Jailed journalist İdris Sayılğan submits written defense to court, pointing out irregularities in prosecution and expressing his commitment to his job 

İdris Sayılğan, a reporter for the shuttered pro-Kurdish news agency DİHA, submitted a written defense to the court last week in which he pointed out the irregularities in the prosecution and his ongoing trial.

A court in the eastern city of Muş ruled on May 23, 2018, to keep Sayılğan in pretrial detention after already 20 months in detention pending trial. The reporter was unable to attend the hearing due to a technical failure in the judicial tele-conferencing system that would ensure the connection to the prison facility in the Black Sea province of Trabzon, where he is held. Sayılğan faces between 7.5 and 15 years in prison on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.”

In his 10-page defense, Sayılğan provided a detailed response to the allegations against him in the indictment, while expressing his commitment to his job. “I am proud of my reporting. The news reports are hard-earned bread,” Sayılğan said in his statement.

Sayılğan said a significant part of his defense statement to the court was not included in the court records. “Parts that were transcribed were mostly wrong, incomplete and recorded with sentences that are difficult to understand or are incorrect,” Sayılğan said. “This is the reason why I felt the need to present a written defense statement. This defense statement shall be my main defense statement,” he said.

“Arrested for being a Kurdish journalist” 

Sayılğan described the case against him as political, arguing that the prosecutor’s indictment reflected hostility. “I am under arrest because I am a Kurdish journalist opposing the government,” he said. Sayılğan also said he had been subject to physical and verbal violence in front of his family when he was arrested by the police during a raid on his home on October 17, 2016. He was hit on his head while he was being arrested, he said, adding that doctors had refused to treat the injury by fear of the police after he was brought to a hospital.

Sayılğan was first sent to a prison in his hometown of Muş, but was later transferred to the Black Sea province of Trabzon without any explanation. He said he was subjected to torture and strip searches after being transferred to the Trabzon Prison and also said he was held in solitary confinement. “Such inhumane practices can only have a place under ‘enemy criminal law.’ What I have been through is enough to prove that my detention is politically motivated,” Sayılğan said, adding: “The main goal is to create a society that has no will, no personality, no identity. They want us to surrender to the government. Justice is used as a tool to realize the government’s unseemly goals.”

No element of crime in recordings 

Wiretapped recordings shown as evidence in the indictment showed that his conversations were tapped “arbitrarily,” Sayılğan said. He also pointed out that the prosecutor in Muş who took his statement at the time of his arrest told him that there was “no element of crime in the recordings.” “How is it possible that 57 pages out of the 67-page indictment consist of conversations I had with my sources and some journalist colleagues, which are held as evidence for membership in a terrorist organization? Especially in spite of the prosecutor’s words that there was no element of crime?” he asked.  

Sayılğan also responded to accusations regarding his news reports. He claimed that reports were used in the indictment to expand the file and produce evidence. “I have never used the expression ‘forces of invasion’ in any of my reporting,” Sayılğan said in response to one of the allegations. He also rejected the claim that he had received orders from terrorists. “This allegation should have been proved,” he said. 

Future is bright 

In the conclusion of his statement, Sayılğan expressed indignation over having been jailed for 20 months as a result of an indictment he said was drafted “hatefully.” Referring to a well-known song by the iconic Kurdish singer Ahmet Kaya, Sayılğan said he was put in jail for being a “Kurd and a dissident journalist.”

“As journalists representing the free media, we may be in jail, but our world, our future is bright, filled with light. Free media cannot be silenced. We will always continue to write,” he said.

During the third hearing of the case held on May 23, the 2nd High Criminal Court of Muş ruled to keep Sayılğan in detention, setting October 5, 2018, as the date for the next hearing. Should he still be in prison by then, October will mark the second year in detention on remand for Sayılğan.