An investigation was initiated against journalist Rojhat Doğru on allegations of “membership of a terrorist organization” by Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Doğru was investigated for following the “Kobane protests” organized in Diyarbakır in October 2014 for journalistic purposes. After the ISIS assault on the city of Kobane, in northern Syria, protests had taken place in Diyarbakır and neighboring towns, and dozens of people had lost their lives in the clashes. Massive demonstrations were held in the Bağlar district of Diyarbakır on October 6-9. Right after these demos, Doğru’s photos were published by media outlets close to Hizbullah and he was targeted. It was claimed that Doğru carried a gun, although it was seen in the photos that he was holding a camera. In this context, an investigation was launched against Doğru upon a complaint by R.Ö. who was wounded during the protests.
Doğru was detained on December 5, 2018 in Istanbul as part of the investigation. On the same day, he gave his statement over the judiciary videoconferencing system SEGBİS. Following his statement, the Diyarbakır 5. Criminal Court of Peace issued an arrest warrant against him on charges of “membership of a terrorist organization”.
After the arrest warrant, he was taken to Silivri High Security Closed Prison.
The indictment about Doğru was drafted and submitted to court by prosecutor on June 21, 2018. In the three-page indictment, Doğru was accused of “attempting to destroy the unity of the state and the integrity of the country” and “attempting premeditated murder”. R.Ö. figured as complainant in the indictment. In addition to complainant R.Ö.’s statements and open source examination reports, the social media posts of Doğru were also presented as evidence in the indictment.
The indictment was accepted by Diyarbakır 8. High Criminal Court. The first hearing of the case was scheduled for January 10.
Journalist Doğru was not brought to the courtroom. Instead, he was connected to the courtroom from Silivri High Security Closed Prison over SEGBİS. His lawyer Resul Tamur represented Doğru.
Doğru presented his defense over SEGBİS, and said the following: “I got acquainted with the complainant when he interviewed me in 2015. I had no other contact with him. The television he did the interview for supports the political party HÜDA-PAR. He works at İlke News Agency. I received an award in 2015 for the footage I shot. After I received the award, he started accusing me. After that I filed a criminal complaint against him. I also filed a criminal complaint against those who made the news storied that targeted me.
“I did not shoot at any person in any way, this is slander. As you can see in the photos, I was not among the crowd, I was not there to join the protest. I’m not among the ranks of those chanting slogans. I took the other photos mentioned in the indictment in Sulaymaniyah. The head office of the television I work for is there. It is a region close to Qandil. This is an area where the populace come for picnic, and since there began peace negotiations, there was no war. I went there for news coverage. I took the photo and I shared it on social media. Later on, HÜDA-PAR members shared these photos on social media and targeted me.
“I was there in my capacity as a journalist. I got an award for the footage I shot there. Even the Diyarbakır Chief of Police was present at that award ceremony. I was there because I was a journalist. The person who filed a complaint against me claims to have identified me, and they take the photos from my social media account. I’m a journalist, and I demand my acquittal”
The journalists that Doğru worked with were also heard as witnesses at the hearing. The next hearing was scheduled for February 26, 2019. Doğru was not brought to the second hearing either. He participated over SEGBİS, from the prison where he was detained.
During this short hearing, the court ordered the release of Doğru considering that the evidence was gathered to a large extent and the possibility of a change in the criminal offense attributed to him. Doğru was released on condition of judicial control, with a ban on going abroad.
The trial was adjourned until May 30, 2019. The complainant R.Ö. did not attend the first two hearings of the case.
Neither did he participate in the third hearing. At this hearing, an individual named D.G. was heard as witness since Doğru had his phone number. D.G., who was detained in Diyarbakır D-Type Closed Prison for a separate offense, stated that he did not know Doğru.
At the end of the hearing, the court issued an arrest warrant in absentia for the complainant R.Ö. to be brought to the next hearing, and adjourned the trial.
The next hearing was scheduled for October 15, 2019. At this hearing, the court ordered the discontinuation of the judicial control for Doğru. The court adjourned the trial until January 14, 2020.
Complainant R.Ö. participated in the hearing at Mersin 9th Assize Court, through the SEGBİS system. R.Ö. started the statement saying 5-6 years had passed and he was injured at Diyarbakır during the October 6-8, Kobane protests, and said “It was the 3rd or the 4th day of eid-al-adha. I was walking alone, there was no one along with me. Someone started firing a gun towards me. That person’s face was not covered, and was holding a camera in one hand and the gun in the other. The fire was coming from that side but I am not sure if the bullets were coming from that gun. There were other people, whose faces were covered, along with that person and they were randomly firing their guns around.”. R.Ö. also told that after getting injured he was taken to the hospital and had stayed in the intensive care unit for 3-4 days and claimed that later he recognised Rojhat Doğru in the news.
When the presiding judge asked if the person carrying the gun was him, R.Ö. said “Yes, it was him carrying a camera in one hand and a gun in the other, I identify him.”. After that attorney Resul Temur asked a few questions to the complainant. R.Ö. answered “I did not see if anyone was firing from my side as my back was turned that way.”. He said that he did not remember what type of camera he was carrying. After that attorney Temur said, he does not remember a big camera but remembers a gun he created in his mind, and stated that the complainants statement is full of conflicts. Rojhat Doğru said that the aforementioned incidents had occurred in between 6th and 8th of October, 2014, and he got injured, too, while recording the events with his camera. He stated that the complaint was made at 2015 even though the complainant claimed that he made a complaint 4 days after the incident. He said that his footage from the incidents was awarded as the year’s best footage. Doğru, “I recorded whoever was using a gun. There was fire coming from my side too.I just objectively recorded the footage. Until today, they kept saying there was fire from the other side. I was targeted in their tv channels. There is nothing to apologise for.
Court board ruled to decode the CDs including the footage of the crime scene and time, and the prepared report to be sent to the court, and to write an official request to the hospital in order to summon the hospital reports, MRIs, graphs and other information of the complainant and set the next hearing to March 24th, 2020.
In the meantime, he was detained on May 22nd, 2020 under an investigation launched in 2020 on allegations of “sending money to his prison mate after being released”. One day later, he was arrested on the charge of “membership of a terror organization” and placed in Diyarbakır D-Type Closed Prison.
The second indictment against Doğru was completed on July 17th, 2020, when he had already spent two months in prison. In the indictment, he was charged with “membership of a terror organization”, facing seven years six months to 15 years in prison. Upon the completion of the indictment, he was released on July 17th, 2020. The court ruled to merge the indictments against Doğru and continue the proceedings based on the merged indictment.
The trial continued with the eighth hearing on October 13th, 2020. A member of the panel of judges had changed. Rojhat Doğru attended the hearing with his lawyer Resul Temur.
Doğru presented his defense against the new indictment. He indicated that he had stayed in Silivri Prison No.5 between November 2018 and February 2019. He said that during his detention, a prison mate had covered some of his expenses at the cafeteria, and that he wanted to pay his debt after being released. Stating that he sent 500 TL to Yusuf Bayram, and 500 TL to a friend in the next ward, Doğru said, “I did not send the money in an organizational capacity because they were in prison or on hunger strike. I do not accept the charges.”
The court ruled that Doğru’s two prison mates shall be heard as witness, and lifted Doğru’s probation measure of giving signatures at the closest police station to his residence.
The trial will continue with the ninth hearing on January 14th, 2021.
Press in Arrest is a database, monitoring, documentation and collective memory study of Press Research Association.
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