Unfair trials under the state of emergency

Many journalists who fall under the scope of the PressInArrest study were detained, arrested, tried and convicted as per the laws of state of emergency (OHAL), which was established after the July 15th failed coup attempt.

Decree laws (KHK) issued under the state of emergency restricted many journalists’ defense-related rights during legal proceedings, as was the case in all other trials.
Legal proceedings in Turkey had always been tainted by human rights violations. However, state of emergency decree laws restricted defendants’ rights even further.

Many journalists who fall under the scope of the PressInArrest study were detained, arrested, tried and convicted as per the laws of state of emergency (OHAL), which was established after the July 15th failed coup attempt.

Decree laws (KHK) issued under the state of emergency restricted many journalists’ defense-related rights during legal proceedings, as was the case in all other trials.
Legal proceedings in Turkey had always been tainted by human rights violations. However, state of emergency decree laws restricted defendants’ rights even further.

As was the case with all suspects and defendants, journalists were tried as follows during the state of emergency:

Following an arrest warrant issued by prosecutors, two neighbors had to be present during a search in a police raid on an individual’s home. This number has been reduced to one with a state of emergency decree law.

Before the state of emergency, documents and findings obtained during such a search could only be examined by the prosecutor and the judge. However, since the state of emergency, the police officers, who are open to influence from government, have also been allowed to examine the documents seized in house searches.

Likewise, prosecutors were given the authority to seize and copy computers, which used to belong only to judges before the state of emergency.

Under normal law, the detention period was limited to 24 hours. In certain crimes, this period could be extended to 72 hours. A state of emergency decree law extended the detention period up to 30 days. Later, this period was reduced to 7 days. Prosecutors were given the authority to extend this period by another 7 days.

It was reported that public prosecutors restricted the communication rights of those detained under the state of emergency during the first 24 hours.

Detainees could meet with their lawyers only after 5 days, at first. This was later reduced to 24 hours. Thus, during the state of emergency, there arose allegations that the statements of the detainees were taken by force and that illegal evidence was forged.

Decree laws allowed for the audiovisual recording of detainees’ and even convicts’ conversations with their lawyers, presence of a state official at such conversations, and confiscation of documents exchanged between lawyer and client. Thus, the right to confidentiality during the establishment of defense was violated as well.

With state of emergency decree laws, the trials continued even when lawyers did not come to the hearing without an excuse or left the hearing without an excuse. In other words, it became possible to continue the trials without a lawyer present. It also became possible to announce the verdict about the accused in the absence of a lawyer thanks to decree laws. At the hearings of lawsuits falling under the Anti-Terrorism Law, the defendant could not be defended by more than three lawyers. It became easier to ban lawyers from a file, which amounted to suspending their activities. In order for lawyers to be banned from a file, as even the launch of an investigation against them on alleged terror crimes was deemed sufficient. During the state of emergency, many lawyers were banned from defense advocacy.

The lawyers’ right to examine their client’s file and to take copies of the documents could be restricted by the prosecution.

The routine investigations of detention were now made on the basis of the file, without even hearing the defendant and receiving their defense.

Under normal law, the detainees had the right to meet with their close relatives 4 times a month. One of these would be a free visitation. In fact, these visitations could include members of the larger family and other visitors chosen by the detainee. However, with state of emergency decree laws, visitations were limited only to family members, spouses and relatives up to second degree. The right to have visitors outside the family was eradicated. The right to make phone calls was reduced from once a week to once every 15 days.

State of emergency until 2021

Many of the restrictions mentioned above were not limited to the duration of the state of emergency. Because, many of these changes have been secured through amendments to existing laws. So they have now become law. Only a limited number of regulations were restricted to state of emergency. Even many of these were added to a law passed after state of emergency to become permanent.

Accordingly, an article was added to the Anti-Terrorism Law. Detention period in terror crimes can now be extended up to 12 days in collective incidents. The initial detention period will be 48 hours starting from the moment of arrest and 4 days for collectively committed crimes, excluding the time for the detainee to be brought to court. This detention period can be extended twice due to difficulty in collecting evidence or if the file is extensive. The decision to extend the period will be taken by the judge at the request of the prosecutor. Appeals against detention and requests for release will be resolved on the basis of the file.

This piece of legislation, which includes detention period provisions even harsher than those under the state of emergency, will remain in effect until July 2021.