The writer and academic is standing trial for an article published online in November 2016

 

PELİN BUZLUK, ANKARA

The first hearing in the trial of writer and academic Fikret Başkaya on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” over an article published online on the website of Özgür Üniversite (The Free University) took place on 21 March in Ankara.

Başkaya faces up to five years in prison in the case, overseen by the 21st High Criminal Court of Ankara.

P24 monitored the hearing, where Başkaya and his lawyers were in attendance.

In his defense statement in response to the allegations in the indictment, Başkaya rejected the accusation.

Başkaya told the court that his November 2016 article was a reaction to terrorism, not terrorism propaganda. He said only one page of the 43-page indictment was about him and the rest of the document recounted the history of the PKK for 29 pages and the charge of “terrorism propaganda” for another 11 pages.

Başkaya said the indictment did not meet the minimum requirements of being a consistent and credible document and that it was a waste of time for the court.

Başkaya noted that according to Article 7/2 of the Law on the Fight Against Terrorism, the elements of “praising force, violence or threats by a terrorist group and incitement to utilizing these methods” have to be present for an act to be considered “terrorism propaganda.”

Başkaya continued: “In which part of my article did the prosecutor find anything that legitimizes or praises a terrorist group’s activities or incites others to engage in such methods?”

Başkaya added that his article was aimed at “clarifying the concepts of terrorism and terrorist, pointing out the discourse used by the ruling authority, and revealing the contrast between the discourse and the reality.”

Başkaya asserted that his article to be made the grounds for accusation in a court case despite including not even a slight hint at terrorism propaganda was aimed at “prohibiting free thought and imposing censorship and self-censorship.”

Başkaya continued: “These kinds of restrictions do not only target the person who is the direct addressee of the punishment, but anyone with similar intentions. … When people start asking themselves whether they might ‘face any consequences for writing about this or speaking about that,’ it means they have internalized censorship.”

After Başkaya completed his defense statement, his lawyers addressed the court.  

Lawyer Levent Kanat said the prosecutor had failed to comprehend Başkaya’s article. “It is unlawful for the prosecution to assess this article in light of their own subjective political viewpoint. Safeguarding freedom of thought is a duty of the justice system. This court case inflicts serious damage to the concept of a constitutional state. We expected that the court would reject this indictment,” Kanat said.

The lawyer added that there was no incriminating evidence in the indictment and that the elements of the alleged offense were not present.

After the completion of the defense statements, the prosecution requested additional time for the drafting of their final opinion. The court agreed to grant additional time and adjourned the trial until 10 September.

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