Şerife Oruç in pretrial detention for almost 2 years; Court orders witnesses who testified against Oruç to be brought before court by force
The fifth hearing of a trial in which journalist Şerife Oruç faces terrorism-related charges based on witness testimony against her was held on May 8, 2018, at the 2nd High Criminal Court of Batman.
The court ordered that the witnesses are brought to court by force and the continuation of the pretrial detention of Oruç and the other suspects, setting July 9, 2018, as the date for the next hearing.
Şerife Oruç, a reporter for the shuttered Dicle news agency (DİHA), and two others are standing trial in the case, facing up to 15 years in prison on “membership in a terrorist organization” charges. The two other suspects are Oruç’s cousin, Emrullah Oruç, and the driver of the car the two were riding in, Muzaffer Tunç. All three were arrested and jailed pending trial on July 4, 2016, in Batman.
Şerife Oruç participated in Tuesday’s hearing via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS from the Elazığ Prison, where she is currently in detention on remand.
Oruç addressed the court in Kurdish during the hearing, monitored in the courtroom by P24.
Before Oruç’s address, lawyers Mesut Aydın and Şeyhmus Bayhan gave defense statements, objecting to the prosecutor’s request for the continuation of the suspects’ detention.
Aydın told the court that the prosecutor should not be demanding the continuation of detention “based on readily available evidence” for there was “no evidence in the case file other than witness testimonies before a prosecutor.”
“Şerife Oruç was arrested and jailed based on witness accounts and those testimonies were given under pressure. Despite Şerife being kept in pretrial detention based on witness accounts, the said witnesses cannot be contacted and made to appear before the court. That the court is unable to hear the witnesses is something beyond my client’s control,” the lawyer said.
The lawyer added that the defense had also presented to the court accounts from the said witnesses in which they rejected their testimonies before the prosecutor.
Stressing that Oruç’s lengthy pretrial detention should end, Aydın, requested the journalist’s release.
Lawyer Şeyhmus Bayhan also told the court that the lengthy pretrial detention of Oruç had turned into the execution of a sentence, adding: “We haven’t been able to hear the witnesses in court. Our client is the injured party here. If this continues, we will request the court to proceed without hearing the witnesses.”
Bayhan also demanded Oruç’s release from prison.
Following the lawyers, Şerife Oruç addressed the court via SEGBİS.
“I am a journalist and it is natural for my name to be known [by many people]. My news stories are the proof of my journalistic activities,” Oruç said, adding: “The only reason that I am imprisoned is my being a journalist, and most importantly, a journalist who goes after the truth.”
Oruç requested her release from detention.
The court issued an interim decision at the end of the hearing, ruling for the witnesses to be brought to court by force. The court also ruled for the continuation of the pretrial detention of all three suspects and adjourned the trial until July 9, 2018.