Acar and Ok handed down 5 months in prison for “publicly degrading the judicial bodies of the state”

CANSU PİŞKİN, İSTANBUL

An Istanbul court on 12 September 2019 convicted journalist Cihan Acar, a former reporter for the shuttered newspaper Özgür Düşünce, and lawyer Veysel Ok of “publicly denigrating the judiciary” as per Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).

Acar and Ok were co-defendants in the case, where the accusation stemmed from a December 2015 interview Acar made with Ok for the Özgür Düşünce daily. The 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul gave both Acar and Ok five-month prison sentences.

In addition to P24, representatives from the US, German and Dutch consulates general in Istanbul, the Clooney Foundation for Justice, Lawyers for Lawyers and the Law Society of England and Wales. Due to the small size of the courtroom, some of the observers had to sit in the areas designated for the defendants and lawyers. 

The hearing took off half an hour later than scheduled. Defendant Cihan Acar who had turned in a letter of excuse, was not present while Veysel Ok and the lawyers of the two defendants were in attendance.

The presiding judge Nursel Bedir announced that the court had received the petition sent by Ok’s lawyer Zelal Doğan which contained a report on the case drafted by the Bar Human Rights Committee.

In his final defense statement, Ok said that he still agrees with what he had said back when he gave the interview: “The judiciary in Turkey is not impartial. This is at the root of many problems in Turkey,” he said. He told the court that as a lawyer who has practiced law for 12 years, he had presented his criticism of the judiciary in the interview. Insult or slander was out of question, he asserted. Ok said he had used his right to criticize. He requested to be acquitted.

Ok’s lawyer Zelal Doğan addressed the court next and said that the delivery of punishment would be unlawful. She also asserted that the lawsuit was filed after the expiry of the four-month statute of limitations for pressing charges. Doğan asked for her client’s acquittal, but if her client did not receive an acquittal, she asked for the case to be dismissed.

Acar’s lawyer Mustafa Söğütlü told the court that his client chose to interview Ok because he was a known name in his field. Söğütlü said that what his client had done falls within the scope of journalism and freedom of speech. Söğütlü asked the court to acquit his client.

Ok’s other lawyer Doğuşcan Aydın Aygün asked his client’s statements to be evaluated within the context of articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. He requested the acquittal of his client.

Asked for his last words before the verdict, Ok repeated his criticism concerning the lack of impartiality in Turkey’s judiciary.

Issuing her judgment after a recess, the judge sentenced Acar and Ok each to 5 months in prison considering the intention, type, nature and consequences of the offense. The judge deferred the sentences.

If Ok and Acar do not intentionally commit crimes within five years, the sentences will not be executed.

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