İdris Sayılğan could not address the court session due to technical problem with court video-conferencing system 

ÖZGÜN ÖZÇER / MUŞ

The third hearing of the trial against the shuttered Dicle News Agency (DİHA) reporter İdris Sayılğan was heard in the eastern city of Muş May 23, 2018. Sayılğan, who has been in pre-trial detention since October 25, 2016, was unable to appear before court due to a technical failure in the judicial tele-conferencing system that would connect to the prison in the Black Sea province of Trabzon where the reporter is currently held. The 2nd High Criminal Court of Muş, which oversees the trial ruled to continue Sayılğan’s detention, setting October 5, 2018 as the date of the next hearing.

Among other defendants tried as part of the same case, Medeni Işık, an executive of the Mesopotamia Association of Solidarity with Families Who Lost their Relatives (MEYA-DER) was released on judicial control terms. The court, however, ruled to continue the detention of three other defendants still in custody pending trial – Hatice Şeker, the co-President of the Democratic Regions Party’s (DBP) Muş branch, Ayşe Söylemez, the former co-President of the Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) Muş branch, and Çiçek Tutuş, member of Muş’s municipal assembly. The trial was monitored in the courtroom by P24 and Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA).

Sayılğan’s lawyer Barış Oflas criticized the court’s failure to ensure the reporter’s presence via the tele-conferencing system, adding that it amounted to a violation of the rights of the defense. He also called on the prosecutor to justify why he claimed there was a suspicion indicating that Sayılğan might attempt to escape if freed pending the continuation of the trial. “Sayılğan will continue doing journalism after he will be released. There is no question of an attempt to escape,” he told the court.

Lawyer Veysel Ok, who also represents Sayılğan in the case, told the court that the reporter’s continued pre-trial detention was against the European Court of Human Right case law. “You may not like Sayılğan’s reports or the terminology he uses, it may even disturb you. However, what you can do at most is not to read those news articles,” Ok said. OK also noted that the only evidence presented against Sayılğan were recordings with his news sources. Confidentiality of a journalist’s news sources is under the protection of the Turkish Press Law, Ok said.

After the defense statements, the court ruled to postpone the trial to October 5, ordering the release of only one of the five defendants still under custody. October will mark two years of detention for Sayılğan and other three defendants of the case should they still be in prison by then.

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