Taşkın was convicted on charges of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” and “terror propaganda”
Seda Taşkın, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya news agency, was sentenced to a total of 7.5 years in prison on terror-related charges on 10 October. The 2nd High Criminal Court of Muş which oversees the trial convicted Taşkın to 4 years and 2 months in prison for “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” and to 3 years and 4 months for “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization.” The court also ruled to continue Taşkın’s detention pending the appeal process.
In his final sentences pronounced during a previous hearing held on 12 September, the prosecutor of the case requested Taşkın’s conviction on charges of propaganda and “membership in a terrorist organization.” The verdict hearing – monitored by P24 and Diyarbakır-based Free Journalists’ Initiative – was held under a significant police presence in the courtroom.
“Your verdict will also be about journalism”
Taşkın, who whose case was opened following her arrest in the eastern city of Muş on December 2017, delivered her final statements via judicial teleconference system from the Sincan prison in Ankara where she has remained in pre-trial detention for 10 months. “We are not running from justice,” Taşkın told the court, rejecting once more all accusations against her. “However, it is not only me who is standing before you today, but also our right to be informed and our freedom to access information. Any verdict you will pronounce today will also be about journalism,” she added.
Taşkın also said the camera footage which was shown to support the charges presented against her belonged to two reports that hadn’t been even published yet. She noted that she didn’t even think about deleting the footage after an ID check and a search carried out by plainclothes police officers in a shop in Muş half an hour before her arrest. “I think I have been transparent all along. Anything I have done is legal and legitimate,” she said.
Taşkın also complained of having been treated as a criminal after her arrest. “They forced me to undergo a naked search at the police department right after my arrest. I was threatened when I refused. Some police officers warned me to ‘be wise’. I was subject to physical and psychological violence,” she said. “During my interrogation by the prosecutor, an officer, who I learned was the head of the anti-terror unit, intimidated me claiming that I was ‘leaking information.’ Police protested the on-call judge when he released me and called my lawyer ‘the lawyer of terrorists’.”
Following Taşkın’s statements, her lawyer Ebru Akkal listed all the procedural irregularities during the investigation phase arguing that the trial shouldn’t have been opened in the first place.
Citing the controversial tip-off message sent from an email address using the “egm” extension – which reads as “General Directory of Police” and is commonly used by members of the police – that led to Taşkın’s arrest, Akkal criticized the court’s repeated refusal to identify the person who sent the message.
Police tricked Taşkın telling her that she would have to sign a document, Akkal said. Taşkın ended up being arrested when she went to the police station. “No one can be sentenced over an unlawful procedure. These are mandatory provisions of law,” Akkal said. “The arrest was carried out by the police without an arrest order from a prosecutor. Therefore, all the materials have been unlawfully collected and cannot be accepted as evidence. Yet, we do insist that there is no element of crime among those evidences.”
Examples Akkal cited as unfounded allegations against Taşkın included a social media post on a campaign for the release of the prominent Turkish writer Aslı Erdoğan, who was then imprisoned as part of an investigation against the pro-Kurdish Özgür Gündem daily. “Aslı Erdoğan is a very important author,” she said. “I hope that one day we will be ashamed that her name has been shown as an element of crime.”
Taşkın was also accused of bearing a code name as her friends and family didn’t use the name she had on her ID, “Seher.” The head judge presiding the court sessions had called Taşkın “Seher” throughout the trial, but he used “Seda” in the last hearing – a detail that lawyers drew his attention on. “We weren’t fixating on that,” said the judge, upon which he was reminded that the court rejected twice the demands for Taşkın’s release asking more evidence to prove “Seda” wasn’t a code name.
After hearing the defense statements the court pronounced its verdict, finding Taşkın guilty on charges of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” and “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization”, sentencing her to a total of 7.5 years in prison. Taşkın will remain in prison during the appeal process.