Court lifts the international travel ban on Demirer and adjourns the trial until July
Writer and activist Temel Demirer appeared in an Istanbul court on 21 March over his remarks in a 2017 demonstration in Kadıköy, Istanbul, in memory of those killed in the deadly Suruç bombing of 2015.
Demirer is accused of “praising crime or a criminal” in the case, overseen by the Istanbul Anadolu 33rd Criminal Court of First Instance.
Demirer and his lawyers were in attendance at the hearing, which was monitored by P24. A crowded group of spectators that included academics and rights defenders were also in the courthouse to show solidarity with Demirer.
This was the first hearing in the trial, which came seven months after an indictment into Demirer was issued.
Early in the hearing, Demirer said he would not make any additions to his written defense statement already submitted to the court, but that he wanted to address the court to raise his objections concerning the procedure and merits of the case.
Demirer began by explaining that his information in the population registry database was cited in the indictment among “evidence” against him and that this was unlawful.
Demirer continued: “I am a writer. The gathering I attended took place in a public space. What I did during that gathering was voice my opinions.”
Adding that he had to wait for 20 months to appear in court for the first hearing of his trial and respond to the allegations after his initial questioning in relation with the 20 July 2017 demonstration, Demirer said this was a violation of the right to a fair trial.
Demirer also made references to articles of the Turkish Constitution safeguarding the rights to freedom of opinion and freedom of expression and said that making one stand trial for exercising their rights enshrined in the constitution constituted a breach of the constitution.
Demirer added: “I ask the court to consider the [scope of] the right to freedom of expression in my case as widely as [other courts did regarding] certain people in this country.”
Rejecting the accusation, Demirer requested to be acquitted.
Following Demirer’s statement, his lawyers addressed the court.
Lawyer Zeynep Ceren Boztoprak Topuz told the court that there was no guilty verdict against the person Demirer referred to during the commemoration, Suphi Nejat Ağırnaslı, whose name constitutes the basis for the accusation against Demirer. “Therefore,” Topuz said, “the elements of the offense of ‘praising crime or a criminal’ is not present in this case.”
“My client’s speech that is the grounds for the accusation was not about praising crime or a criminal but about defending the secularist worldview,” Topuz said.
Topuz added that her client lost his residence permit in France because he had to wait for 20 months for a court date and because of the international travel ban imposed on him throughout this period. The lawyer requested the travel ban imposed on Demirer to be lifted.
Deniz Demirdöğen, another lawyer representing Demirer, also told the court that the person whose name Demirer cited in his speech was killed in 2014 as he was fighting against the terrorist group ISIS in order to preserve secularism, and that therefore Demirer’s speech was themed around the secularist worldview. Demirdöğen requested Demirer’s acquittal.
Following the completion of the defense statements, the court went on to issue an interim ruling, in which the judge ordered an investigation into whether there were any convictions against Suphi Nejat Ağırnaslı as well as Semih Özakça and Nuriye Gülmen, and also ruled to inquire of law enforcement officials about the demonstration during which Demirer made the remarks for which he is indicted.
The court also ruled to lift the international travel ban imposed on Demirer because his defense statement was heard and set 9 July 2019 as the date for the second hearing in the trial.
Demirer was taken into custody on 25 July 2017 for his remarks during the commemoration. Following his interrogation at the police department, Demirer was referred to the Istanbul Courthouse, where the 9th Criminal Judgeship of Peace ruled for his release under judicial control measures pending trial.