Next hearing in Taraf trial set for 10 and 11 July

The trial into the former executives of the shuttered daily Taraf and its reporter Mehmet Baransu resumed on 22 March at the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

The accusations in the case stem from the alleged publication of a document called “Egemen War Plan.”

P24 monitored the two-day hearing, where Baransu, the only imprisoned defendant in the case, who is in pre-trial detention in the Silivri Prison, was in attendance to continue with his defense statement.

Ret. Colonels Dursun Çiçek and Suat Aytın, Ret. Brigadier General İhsan Balabanlı and Ret. Admiral Kadir Sağdıç, who requested to join the lawsuit as plaintiffs, were also in attendance.

Baransu complained during his statement that the panel of judges overseeing the case underwent numerous changes throughout the course of the court case.

In response to a question from the presiding judge as to how he allegedly “obtained the documents called ‘Egemen War Plan,’” Baransu told the court he has neither seen nor published any document by that name.

Baransu also told the court that the reasoned judgment concerning the “Balyoz” (sledgehammer) case that was also introduced to this case file had been modified. Baransu said the statement he gave to the Military Prosecutor on 26 February 2010 was made to look in the case file as though the statement as given in January, which he said constituted the basis for the false allegation that he destroyed the documents before handing them over to the prosecutor.

Continuing with his defense statement on Monday, the second day of the hearing, Baransu refuted the allegation that he was a member of what the government calls “the Fethullahist terrorist organization” or “FETÖ” through examples from his investigative reporting in his books and in his news stories in Taraf.

Baransu stressed that Taraf never published even one line of information about Turkey’s war plans and there was no news story published in Taraf to prove this allegation.

Baransu also touched upon a map in the case file purported to be the “Balyoz map,” which turned out to be a historical map about a battle between Turkey and Greece that took place in 1922 in Afyon.

Baransu reminded the court of the General Staff statement in which they said the documents referred to in the indictment had nothing to do with the “Egemen War Plan.”

“I handed over a total of 2,029 documents [to the prosecutor]. I signed each one of them. There was no document by the name of ‘Egemen War Plan’ among them. We are being accused based on a document we have never seen or published,” Baransu said.

Bransu stressed that he has been in pre-trial detention in connection with the charge of “destroying documents relating to the security of the state” as per Article 326 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), adding, “I am in pre-trial detention based on a lie.”

Noting that the indictment was proof that there was no “membership in a terrorist group” charge against him, Baransu said that according to law, he should not be  kept in detention on remand in connection with the charge in TCK 327 (“procuring documents relating to the security of the state”) any longer. As for the charge in TCK 326, the indictment has already been proven pointless, Bransu said.

As he wrapped up his statement for this session, Baransu said he had no request to be released. He said he would continue with his defense statement in the next hearing, but requested the next hearing to be held in a courtroom where he can make a digital presentation.

The lawyers representing Baransu and his co-defendants Yasemin Çongar, Ahmet Altan and Yıldıray Oğur, who are exempt from personal appearance in court, said they would not make any statements at this point.

Plaintiff Dursun Çiçek then addressed the court and requested the expansion of the investigation in the light of the coup attempt of 15 July 2016 and that Baransu be additionally charged with “leading a terrorist organization.” He also requested the continuation of Baransu’s detention. Other plaintiffs did not address the court.

The prosecution also requested the continuation of Baransu’s detention on remand.

In its interim ruling at the end of the two-day hearing, the court ruled to keep Baransu behind bars and set July 10 and 11 as the dates for the next hearing.