Det er varmt og klamt i salen, enda så moderne bygget er. Sal nummer 13 i etasje fem av ingen aning. Hvis noen husker den ekle scenen fra Matrix hvor man ser endeløse rekker av kokonger, er dette domstolversjonen. Rettssal på rettssal på rettssal fyller Europas største rettsbygning. Utsiden minner mest om en forvokst flyplass. Bare uten flytårn eller fremtidsutsikter.
Av Ingeborg Sennerset, retssaksobservatør for Norsk PEN i Tyrkia.
Vi er tre som har presset oss sammen på to stoler. Den norske ambassadens utsendte, en menneskerettaktivist som tolker for oss og jeg. Domstolen kunne valgt en større sal, men det ville betydd mer plass for Erol Onderoglu og hans medtiltaltes støttespillere. Det er mer behagelig at de aller fleste må vente ute på gangen.
Noen meter foran meg står Tora Pekin, en av forsvarsadvokatene fra sist gang jeg var her som observatør, under Cumhuriyet-saken. Der var 14 journalister og ansatte i en av de få gjenværende regimekritiske avisene i Tyrkia dømt til åtte års fengsel for angivelig «støtte til terrorgrupper». En dom som ble fordømt som et angrep på uavhengig journalistikk.
Mange tusen av Tora Pekins advokatkolleger har enten mistet jobben eller flyktet landet. Han står der fremme og samler papirene sine for nok en rettssak.
De fire dommerne sitter et par meter over oss andre. Det er greit i den store salen under fengselet hvor avstandene er mer som en fotballbane og man gjerne vil se dem som skal dømme, men på disse få kvadratmeterne føles det mer som kan falle over oss. Tre av dem kunne uten problemer løst ungdomsbillett.
På samme måte som advokater, lærere og andre akademikere, er dommere blitt avsatt over en lav sko. Høyt utdannede mennesker måtte selge sitroner på gata. Da domstolene ikke kan stå tomme gitt de mange rettergangene, er de fylt med nyansatte som er knapt ferdige med studiene.
Erol står foran dem for endelig å få holde sin forsvarstale. Han tordner løs, han har ventet 30 lange måneder på dette. Det eneste tyrkiske ordet jeg forstår, er «terrorpropaganda». Resten hvisker tolken meg fortløpende.
«Jeg har skrevet mer enn 10.000 artikler, ingen kan jeg dømmes for.» «Å være redaktør i solidaritet i én dag er ikke en forbrytelse.» «Jeg tror ikke dere er veldig velinformerte om menneskerettigheter.» «Er det det rettferdig at vi er on trial for den ellevte eller tolvte gangen?» «Vi har til nå gitt 2,5 år av livene våre. Hvor mye lenger?»
Etter side seks avslutter Erol sin forsvarstale med å kreve straffrihet, for han har ikke gjort noe galt. Han ber dommerne om at tiltalen frafalles. Men Erol kan først som sist legge en stein til i haugen av utsettelser, uthalelser og mental tortur, for dommerne vil ikke gi ham svar før 17. juli.
Livet er fortsatt i varetekt. Imens kan enhver som ønsker å ytre seg fritt måtte tenke over spørsmålet om det er verdt friheten.
Først da vi reiser oss fra den klamme tilhørerbenken legger jeg merke til det store, svart- og gullfargede bilde av Ataturk som henger bak dommerne som en Gud og ser ned på oss. Under står det noe i caps lock.
Selv om retten er hevet og alle nå snakker med vanlig stemme igjen, hvisker tolken når hun oversetter ordene:
«Rettferdighet er fundamentalt»
Artikkelen er hentet fra Ingeborgs Facebook , med forfatterens tillatelse.
We were arrested at Istanbul Çağlayan Courthouse on June 20, 2016 when we came to give our deposition for the investigation filed against us. We were accused of “terrorist organization propaganda”, “praising a crime and the criminal” and “deliberate provocation to commit crime”, for our support of the symbolic solidarity campaign which Özgür Gündem daily started on May 3 World Press Freedom Day.
