Expert opinion by Article 19 concerning the charges against İsminaz Temel presented to court during the hearing 

CANSU PİŞKİN, ISTANBUL

A trial where 23 people — including Etkin News Agency (ETHA) editor İsminaz Temel and reporter Havva Cuştan — are accused of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” resumed on 3 September 2019 at the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

P24 monitored the hearing, which was the sixth hearing in the trial. 

Journalist İsminaz Temel was among the 12 defendants present in court during the hearing.

Temel’s lawyer Ömer Çakırgöz presented to the court an expert opinion penned by Article 19 concerning the charges against his client.

Click here to read the full expert opinion by Article 19.

Noting that the expert opinion found a violation of Temel’s rights to a free trial and freedom of expression, Çakırgöz asked for his client’s acquittal. Other defense lawyers requested the court to lift the travel ban imposed on their clients. The court rejected the request for the lifting of the travel bans and adjourned the trial until 26 November 2019.

The hearing began at 12:40, an hour and 10 minutes later than scheduled. Twelve defendants, including Temel, were in attendance.

In addition to P24, the trial was monitored by representatives from the Turkish Journalists’ Union (TGS), Press in Arrest, Media and Law Studies Association and reporters from the Mezopotamya News Agency. A courthouse employee was also in the courtroom throughout the hearing.

It was observed that the judges of the Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court had changed in between hearings. Due to the change in the panel, the previous court minutes had to be read. Presiding judge Tamer Keskin informed those in attendance that the response to an inquiry sent to the Istanbul Police Department’s cyber crimes unit and the letters concerning the order to forcibly bring the witnesses to the next hearing and having the secret witnesses available to be heard, had not arrived yet.

The presiding judge then read out witness Sercan Kaya’s testimony, in which he claimed that he knew lawyers Özlem Gümüştaş, Sezin Uçar and Gülhan Kaya, and journalist Havva Cuştan, who are all defendants in the case. The witness also claimed that all four were linked to the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP).

Later, the presiding judge asked the prosecutor for his interim opinion. 

The prosecutor requested the continuation of the judicial control measures imposed on the defendants. Due to the large size of the courtroom and the insufficient sound system, the prosecutor’s opinion could not be heard clearly by those in attendance.

Lawyer Özlem Gümüştaş, who is a defendant in the case, addressed the court and said, “Witness Sercan Kaya was not heard during a public courtroom session. We request the court to hear witness Sercan Kaya in a manner that will allow us to face him.”

Gümüştaş’s lawyer İbrahim Ergün requested for witness Sercan Kaya to be forcibly brought to the next hearing. Interrupting Ergün, the presiding judge asked, “If you were a witness, would you come from Elazığ (a city in Eastern Anatolia)?” Lawyer Ergün responded: “The witness testimony cannot be accepted on the grounds that it wasn’t given according to procedure. Also, there is nothing against the defendants in his testimony. The witness says that he knows my clients Özlem Gümüştaş, Gülhan Kaya and Sezin Uçar are lawyers. It’s true. He also specifies the ESP as an ‘organization.’ The ESP he is talking about is a legitimate institution called the Socialist Party of the Oppressed.”

Temel’s lawyer Çakırgöz then presented the expert opinion penned by Article 19 to the court. Summarizing the expert opinion, Çakırgöz said: “This opinion states that the secret witnesses have influenced the execution of a fair prosecution. The report also considers the prosecution of the defendant for her journalistic activities to be a violation of her right to freedom of expression. The exclusion of the completed evaluation on the confiscated digital equipment is also assessed as a violation of the right to a fair trial.”

Noting that the opinion made reference to case law by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) the lawyer said: “The expert opinion points out that the Prosecutor’s Office could not present any evidence proving that my client did not attend the demonstrations and funerals as a journalist.” Çakırgöz requested the court to acquit Temel and lift the international travel ban imposed on the journalist. 

At the end of the hearing, the court did not deliberate privately on its interim decision, but chose to deliver it in the presence of the prosecutor, the defendants, the lawyers and the audience.

In its interim decision, the court ruled for the witnesses to be forcibly brought to the next hearing; for other secret witnesses to be heard; for defendant Mahksut Toprak to be forcibly brought to court; and for defendant İdil Özbek to deliver her defense statement via the video-conferencing system SEGBİS. The court rejected the request for witness Sercan Kaya to be heard as a witness once again on the grounds that it would not have an effect on the merits of the case and ruled to keep the travel ban imposed on all defendants in place.

The court set 26 November 2019 as the date for the next hearing.

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