Amnesty Turkey head Taner Kılıç released in Büyükada trial only to be rearrested after prosecutor objects to his release
Taner Kılıç, the chair of Amnesty Turkey, was released pending trial on January 31 at the end of the third hearing of a case in which he is on trial alongside 10 human rights defenders on “terrorism” charges, only to be sent back to prison, after the prosecutor objected to his release.
On January 31, the 35th High Criminal Court of Istanbul initially ruled for the release of Kılıç, imposing an overseas travel ban on him. As Kılıç was about to be released from prison later that day, the prosecutor objected to the decision, which was rejected by the trial court. The prosecutor then filed an objection to the next court of first instance, the 36th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which accepted the objection and issued an arrest warrant against Kılıç.
Kılıç was then taken from the Aliağa Prison in Izmir, where he had been in pretrial detention since June 2017, and brought to the Aliağa Police Station, where he remained in custody until he appeared before the trial court that had released him the previous day for yet another hearing the next morning via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS.
During the February 1 hearing, the prosecutor once again requested that Kılıç is remanded in detention. In his statement before the 35th High Criminal Court, Kılıç said that there have been no changes to the case file, and requested the trial court insist on its previous ruling. The court then ruled for the imprisonment of Kılıç, saying the 36th High Criminal Court’s decision is binding.
Kılıç remains as the only imprisoned defendant in the Büyükada case, where he stands trial alongside 10 human rights defenders who were arrested during a meeting held in a hotel on Istanbul’s Büyükada on July 5, 2017. Kılıç had been arrested a month before as part of a separate investigation; the two cases were subsequently merged.
The indictment seeks up to 15 years in prison for Kılıç on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and up to 10 years in prison for the other defendants on “aiding a terrorist organization” charges.
At the January 31 hearing, followed at the courtroom by P24, seven rights defenders were in attendance and Kılıç made his defense statement via SEGBİS.
The manager of the hotel on Büyükada where the meeting was held, Mesut Savucu, testified as a witness at Wednesday’s session, saying they received no information as to a “secret meeting” and that the hotel’s personnel went in and out of the hotel’s convention room during the July 5, 2017 gathering. He also told the court that those who attended the meeting used the premises, including the swimming pool, just like regular hotel guests. Savucu also added that none of the attendants of the meeting refrained from presenting their IDs to the hotel during registration.
He added that there were no hidden sections in the hotel, and that the walls of the convention room where the meeting was held were made of glass.
A secret witness who was expected to testify during the hearing was not present before the court.
An interpreter, who also testified as witness in the hearing, said he did not hear any political conversation during the meeting, and that he did not witness the drawing of a map of Turkey.
Kılıç, speaking following witness accounts, said in his statement that he was on an as-yet unannounced list of ByLock victims who were wrongfully accused of downloading an encrypted mobile messaging application that authorities say was used by the Fethullah Gülen movement to communicate. The ByLock claim is the main allegation presented by the authorities linking Kılıç to the Gülen movement.
Kılıç and his lawyers stated that an inquiry into the ByLock issue had been pending for the past eight months, adding that Kılıç’s continued detention based on that accusation was unlawful.
The prosecutor then requested the continuation of Kılıç’s pretrial detention on grounds of “strong suspicion of crime.” Kılıç’s lawyers requested his release on judicial control terms, stating that the defendant’s passport had already been seized and he posed no flight risk.
In its interim decision issued at the end of the hearing, the 35th High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled for the release of Kılıç, and the exemption of 10 rights defenders from future hearings. The court also adjourned the trial to June 21, 2018.
Mehmet Baransu begins defense statement in Taraf trial
The seventh hearing in a court case against former journalists of the Taraf daily on the publication of documents called “Egemen war plan” was held on January 31 at the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
P24 followed the hearing at the courtroom as former Taraf reporter Mehmet Baransu, the only imprisoned defendant in the case, who has been in pretrial detention since the beginning of the investigation in March 2015, began presenting his defense statement more than one-and-half years after the first hearing in the trial.
