Istanbul Members of Parliament from the People’s Republican Party (CHP), Eren Erdem and Ali Şeker, held a press conference on October 21, 2015, at CHP’s Istanbul Headquarters. During the press conference, the MPs claimed that an investigation over alleged shipment of sarin gas from Turkey to ISIS had been dropped.
The Cumhuriyet newspaper’s Izmir correspondent Hakan Dirik penned a news story about the allegations expressed at the press conference. In his article, Dirik also provided further information he obtained from the CHP MP Eren Erdem.
The news story by Dirik, and a separate article by Acarer claimed that the ISIS investigation in Adana was closed on the orders of the-then Minister of Justice, Bekir Bozdağ. According to the allegations in the said news story and article, Bozdağ had phoned the prosecutor conducting the investigation and said, “Let us know before you launch an operation against organizations with Islamic links”.
Following the publication of the news story and article, Minister Bozdağ filed a criminal complaint against Dirik and Acarer on charges of “slander”. Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office ruled for lack of jurisdiction and referred the case to Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office established that at the press conference covered by the news story and article, the MPs had not mentioned Bekir Bozdağ.
Dirik and Acarer were sued on charges of “slander via the media”.
The trial began on November 9, 2017. The court requested an expert report on the press conference by the MPs. After examining the report, the court will decide whether or not to hear Eren Erdem, who is currently in detention for a separate case.
In his defense, Dirik said that many other journalists apart from him attended the press conference by CHP deputies Eren Erdem and Ali Şeker. Dirik stated that all the information in the news article was shared with him by the CHP deputy Eren Erdem.
The court demanded the completion of the expert witness report on the deputies’ press conference. The judge ordered that a writ be sent to law enforcement so as to determine Acarer’s overseas address.
The second hearing of the trial was held on March 15th, 2018. The judge ordered that the former CHP deputy Eren Erdem, who passed on the information in the news story to Hakan Dirik, be heard in court.
The third hearing was held on September 27th, 2018. Dirik reiterated his demand that Eren Erdem be heard. The court ruled that the footage of the press conference in question was already in the file and that Eren Erdem’s statement was not necessary. In other words, the court withdrew its prior decision to hear Erdem.
Dirik also requested that the file of the other defendant, Erk Acarer, be separated since he was abroad.
The fourth hearing was held on December 20th, 2018. Ülkü Çetok, the lawyer of Cumhuriyet Newspaper, stated that the news story was penned following an interview with Eren Erdem after the press conference. Lawyer Çetok demanded that Eren Erdem be heard as witness. The judge ordered that the CD of the press conference be sent to an expert witness and its transcription be prepared. The judge stated that he would decide on the request for hearing Eren Erdem after the expert’s witness report.
The next hearing of the trial took place on October 18th, 2019. The hearing was adjourned for the execution of the arrest warrant against Erk Acarer, who did not submit his defense.
The sixth hearing of the trial was held on November 28th, 2019.
The seventh hearing of the trial was scheduled for May 14th, 2020. However, it was postponed due to the measures against the “coronavirus” outbreak in Turkey.
The trial was adjourned until the eighth hearing scheduled for September 15th, 2020.
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