Lawyers argue that the trial should not proceed as the indictment was submitted after the expiry of the statute of limitations in press law, but court rejects request

The first hearing of the trial against journalist Cansu Pişkin, a courthouse reporter for the daily Evrensel, took place on 6 March at the Istanbul Courthouse.

Pişkin is accused of “marking the identity of a state official assigned in the fight against terrorism as a target” under article 6/1 of Turkey’s anti-terror law (TMK) for her news report published last year in Evrensel. The article was about the prosecutor appointed to investigate the Boğaziçi University students who were jailed over staging an anti-war demonstration on the school campus last year.

P24 monitored the hearing at the 36th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which was also observed by representatives from rights organizations, including Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Clooney Foundation for Justice, as well as journalists and academics.

At the beginning of the hearing, Pişkin’s lawyer Devrim Avcı demanded that the case be dismissed, arguing that the indictment against Pişkin was submitted after the expiry of the four-month statute of limitations for pressing charges in relation with a news story as per Turkey’s Press Law. The court, however, unanimously rejected the request on the grounds that the same report was also published online. The court argued with the prosecutor that the statute of limitations was not valid for online news reports and ruled to proceed with the trial.

Lawyer Mustafa Söğütlü asserted that the 36th High Criminal Court of Istanbul was not among courts assigned to oversee press trials and demanded the case to be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The court rejected that request too.

Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court accepted Pişkin’s request for additional time to prepare her defense statement and set 25 March 2019 as the date for the next hearing.

In her news story published on 5 April 2018, Pişkin reported that the prosecutor assigned to the investigation concerning the Boğaziçi students on April 3, the day on which the students were referred to court, had claimed in a previous indictment that the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) was a political party “operating under the guidance of a terrorist group.”

The indictment against Pişkin, issued on 14 November 2018, claimed that citing the name of the prosecutor assigned to investigate Boğaziçi University students was a criminal offense. In her earlier statement to the prosecution, Pişkin said the prosecutor’s name was mentioned in the news story because the development had news value.

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