Upon your court’s approval of an indictment prepared in a day, my 10 day long pre-trial detention in Silivri Penitentiary had come to an end, amidst strong national and international solidarity.
Together with Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Ahmet Nesin, we experienced perhaps the shortest, “pre-trial detention” of the recent years. [I say shortest] Because in the past and at the present many of my colleagues, rights defenders, and intellectuals have spent months and years [ in “pre-trial detention”] due to such arbitrary practice.
Such practices which aim to punish in advance and to bring people into line, not only undermine the main obligations of Turkey regarding the right to fair trial and freedom of speech, but are also in breach of United Nations rulings, OSCE recommendations and ECHR rulings regarding the protection of journalists and rights defenders.
Esteemed Chair, although you have addressed us as “sen” [the informal you] in the past hearings, I believe that you do not truly know us nor our position and work in Turkey’s civil society over the last 25-30 years.
This is also evident in the Esteemed Public Prosecutor’s consideration remarks as presented on February 27, where he charges are based on the headlines of the articles and news published on the day after we had assumed the Substitute Editorship, on content which we had no editorial access – let alone providing any concrete and positive evidence or evaluation about our actions. Such conditions force us to explain ourselves to you once more.
Who are we?
The people you put on trial today have spent a lifetime, standing against every coup regardless of their form or content, supporting the European Union reform process with the conviction that it will have permanent contributions to Turkish democracy, and defending the fundamental human rights and universal values despite all of the risks and dangers.
With regards to who I am, if you take a look at bianet.org, you will see that I have written more than 10 thousand articles over 15 years; and have my signature under 4.882 news, research articles and op-eds. Bianet is the rights based news outlet of the Independent Communication Network (BİA), which I have laboured for since its foundation. You will also observe that with respect to the content of the news, most of them inform the public on the EU reform process and the discussions over the legal processes, on their impact on the freedom of speech and of press and the ongoing pressures against the journalists.
Esteemed Chair, Esteemed Members of the Court,
Reporters without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières – RSF) was founded on 1985 as an international non-profit association and has its center in Paris; I have been their representative in Turkey since 1996.
When I was a young reporter, I did my first piece of research on journalist Metin Göktepe who was murdered in detention. As RSF, we became part of an immense solidarity in Turkey which lasted for four years. I believe we have helped illuminate the case of Metin Göktepe, who was murdered by assault, violence and torture under detention. Indeed, those who stood trial for his murder were convicted.
For the past 24 years, I have witnessed that based on the context, all journalists can be both the oppressor and the oppressed, based on their political views and publication policies. In 1998, while defending my colleagues, I once spent a night in detention. I gave my deposition on May 2002 at the Istanbul Directorate of Security about an exhibition organized by RSF in Paris, which protested against the unlawful interventions of military authorities in the media; I received many threatening phone calls.
RSF is a journalism association which seeks to support press freedom in Turkey objectively. Although it mainly aimed to protest against violations in Turkey, it also sought to inform our colleagues in Turkey about international developments. Again, if you look at the bianet news site, you come across 1491 news articles mostly written by me about RSF. These articles cover reports, statements and protests of RSF on matters of journalism rights and ethics, freedom and pluralism of media, regarding the latest developments in Turkey and around the world.
I have also been contributing to the studies of OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media on Turkey for the last eight years as an expert in an objective manner.
Twice I have served as a Council Member of IFEX, an umbrella organization of journalism and freedom of expression associations from all across the world. I have sought to stand against violations against media in the Middle East, the Balkans, Asia and Africa as well as in Turkey.
Esteemed Chair, Esteemed Members of the Court,
As I stated to the prosecutor and judge who conducted the investigation, I have never before been investigated against nor put on trial.
As a journalist who has undertaken similar duties for 24 years, it is obvious why I participated in the solidarity campaign for Özgür Gündem daily. When the campaign announcement is examined and if some simple research is done regarding a journalist on trial for a prison sentence of 14 years 6 months, the rightfulness of my participation is clear. I believe in pluralism and that the media should exercise the public’s right to information based on facts. I joined the “solidarity campaign” as I believe that there can not be a democratic society if the media can not express itself without censorship and repression.