Baransu first requested the disqualification of judges overseeing the case, arguing that it was the same panel of judges who rejected the implementation of the Constitutional Court’s January 11 judgment concerning the individual application of imprisoned journalist Şahin Alpay on grounds that his detention constituted a violation of his rights. “How can I believe that a panel that has refused to implement the ruling of the Constitutional Court is impartial and independent?” said Baransu, noting that 11 judges had been changed since the start of the trial. Baransu stressed that during the previous hearing the panel wasn’t even aware that he had yet to present his defense statement. His request was however rejected by the court, which argued that the decision on the Constitutional Court and his case were “unrelated.”
During his four-hour long statement, Baransu was only able to complete a portion of his defense. Accusations that he gained recognition with his disclosure of military coup plans Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledgehammer) are false, Baransu said, explaining that he has actively been pursuing journalism as a career since 1997.
“I will only able to say that something has changed in this country the day you decide to release me,” Baransu told the court.
The court adjourned the trial, setting May 2-4, 2018 as the date of the next hearing in order for Baransu to complete his defense statement over three days.
Baransu faces between 35 and 75 years in prison for “Possession of documents classified as state secret,” “Exposing classified information crucial to state security and interests” and “Damaging, procuring or stealing documents concerning the security of the state or using said documents outside their intended purpose.” The documents in question, titled the Egemen War Plan, concern outdated war plans against Greece.
Journalists and former Taraf executives Ahmet Altan, Yasemin Çongar and Yıldıray Oğur face a possible jail term of up to 52 years and 6 months on the same charges in the case. Baransu and Tuncay Opçin, another defendant in the case who remains at large, each face a prison term of up to 75 years on additional charges of “leading a terrorist organization.”
Özgürlükçü Demokrasi employee sent to prison
Barış Ceyhan, an employee of the Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper, was imprisoned pending trial on January 31 in Ankara. Ceyhan had been taken into custody due to an arrest warrant against him on account of his social media posts critical of the Turkish military’s ongoing operation on the Syrian town of Afrin.
Ceyhan was charged with “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “inciting public hatred and animosity.” After giving his statement to the prosecutor, Ceyhan was sent to a criminal judgeship of peace with a request for his imprisonment. The night court arrested Ceyhan and sent him to the Sincan Prison in Ankara.
Another Özgürlükçü Demokrasi employee who was sought along with Ceyhan, Hüseyin Gökdemir, was released under judicial control terms.
Dozens of people have been detained and over 30 were imprisoned pending trial over social media posts on Turkey’s military campaign on Afrin, which was launched on January 20.
Following Ceyhan’s imprisonment, the number of imprisoned journalists in Turkey reached 156. The full list of journalists in prison can be seen here.
Academic Gözaydın acquitted in “terrorism” trial
Professor İştar Gözaydın was acquitted on January 31 of “membership in a terrorist organization [FETÖ/PDY]” charges in the final hearing of her trial at the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
Gözaydın, a prominent scholar specializing on state and religion studies, had spent three months in pretrial detention from December 2016 to March 2017, when she was released pending trial.
During the hearing, followed in the courtroom by P24, the court rejected the prosecutor’s request to convict Gözaydın for “aiding a terrorist organization knowingly and willingly without being its member,” ruling for her acquittal.
During her defense statement, Gözaydın rejected that her appearance on a television program aired on Can Erzincan TV, a private TV broadcaster shuttered by an emergency decree over alleged links with the Fethullah Gülen movement, could be considered as criminal. “I attended the program as an academic and jurist. I never had any affinity with any organization during my entire life,” she said. Gözaydın, who was suspended from her position as the head of the Sociology Department at the shuttered Gediz University, asked for being acquitted. “I want this nightmare to come to an end,” she said.
Gözaydın was suspended on July 21, 2016, two days after the declaration of a state of emergency for her social media posts condemning death penalty and violence. The following day, the university where she had been teaching was shut down by a statutory decree issued. She was detained on December 20, 2016 and released on March 30, 2016, days after hundreds of academics signed a petition calling for her release.
For a full list of all the imprisoned journalists in Turkey, visit this spreadsheet. Lists of all of the foundations and associations as well as media outlets shut down can also be found at the same link, although on different tabs of the same spreadsheet.