Mazlum Dolan - “Membership of an Armed Terrorist Organization” Trial

A curfew was declared when Mazlum Dolan, a reporter with the Dicle News Agency that would later be shuttered after the July 15 coup attempt by a Decree Law dated October 29, 2016, was following a news story in the Sur district of Diyarbakır. For 79 days, Dolan was trapped in an apartment in the district, but continued to report. A military operation was launched with the onset of the curfew, and Dolan announced that he was trapped in a building and that they had taken refuge in the basement due to the ongoing military operation.

In reaction, professional associations of journalists made efforts to evacuate Dolan, however, it was in vain. Dolan’s lawyers applied to the European Court of Human Rights on February 17, 2016, to impose a temporary suspension of the curfew.

On February 19, 2016, journalists including some who participated in the News Watch, wanted to march to the town of Sur for Mazlum Dolan. The rally was stopped by the police. Dolan was evacuated on the evening of the same day along with five civilians, accompanied by military personnel.

After being evacuated from the district, Dolan was taken to Diyarbakır Police Department’s Anti-Terror Branch. He was detained there for five days. Following police procedures, he was referred on February 23 to 1. Criminal Court of Peace, which issued a warrant for the arrest of Dolan and four others.

The grounds for the arrest warrant were denunciations, statements by secret and known witnesses, and gunpowder traces on their clothes -despite the fact that they had just left the district of Sur, which was under heavy bombardment.

The indictment against Dolan and 39 people was drafted by prosecutor Mustakim Türkyılmaz in July 2016, and submitted to the court.

In the indictment, 20 people including journalist Mazlum Dolan were charged with “membership of a terrorist organization”, “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “violating the law on meetings and demonstrations“. A prison sentence of 7.5 to 15 years was requested for Dolan on charges of “membership of a terrorist organization”.

“Aggravated life sentence” was requested for 20 other defendants for “attempting to break the unity and integrity of the Turkish state”.

The first 28 pages of the indictment dwelled upon the history and foundation of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party / Partiya Karkeren Kürdistan (PKK). This same section provided ample information on the events that transpired under the curfew, when the army launched operations against the ditches and barricades built in Kurdish cities. A separate sub-section focused on the operation in the district of Sur.

Then came information on the investigation process. It was indicated that Dolan and five other civilians were arrested by security forces on February 19, 2016 at about 16.00, on Yıkık Kaya Street.

The information and assessments about journalist Dolan began on page 47 of the indictment. This section provided information on the digital material found in body search as he was being evacuated from the district, as well as on his clothes -including their brands. It was indicated that no element of crime was found in the digital examination of the said material.

The indictment also offered the statements about Dolan of a secret witness code-named “Mudanya 2016”. However, these statements were contradictory, since the secret witness referred to Dolan as “the mother of this girl”, although Dolan is male.

There was no further assessment about Dolan in this part of the indictment. In the “legal assessment” section found on page 104, however, it was stated about Dolan and others that “in the framework of the so-called ‘autonomous administration’, they acted on the orders of the PKK / KCK terrorist organization within its hierarchy and through organic connection with it, aiding and assisting members in armed resistance; providing logistic support to members in armed resistance in the Sur district and the operation area, took part in the organizational hierarchy, and thus committed the crime of ‘membership of a terrorist organization’ as charged.”

The first hearing of the case was held on December 28, 2016. Dolan presented his defense on the first day of the trial. Dolan rejected the charges and said, “In the indictment, another person’s statement is written under my name. I’m a reporter with DİHA. My house is in Sûr. I went there as a journalist. I stayed at my aunt Fatma Ateş’s house. I was sending news stories to the agency that I work for. It was impossible to avoid traces of explosives in the basement where we were trapped. I plead not guilty of the charges. I demand to be released.”

The second hearing of the case was held on May 16, 2017. Dolan and his lawyer Resul Tamur were in attendance.

Following the defendants’ defenses, the statements of secret witnesses were read. The prosecutor in charge requested that Dolan and the other defendants remain in prison.

The court ordered Dolan and eight others to be released on condition of “judicial control”.

The court adjourned the trial until September 17, 2017.

Dolan went abroad some time after he was released. The trial against Dolan continues in his absence.


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