Although the spiral of repression against media has changed and loosened during the years 2000-2010, it has never ceased to exist; as we have continuously witnessed the pressures of the political power, trying to bring the journalists in line with arrests, threats of incarceration and prison sentences.
Esteemed Chair, Esteemed Members of the Court,
For the past 24 years, my job has been to support all of my colleagues, regardless of their political views, employer’s political stance, or their place on the political-cultural spectrum; as long as the issue fell within the “rights of journalists”. In time some have become friends, some have remained friends; and some, I never wanted to see the faces of. Yet, I tried to always stand by them when their rights needed to be defended.
Opinions regarding the indictment and the consideration remarks
I am being held responsible for the news articles “JÖH rebellion against Akar” (“Akar’a JÖH isyanı”), “JÖH-PÖH Crack in Nisebin Grows” (“Nisebin’de Jöh-Pöh Çatlağı Büyüyor”), “Tanks, Cannons, Howitzers can not pass through Şirnex” (“Tank, Top, Obüs Şirnex’ten Geçemiyor”) published on Özgür Gündem daily on May 18, 2016.
On the day of solidarity, I attended an editorial meeting where people stated what kind of news they “intend” to report and I left the paper’s offices after writing my solidarity text titled “We struggle for press freedom”. This text was neither questioned at the Office of Prosecutor nor is it the subject of trial here today.
Today I stand trial, accused of the allegations that “I conducted organization propaganda”, “praised the crime” and “incited to commit crime”. I absolutely object to all of these allegations and accusations.
It is not possible for me to accept these charges, which are brought before me solely based on the titles of news articles, whether as referred by the Esteemed Public Prosecutor in his consideration remarks, or as referred to in the indictment dated June 21, 2016.
It is not possible; because as I stated at the beginning of this defence statement, this [the charges] is against my own principles of journalism which I upheld throughout my professional career. Because throughout my career, I have only ever written on the rights of journalists, professional ethics, media freedom and pluralism.
It is not possible, because in order for me to be responsible for the news titled “JÖH rebellion against Akar” (“Akar’a JÖH isyanı”), “JÖH-PÖH Crack in Nisebin Grows” (“Nisebin’de Jöh-Pöh Çatlağı Büyüyor”), “Tanks, Cannons, Howitzers can not pass through Şirnex” (“Tank, Top, Obüs Şirnex’ten Geçemiyor”), there needs to be a causal link between myself and the deed, with regards to “intention” and “volition”. However, the court has rejected our request for the determination of our responsibility based on the Press Law, let alone ascertaining whether we are “eager to make propaganda”, “fond of praising the crime” or even “inviting others to commit crime”.
Our valued lawyers have rightfully stated that based on the Press Law a natural responsibility of a newspaper executive can not be inferred from the role of a “Substitute Editorship”. Yet the court has twice rejected the aforementioned request regarding the Press Law.
My humble opinion is that, even when all is clear and discernible with regards to Press Law, in order to have a fair trial and ruling, the personality and disposition of the defendant should be taken into account. His/her affiliation with the deed in question in regard to “intention and volition” should be evaluated and a profile should be formed accordingly; especially if one observes modern law.
– Who are we?
– What is the significance of the solidarity campaign, initiated on May 3 2016, World Press Freedom Day with a clear message?
– Is our arrest equitable?
– Does our trial through 11 hearings agree with the commitments of Turkey to international measures regarding the rights defenders and journalists?
There is no evaluation of these points in this case. Unfortunately, the state of the case in this stage of verdict remains the same with that of the beginning of the investigation. As a result, we have spent 2,5 years on trial because of a text of “accusation”, an indictment prepared hastily in a day.
I need to clarify one particular statement which Prosecutor Eşref Durmuş has quoted in the indictment dated June 21, 2016 as if they were my words, “as if it was directly relevant to the news in question”.
