Three editors and two journalists if Turkish newspaper Taraf are facing up to 75 years in prison. Turkish journalist Yasemin Congar and co-founder of P24 (MYMEDIA’s partners) is one of them.
The first hearing of the case took place on September 2. Editors Ahmet Altan, Yasemin Çongar and Yıldıray Oğur, as well as two journalists Tuncay Opçin and Mehmet Baransu (Baransu has been imprisoned since March 2015), are accused of obtaining and publishing classified documents that belong to the Turkish General Staff.
In 2010 liberal-democratic newspaper Taraf published the investigation on failed attempt of the military coup in 2003, known as “Operation Sledgehammer”. The authors of the article Mehmet Baransu and Tuncay Opçin published the documents that revealed details of organizing this coup. The evidence for the coup case included the CDs, tapes, printed documents and handwritten notes.
Now the journalists are facing accusations not only in declassifying secret information, but also in being the members of terror the organization. They might be sentenced a prison term of 75 years, and their editors are facing 50 years.
“Mehmet Baransu didn’t mention any war or defense plan to us. As the managing cadre of the newspaper, our interest was limited to the coup plot. We never laid emphasis upon getting war plans or publishing them. I wasn’t even in the office when Baransu brought the suitcase in,” Yasemin Çongar told
All 236 suspects in this military coup have been acquitted on March 31, 2015 after the prosecutor announced that the digital files and data have been falsified and cannot be used as evidence.
But on June 20, 2016, the court made charges against the journalists and the editors of Taraf. One month later the newspaper was closed for alleged links to the movement of the preacher Fethullah Gülen (Hizmet), whom the government accuses of having organized the military coup attempt in 2016. This newspaper was one of about 100
other forcibly closed media outlets. The authorities have also arrested over a 100 other journalists for “connections with Gülen”.
International organizations consider the charges to be groundless and irrelevant, and call upon the government to immediately drop them. They stated this in an open letter
, undersigned by 10 international organization, among which are Index on Censorship, PEN International, European Press associations and MYMEDIA. They list a number of reasons, why they consider the charges to be absurd: for instance, earlier the Turkish court decided that Taraf did not reveal any state secrets. To the signers’ mind, the documents cannot be referred to as secret, because the plan has no longer been in use since 2007, and was already made public at the court hearing in 2011.
The declarants notice that the indictment is full of mismatches: it contains the information that is not relevant to the charges and is simply copied from the other legal cases. For instance, 46 pages of the indictment were copied from the case of the editors of the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet Can Dündar and Erdem Gül. They exposed illegal arms transfers by the Turkish Intelligence Service (MIT) and were sentenced to 5 years of imprisonment.
“The degree of direct reproduction is evident from the fact that one paragraph of the indictment even starts with the words ‘The Defendant Can Dündar,’” says the letter.
Journalists are accused of spreading propaganda without any facts and evidence in support of thes accusations.
“These deficiencies seriously undermine the credibility of the charges, increasing concerns that they are groundless and aimed at stifling opposition voices within Turkey,” conclude the signers.
The next hearing of the case will take place on November 23, 2016.