Judge interrupts Şık’s critical comments concerning state practice during hearing, forbids journalists covering the trial from using laptops 

 

Investigative journalist and Cumhuriyet reporter Ahmet Şık on May 22, 2018, appeared before Istanbul’s 17th Criminal Court of First Instance for the third hearing of a case in which he stands accused for his critical Twitter posts.

Şık and his lawyer Can Atalay were present at the hearing, monitored by P24 at the Istanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan.

The court adjourned the trial until September 18, 2018, in line with Şık and his lawyer’s requests for additional time to prepare a defense statement.

Şık is indicted in this case for “Degrading the Turkish nation, the state of the Turkish Republic, the organs and institutions of the state” as per Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). The case was opened following an investigation into Şık based on a 2015 complaint filed by Kerem Kocalar, a reporter for the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Addressing the court during Tuesday’s hearing, Şık said his social media posts that form the basis for the allegations should be regarded as “sharp criticism of the state.”

Stressing that his remarks were not of an indictable nature, Şık said his comments constituted an exercising of the right to freedom of expression.

Şık continued: “As I’ve said before, during other trials against me, there is not one state in the world that does not have blood on its hands, and the structure of the Turkish state is not exempt from this [evaluation]. As I see it, in matters where the state is involved, such as forced disappearances, deaths in custody, unsolved murders and extrajudicial executions, this constitutes a terror act.”

At that point, Şık’s words were interrupted by the judge, who abruptly warned the journalists covering the hearing in the courtroom, forbidding them from using their laptops and smartphones to type notes from the hearing, and telling the reporters to instead make notes using pen and paper.

Şık continued with his address to the court after the unexpected tense situation in the courtroom resolved. Şık went on to say that court cases such as this one were opened on the instructions of the political authority, and were particularly aimed at silencing all opposition. Stressing once again that the indicted social media posts did not constitute crime, Şık said he was still standing behind his words.

Noting that his address to the court during this hearing was his overall opinion of the accusation against him, Şık requested for additional time to prepare his defense statement which he said would be touching upon details of the indictment, and based on evidence.

“The courtroom is not the place at which to discuss my remarks which I see as a radical criticism of the state’s unlawful practice. This very trial stands as a source for that kind of criticism. My remarks could only be the subject of a debate,” Şık concluded.

Following Şık, his lawyer also requested for additional time for the defense statement to be ready.

The court then issued an interim ruling, adjourning the trial until September 18, 2018.

Şık initially faced up to 2 years imprisonment in this case. In January 2018, an Istanbul prosecutor issued yet another indictment against Şık with the same charge. The accusation in the second indictment also stems from the same complaint filed by Kerem Kocalar.

When the trial court accepted the second indictment and merged the two files, the sentence sought for Şık became 3.5 years in total. 

The prosecutor argued in the second indictment that there was both de facto and de jure relationship between the two indictments and therefore the alleged offense was “committed in a successive manner.”

Şık’s Twitter posts held as evidence against the journalist in this case were also among accusations against Şık as part of the Cumhuriyet trial, which concluded in April.

Şık spent more than 400 days in pretrial detention in the Silivri Prison as part of the Cumhuriyet trial before being released on March 9, 2018. On April 25, the court overseeing the Cumhuriyet case convicted Şık of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” and handed down the journalist a prison sentence of 7 years and 6 months.

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