In the indictment it is stated “ When asked about the news articles on the acts of assault and armed insurgency against the security forces of Republic of Turkey, within and outside the borders of Republic of Turkey, articles which bear qualities that praise and sanctify these actions and incite violence; he has stated that he was informed of such content [of the article], that he finds no problem with the content of the news that are investigated, that Turkey has received sentences in European Court of Human Rights when these and similar news articles were investigated against…”
Although it is true that I indicated that Turkey has been convicted in ECHR several times due to [prosecuting] news articles such as this in the past, I did so as a complementary element to my defense statement, regarding the past cases. However, based on his own interpretations, Prosecutor Durmuş persistently tried to create the impression that I defended the news articles which I had not been a part of the editorial process. I only saw the three news articles that are the subject of the accusations, after they were published in the newspaper. Just as the prosecutor did, I read them after they were published.
Esteemed Chair, Esteemed Members of the Court,
I regard this trial as a part of an effort to intimidate journalists and rights defenders in Turkey. It is a heavy burden for anyone who yearns for democracy to be tried based on their professional activities or solidarity. We are not concerned with being pushed around or harassed by the threats of persecution like the Sword of Damocles. Our concern is for the entire society; it is our concern for the erosion of a sense of justice which holds us all together.
We witness how academics are verbally and publicly attacked by the powerholders, how rights defenders and journalists are drowning in investigations and prosecutions, while mafia leaders who call for mass armament and who threaten to kill rights defenders are given “an unlimited right to freedom of speech”.
It is no accident that regarding matters of judicial independence, freedom of speech and right to free trial, Turkey finds itself in dire straits in its relations with the European Union and other contemporary societies. It is enough to look at the cases of those who did time in prison without an indictment and without knowing what they are charged with. They have no place in prison.
Esteemed Chair, Esteemed Members of the Court,
I demand my acquittal from this trial which has taken 3 years and my right to continue my journalistic activities. I believe there is no evidence for the three accusations.
As I finish my statement; I would like to extend my gratitude to all the authorities who defended the legitimate rights of journalists on diplomatic, political and social platforms; local, national and international rights associations which supported our struggle, rights defenders who since the beginning of the trial have never left our side, our fellow journalists and lawyers who have always stood by us in every hearing and those who believe in us.
With my respect,
Translated from Turkish to English by Civic Space Studies (CSS).
«This trial is about criminalizing and silencing journalism. There is no proof against me»
In a small court room in Istanbul, Erol Önderoğlu stood his ground against the charges made against him.
Today was the 11th hearing. On trial are Reporters Without Borders representative and IPI member Erol Önderoğlu, Turkey’s Human Rights Foundation Chair, Şebnem Korur Fincancı, and journalist Ahmet Nesin. The latter two could not make their statements in today`s hearing.
The three defendants are charged with «engaging in propaganda for a terrorist organisation», «incitement to commit a crime» and «praising criminal activities and those engaged in them». For what? A solidarity act – acting as guest editors in the «Editors-in-Chief on Watch» solidarity campaign for the shuttered pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem.
One single day as a guest editor have cost several journalists and editors days, months and years of uncertainty, waiting for the court to decide their fates. Freedom is on trial.
The judges all seemed young and inexperienced. This is a common and very serious problem in Turkey, hence thousands of judges and other academics are dismissed or have fled the country.
«I doubt you are very well informed in human rights,» Önderoğlu told the judges.
Approximately 75 journalists, freedom of speech activists, international and national observers attended the hearing. Not all could fit in the few seats reserved for observers, and waited in the hallway as Önderoğlu finally got to deliver his statement.
This very strong defense speech will be published in English at norskpen.no as soon as the translation is completed.
The hearing was over in under an hour. Norwegian PEN met with Erol Önderoğlu, who is tired, but determined.
«Many of my colleagues have spent months and months in prison. At least I`m outside. But I am not free. After waiting more than two and a half years, it was a relief for me to express myself to the court. It’s very important to me that the court actually take my message into consideration, even if any independent practice in the terms of judiciary is highly unlikely.»
The case is now postponed to 17 July. Postponements are also a way of tiring out both defendants and the public.
Istanbul, April 15th 2019.
