the panel of judges or the proceedings. He said the panel’s outlook on this case was not legally or morally but politically motivated. Sayilgan said he would not make a defense statement although he did prepare one for the hearing. “I have no requests from this panel. I do not request to be released. I have no expectations from this panel,” Sayilgan said.

Sayilgan added: “Like I said before, I am a journalist. All I did was journalism. And journalism is not a crime.”

Lawyers representing the other defendants in the case requested additional time to prepare final defense statements in response to the prosecution’s final opinion. 

Sayilgan’s lawyer Oflas submitted to the court the documents pertaining to their application before the ECtHR. Oflas said that in addition to his client’s lengthy pre-trial detention leading to a right violation, Sayilgan’s rights to defense and a fair trial were also violated and that they were expecting the ECtHR to render a judgment in favor of his client soon. “Idris may be standing trial here, but Turkey is standing trial before the ECtHR,” the lawyer said.

Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the panel ruled to keep all jailed defendants in pre-trial detention and adjourned the trial until 25 January 2019 for the final defense statements to be prepared.