The Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court refused to reduce or postpone the sentence
Cumhuriyet newspaper’s court reporter Canan Coşkun was sentenced to two years and three months in jail for mentioning the witness in a criminal investigation by his name in a news report published in September 2017.
The decision of the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court came at the end of the third hearing in the case against Coşkun, held on 19 July. The sentence is close to the upper limit – three years – specified by law. The court refused to reduce the sentence, citing “negative conduct during trial and lack of repentance” on the part of Coşkun, or to suspend it. But it did not order Coşkun’s arrest, meaning she will be free pending the outcome of the appeal.
The charges against Coşkun stem from a news story in which she reported on the arrest of a number of lawyers – including those of academic Nuriye Gülmen and teacher Semih Özakça, who went on a hunger strike to protest their dismissals from public service under an emergency decree – as part of an operation against the “lawyers network of the banned Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army/Front (DHKP/C).” Prosecutor said there were restrictions on the case file when Coşkun’s report was published. Coşkun says that her report was based on the minutes of the arrested lawyers’ questioning by the prosecutor.
In her final defense statement at Thursday’s hearing, which was monitored by P24, Coşkun said she had reported before on investigations subject to restricted access but she had never been charged for doing that since her reporting never jeopardized any investigation. “This is what I will continue to do, because I believe this is necessary for (building) our collective memory,” she said.
Denying the accusation that she had exposed the witness and his family and made them a target for terrorist groups with her report, Coşkun said the prosecutor did not explain how exactly the report did so. “There is no photo in the report, no description of any sort. There is not a single word about the family of the witness,” she said.
Responding to the prosecutor’s statement that the witness had given valuable information against the DHKP/C under a repentance law, Coşkun said the legal document that she relied on in her report did not state that the witness was subject to the repentance law. “There was no way for me to be aware of something that had not been stated in the document,” she added.
Coşkun’s lawyer Bülent Utku challenged the prosecutor’s assumption that the witness was among the “persons who take part in anti-terror efforts” since he was not a public official. Utku said there were laws for the protection of witnesses and that if the witness had been in any danger, the prosecutor of the investigation should have used the available legal measures to protect him. “Instead, the witness was just mentioned by his name as a witness in the legal document issued by the prosecutor’s office,” he said.
Utku also maintained that “the persons who take part in the anti-terror efforts” cited in the Article 6/1 of the Anti-Terror Law did not include witnesses.
He said he would present the legal document that constituted the basis for Coşkun’s story to the court and it would confirm that Coşkun only relied on the information contained in it. “The fact that she used the information provided in the document and did not add anything else to it shows that she acted with journalistic intentions,” he said.
Coşkun’s other lawyer Abbas Coşkun told the court that the witness cited in Coşkun’s report was mentioned by his name in several news reports before, along with pictures of him and members of his family. The state news agency Anadolu also published a report with a content similar to that of Coşkun, he said, adding: “When Cumhuriyet mentions that witness, he becomes a person who participate in anti-terror efforts. When Anadolu or other news outlets do the same, it is (viewed as) just reporting,” he said.