Reporters Without Borders welcomes the release last week of Oda TV journalists Baris Pehlivan and Baris Terkoglu but calls for their colleagues still in detention to be freed.
“This trickle of releases is confirmation both of the weakness of the prosecution case and the punitive and vexatious nature of the journalists’ imprisonment,” the press freedom organization said.
“Naturally, we are pleased that Baris Pehlivan and Baris Terkoglu are no longer behind bars but on what basis have they spent 19 months in detention? The proof promised many times by the prosecution never materialised. If there was no justification for the imprisonment of these two journalists, what reason is there for keeping their two colleagues in detention?”
Judge Mehmet Ekinci announced the release on bail of Pehlivan, Oda TV’s managing editor, and Terkoglu, its news director, who had been held since early February last year. However, Oda TV owner Soner Yalçin and reporter Yalçin Küçük remain in prison until further notice.
The detentions are all the more incomprehensible given that the court finally accepted the expert witness report by the Scientific and Research Council (TÜBITAK) on the source of the files that were seized on the journalists’ computers, which were the main piece of evidence in their prosecution. The 339-page report was commissioned to evaluate studies by three Turkish universities that concluded the incriminating files had been transferred to the journalists’ computers by a virus.
The TÜBITAK report confirmed the presence of malicious software on the computers and said there was no proof that the files in question were produced by the users themselves. While the report’s three authors did not claim that all the incriminating files were imported by a virus, they said this was highly probable in the case of at least one folder found on the computer of the journalist Müyesser Yildiz.
Judge Ekinci granted TÜBITAK a further 20 days to clarify its conclusions and remove some elements that appeared contradictory. The trial will resume on 16 November.
The investigative journalist Ahmet Sik, charged in the same case and released conditionally on 12 March, could face a prison sentence of between three and seven years over comments he made on his release from prison. His trial opened on 13 September before the criminal court in the Silivri district of Istanbul. The indictment drawn up by the prosecutor Muammer Akkas lists 39 complainants, all of them judges who accuse the journalist of exposing them to possible attack by terrorist organizations. The trial will resume on 4 December.
Reporters Without Borders condemns the ridiculous allegations against him and calls for the immediate withdrawal of the charges.
21.06.2012 - As Oda TV trial drags on, one journalist freed, four others begin 16th month in detention
Reporters Without Borders is outraged that only one of the five Oda TV journalists still in detention, reporter Müyesser Ugur, was released during the 12th hearing in their trial in Istanbul on 18 June and that the other four – Oda TV owner Soner Yalçin, managing editor Baris Pehlivan, news director Baris Terkoglu and reporter Yalçin Küçük – are now beginning their 16th month in detention.
“What happened at the 12th hearing is really disturbing,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Although we welcome Ugur’s release, we are appalled by the slowness with which the court is proceeding. The time between hearings is much too long.
“These journalists have been waiting to be rendered justice for more than a year and a half, and yet the need to detain them while the trial takes place has never been demonstrated. We urge the court to release them at the next opportunity, during the monthly reexamination of the detention orders, and to accelerate the pace of the hearings.”
After rolling over the detention orders for four of the journalists, the court scheduled the next hearing for 14 September, when they will have begun their 19th month in preventive detention. They, Ugur and the five other journalists on trial are accused of collaborating with the “terrorist organization Ergenekon,” a shadowy ultranationalist network that allegedly wanted to overthrow the government.
Three of the other five – Dogan Yurdakul, Muhammet Sait Cakir and Coskun Musluk – also work for Oda TV, a news website critical of the government. Yurdakul, the site’s coordinator, was given a conditional release on 22 February on health grounds. Reporters Cakir and Musluk were released from Silivri high security prison on the northern outskirts of Istanbul on 12 March, at the same time as the other two defendants, journalists Ahmet Sik (habervesaire.com) and Nedim Sener (Posta).
The court’s judge, Mehmet Ekinci, is still waiting for the Scientific and Technological Research Centre (TÜBITAK) to provide an expert report on the origin of files found on the defendants’ computers, which supposedly constitute the most important part of the prosecution’s evidence.
Experts at the University of the Bosphorus and at Istanbul’s Yildiz Technical University have already concluded that malware installed these files on the journalists’ computers. TÜBITAK was asked to conduct its own analysis in January. Since then, there has been no sign of its report.
The hearings continue to be accompanied by protest in support of those detained. Many journalists, including Reporters Without Borders correspondent Erol Önderoglu, staged another demonstration on 18 June in response to a call from “Freedom for the Journalists” (GÖP). They were joined by parliamentarians, the presidents of the TGS and TGC journalists’ unions and European Parliament delegates – all of whom are observing the trial.