The below-named freedom of expression organisations denounce the lengthy judicial harassment suffered by Reporters Without Borders representative and IPI member Erol Önderoğlu, Turkey’s Human Rights Foundation Chair Şebnem Korur Fincancı and journalist Ahmet Nesin and call for their full acquittal at the hearing on April 15, 2019, when a verdict is expected.
The three defendants are charged with “engaging in propaganda for a terrorist organisation”, “incitement to commit a crime” and “praising criminal activities and those engaged in them” for standing in as guest editors in the “Editors-in-Chief on Watch” solidarity campaign for the shuttered pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem.
We further denounce the ongoing detention and prosecution of scores of journalists in Turkey as an autocratic attempt to silence all dissenting voices and to prevent independent journalists from carrying out their profession.
We offer our support and solidarity to our colleagues Önderoğlu, Korur Fincancı and Nesin, who have been subjected to a trial lasting almost three years, and we call on the Turkish government to cease such oppression of journalists, academics and writers.
“This case is about an act of collegial solidarity that should never have resulted in criminal proceedings. Turkey must cease violating the rights of journalists to disseminate the news and of the public to receive balanced reporting,”, Caroline Stockford, Turkey Advocacy Coordinator at the International Press Institute, said.
«By targeting prominent human rights defenders, the authorities aim to decimate what little remains of civil society in Turkey. They will not succeed. We stand united with our colleagues and insist that this relentless judicial harassment cease,» said Sarah Clarke, Head of Europe and Central Asia at ARTICLE 19.
«When the very act of solidarity for repressed journalism is criminalised in Turkey, international solidarity for our colleagues becomes even more crucial.” – Nora Wehofsits, Advocacy Officer at the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
«International public opinion should know that Turkey is not merely Erdogan’s Turkey. Like Erol Önderoğlu, Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Ahmet Nesin, there are many people and courageous initiatives that need to be heard about and be supported. This is why providing the international public with continuous and in-depth coverage on Turkey is so important today», Chiara Sighele, OBC Transeuropa.
“We stand united in support of Erol Önderoğlu, Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Ahmet Nesin. We promise that we will do our utmost to support the journalists and to put pressure on the Turkish government to cease the prosecution and detention of journalists“, said Kjersti Løken Stavrum, Vice President of Norwegian PEN.
Özgür Gündem has long been targeted by Turkish authorities for its journalism. Last month the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Turkey had violated the right to freedom of expression in systematically bringing terrorism-related criminal cases against Özgür Gündem’s owner, Ali Gürbüz, between 2004 and 2005.
Association of European Journalists
CRNI (Cartoonists Rights Network International)
CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists)
ECPMF (European Centre for Press and Media Freedom)
EFJ (European Federation of Journalists)
Front Line Defenders
IFJ (International Federation of Journalists)
IPI (International Press Institute)
P24 (Platform for Independent Journalism)
SEEMO (South East Europe Media Organisation)
Wales PEN Cymru
Journalists Erol Önderoglu , Ahmet Nesin and Physician Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı were arrested on June 20, 2016. Why? The Freedom of Expression Network-Turkey explains the basics.
Journalists Erol Önderoglu , Ahmet Nesin and Physician Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı were arrested on June 20, 2016. Why?
Daily “Özgür Gündem” is the main newspaper of Kurdish opposition in Turkey. Against it, there have been 149 investigations –and at the end-110 cases opened, to silent the voice of Kurds (Since July 1995- State Security Council’s declaration). An imprisonment between 2 years 9 months and 13 years 9 months is demanded for each responsible editor.
“Responsible Editor” is the person to be held responsible for each and every article published in the newspaper. Newspapers have been using the method of “declaring their voluntary supporters’ namesas Responsible Editors,” so that they would face the investigations, trials, even sentences while the professional staff could continue publishing.
Özgür Gündem has launched the “Co-Editorship-in-Chief Campaign” and invited prominent individuals to show solidarity to defend press freedom against oppressions, investigations and cases, by taking the risk, just like a “Lightning Rod”.
