Confiscated digital devices of the six journalists on trial for reporting about Minister Albayrak’s leaked emails returned after three years

CANSU PİŞKİN, ISTANBUL

The “RedHack Trial,” where six journalists stand accused of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization,” “hindrance or destruction of a data processing system,” “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” and “terrorist group membership” for their coverage of the emails of Minister Berat Albayrak leaked by RedHack, resumed on 24 September 2019 at an Istanbul court.

This was the eighth hearing of journalists Derya Okatan, Tunca Öğreten, Mahir Kanaat, Eray Sargın, Metin Yoksu and Ömer Çelik. Defendants Tunca Öğreten, Mahir Kanaat and Eray Sargın were in attendance in the courtroom along with their lawyers. Minister Albayrak’s lawyer Ahmet Özel, who had submitted a letter of excuse, was not present. P24 and the Turkey representative of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) were among those who monitored the hearing.

Due to the presiding judge being on leave, judge Barış Öztürk was in charge instead, announcing the arrival of the long-awaited expert report confirming that all the devices confiscated from the defendants had been fully examined. Also informing that the two separate court panels of the 29th High Criminal Court of Istanbul had been merged, Öztürk said that judges from the other panel would now be serving on this trial’s panel.

The presiding judge then asked the defendants for their statements concerning the digital forensics report.

Addressing the court first, Tunca Öğreten recounted how he was arrested over the allegation of being a member of DHKP-C (the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front) but after no evidence to support this claim could be found, he was accused of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” and “disclosing state secrets” instead. Lastly Öğreten asked for the return of his digital devices and the lifting of his international travel ban.

Addressing the court next, Kanaat and Sargın also requested the return of their digital devices, the judicial control measures to be lifted and to be held exempt from appearing in court.

Lawyer Özcan Kılıç, representing Metin Yoksu and Ömer Çelik, told the court that his client Çelik could not attend the hearing because he had just received the news that his father had passed away. Kılıç requested the return of the digital devices, including the cellphone of Çelik’s father, which was confiscated during Çelik’s arrest.

Other defense lawyers also asked their clients to be held exempt from appearing in court, the return of the digital equipment and the lifting of the judicial control measures imposed on their clients.

Presiding judge Öztürk told those present that the court would be willing to grant temporary permission in case the defendants applied to attend the like of a seminar or a wedding abroad.

The panel then went into a five-minute for recess to deliberate on its interim ruling.

Issuing its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ordered the continuation of the international travel ban imposed on all six journalists and rejected the request for the defendants to be held exempt from appearing in court. The court also ordered for the confiscated digital equipment to be returned to the defendants and adjourned the trial until 6 February 2020 to allow time for the examination of the digital forensic report.

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