The first hearing of the trial against Mezopotamya Agency reporter Seda Taşkın was held in Muş 

ÖZGÜN ÖZÇER / Muş

Mezopotamya Agency Seda Taşkın has denounced psychological and physical ill-treatment while in police custody during the first hearing of her trial held at the 2nd High Criminal Court of Muş on 30 April 2018. The court ruled to continue Taşkın’s pre-trial detention setting 2 July 2018, as the date of the next hearing.

Taşkın was arrested on charges of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” on 20 December 2017, in the city of Muş where she had come to report on a story. She was released four days later under judicial control measures. Following the prosecutor’s appeal, Taşkın was re-arrested on 23 January 2018, in Ankara and sent to pre-trial detention with the additional charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.” The indictment issued by a prosecutor in Muş is almost entirely based on her re-tweets and other posts on social media.

Giving her defense statement via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBIS from the Sincan Women’s Closed Prison in Ankara where she is currently held, Taşkın told that she had traveled to Muş to write a story about a cultural association in this town. “I was submitted to a naked search the first day I had been arrested. They told me they would forcibly do it when I refused,” she told the court denouncing both psychological and physical ill-treatment. She also said that her right to see her lawyer was restricted. “I was only able to see my lawyer during the second day of my arrest. I was again subject to a naked search prior to seeing my lawyer. I was physically beaten when I refused to take the ring vehicle [allocated to imprisoned suspects or convicts]. I demand that these points are taken in consideration by the court” she said.

“I practiced my job with integrity”

Asked by the panel of judges why she had come to Muş, Taşkın told she had worked as a journalist in Ankara and the eastern city of Van. “Just as I did my job there, I have the right to practice my job anywhere within Turkey’s borders. This is not a crime,” she said, adding that both agencies where she worked – the now shuttered Dihaber (Dicle Media News Agency) and Mezopotamya Agency – were legal news organisations. “I used both agencies’ press cards. I even entered the Parliament with them.”

Asked about why she used the name Seda instead of ‘’Seher, ’’the name on her ID, Taşkın refused prosecution’s allegations that it was a “code name.” “My mother called me Seda during her visit to prison. That’s how she has always called me. The name a mother calls her child cannot be a code name,” she said.

“I believe that I have practiced  ,journalism with integrity and impartiality. I demand my acquittal,” she told the court.

Lawyer: Tip off comes from police department mail 

Her lawyer Gulan Çağın Kaleli joined Taşkın in highlighting unlawful treatment during custody such as naked search. “This is considered torture in the law,” she said.

Kaleli also pointed out a series of irregularities during the investigation, questioning the anonymous tip off which led to Taşkın’s arrest. “My client was located only 20 minutes after a tip off that had been made at 4:40 p.m. The prosecutor issued the arrest order at 5:35 p.m.” Kaleli told the court.

She also said that the document in the case file on the anonymous tip off, sent through mail, showed that the sender’s blurred email address had an “egm” extension, commonly used by members of the police department. “The identity of the person who made that tip off can no longer be hidden. The IP number is included in the case file,” Kaleli said, requesting the court to identify the location and the computer from which the tip off mail was sent.

Kaleli also stressed that the indictment didn’t include even a single article signed by Taşkın and was based solely on news articles she liked and shared on social media. “Taşkın covers mainly news on culture and ecology,” Kaleli said submitting the court around 20 news articles bearing Taşkın’s byline as evidence in her favor.

“Seda Taşkın has been imprisoned for months with trumped up charges. The news agency where she works may disturb some. But it doesn’t mean that it is wrong, because this is a matter of freedom of expression and press. The editorial policy of Mezopotamya Agency may be found disturbing. But this agency still continues its operations,” Kaleli told the court.

In its interim decision, the court rejected the lawyer’s demand to identify the computer from which the anonymous tip off was sent. The court also asked for further research on whether Taşkın commonly used the name Seda. Rejecting Taşkın’s demand of release pending trial, the court adjourned the trial until 2 July 2018.