Since May 3, 2016 –the World Press Freedom Day-55 volunteers participated –each for one day- and investigations were opened for 41 of them, but no one was arrested before Önderoğlu, Nesin and Fincancı.
Judicial tricks of JDP (AKP): Justice and Development Party (One man party of Erdoğan) has changed many articles of laws to control the judiciary, completely. Depending on those changes, they reassigned the judges and prosecutors. New (partisan) prosecutors forwarded defendants to new (partisan) judges to have them arrested easily. In the last example, the partisan prosecutor invited those 3 people -whom he wanted to get arrested- for interrogation, exactly on the day his most trusted judge was on duty First he interrogated(!) them, then sent them to the court on duty(!) and had them arrested.
The accused’s and and their lawyers’ defenses base on: (Only one example tells the story, all others are the same)
Erol Önderoğlu: I am a journalist; my duty is to defend the right to freedom of information. For that matter I help to distribute every kind of information – no matter which tendency it has- to the society.
Lawyer Özcan Kılıç: According to Anti – terror Law, Code of Criminal Procedure Article 100 this is not included in defined crimes. Accusation is misplead in terms of procedure.
Lawyer Meriç Eyüboğlu: After the decision against Turkey by ECHR, with the amended article 7/2 of Anti-terror Law, the scope of the offence is limited to the cases of making the propaganda for the methods of a terrorist organization constituting coercion, violence or threats through legitimizing or praising or encouraging the use of these methods. There is no such situation in this case.
Detention decision bases on:
Erol Önderoğlu is declared as the Responsible Chief Editor (at the editorial tag of the newspaper’s issue dated 05/18/2016) so he takes the legal responsibility for all anonymous articles and news.
In the issue dated 05/18/2016, there is PKK/KCK propaganda in the articles on the first page titled “Gendarme special operations team rebels at Akar” and on the 9th page with the headline “Gendarme special operations team – Police special operations team crack at Nizebin”
There is a strong suspicion that Erol Önderoğlu committed the crime of terrorist propaganda.
For the reason the crime is committed through the press it exceed the upper limit required for arrest.
There is not any condition mentioned in Code of Criminal Procedure that prevents detention.
“Judicial control measure” described as a light control measure would be a half measure in this case, therefore the decision is ARREST.
En nær venn av Norsk PEN, Erol Önderoglu og hans to kolleger, Ahmet Nesin og Sebnem Korur Fincanci ble i går varetektsfengslet fordi de har vært aktive i en solidaritetskampanje for den kurdiske dagsavisen Özgür Gündem. Tiltalen har vært kjent en stund, men i går dømte en domstol i Istanbul dem til varetekt fram til rettssaken skal finne sted.
Johann Bier, leder for Reportere Uten Grensers Østeuropa- og Asia-desk, kaller dette en «svart dag for ytringsfriheten» og sier at «Erol Önderoglu har kjempet utrettelig for å forsvare forfulgte journalister de siste 20 årene. Han er en leder i dette arbeidet på grunn av sin ærlighet og integritet, noe som er anerkjent i presse- og ytringsfrihetsmiljøer over hele verden.»
Bakgrunnen for tiltalen mot Önderoglu og hans to kolleger er tre artikler som ble publisert i Özgür Gündem 18. mai om maktkampene innen de tyrkiske sikkerhetsstyrkene, samt om de pågående militære operasjonene mot Kurdistans Arbeiderparti (PKK) i Anatolia.
Önderoglu er en nær kollega av Norsk PEN. Han har rapportert til RSF om ytringsfrihetssituasjonen i Tyrkia via nettavisen BIANET siden 1996. Han er medlem av rådet til ytringsfrihetsnettverket IFEX og deltok også på et seminar om ekstremisme og journalistikk ved Institutt for journalistikk og mediefag på Høgskolen i Oslo og Akershus i mars i år.
William Nygaard, styreleder i Norsk PEN, kaller fengslingene sjokkerende og uakseptable. De viser nok en gang et Tyrkia i rettslig oppløsning.
Den norske regjeringen må reagere overfor Tyrkias regjering med krav om at de tre settes fri.