Mehmet Dursun - “Membership of an Armed Terrorist Organization” Trial

Van Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation against journalist Mehmet Dursun. Dursun was summoned to Van Police Department to testify within the scope of the said investigation. Dursun went to the police on April 3, 2018 and was detained. After three days of detention he was brought to court.

Dursun was interrogated by a judge about phone calls he made in 2014. He was arrested on charges of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” following the interrogation by the judge. He was placed in Van T-Type Closed Prison upon the arrest warrant.

The indictment against him was completed by the public prosecutor on July 2, 2018 and submitted to the court.

In the indictment, the assessments and claims about Dursun were on page 17. Prosecutor, made the following remarks based on Dursun’s telephone conversations in 2014:

“The suspect works in our province for Dicle News Agency which spends intense efforts to support the terror group PKK/KCK, has participated in street rallies organized by YDG-H -the youth branch of the said terror group- where security forces have come under attack, and has penned biased, exaggerated news stories which praise the terrorist group and denigrate the efforts of the security forces,

“The suspect has worked as a TV correspondent through phone connections for Sterk tv and Nüce tv which are controlled by PKK/KCK, reported on street rallies ending in clashes organized by BDP in Van, penned biased stories on people taken into detention, and informed and guided BDP leaders as to these detentions.”

In the spirit of similiar statements in other indictments against journalists, prosecutor claimed after providing this information that Dursun was a member of PKK’s “Press Committee”.

Furthermore, a social media post by Dursun which read “7.2 magnitude earthquake strikes Kurdistan”, concerning the earthquake dated November 12, 2017, was also cited as evidence for his crimes.

Afterwards prosecutor alleged that Dursun “operated for the terrorist organization PKK under a legal cover in order to break the indivisible unity of the Turkish Republic” and requested that he be sentenced. He demanded that Dursun be sentenced to five to ten years of imprisonment on charges of “membership of a terrorist organization” pursuant to Article 314/2 of Turkish Penal Code, and that this penalty be further aggravated by half. At the same time, he requested that Dursun be deprived of certain rights as per Turkish Penal Code, Article 53.

Prosecutor’s indictment was accepted by Van 4. High Criminal Court and a lawsuit was filed.

The first hearing of the trial was held on December 5, 2018. Dursun was brought from Van T-Type Closed Prison where he was held, to the courtroom. Dursun’s lawyer Erhan Çiftçiler was also in attendance.

During his defense at the trial, Dursun said that he worked as a registered correspondent at Dicle News Agency between 2013 and 2015, and that the phone calls he made during this period for journalistic purposes were presented as criminal in the indictment. Indicating that he followed the street rallies in question for journalistic purposes, Dursun continued as follows:

“The indictment tries to make it appear as if I participated in these rallies. The water cannon trucks (TOMA) present at the scene have cameras. They took footage. If this footage is examined, it will be seen that I was there only for news coverage.

“I did not pen any biased news stories, or any story to praise the organization. I didn’t report anything that would defame security forces or any other institution. My job as a correspondent with Dicle news agency is to inform the clients who phone me. STERK tv and NÜCE tv are the clients of our agency, and they called me in that capacity. I gave them information about the events.

“I worked as a journalist. I have nothing to do with KCK. The prosecutor tries to portray me as a member of a press committee in order to present my journalistic activity as illegal. I reject the accusation. I can’t even begin to understand why the indictment covers my Facebook post on the earthquake which hit the city of Sulaymaniyah in northern Iraq. According to the Iraqi constitution, this area is called Kurdistan Regional Government. This has no relation with Turkey.”

Attorney Erhan Çiftçiler stated the following during defense: “My client is engaged in journalism. He took no other kind of action. He cannot be portrayed as a member of KCK. My client was present in street rallies for news coverage purposes. He did not contact guerilla fighters on the mountains. His talks with his girlfriend are included in the indictment, and yet these have no relation to the organization in question. His phone calls were solely for purposes of news coverage. It is obvious that they were not intended to guide a mass of people.”

At the end of the hearing, the panel of judges ruled for the release of Dursun, taking into account the status of the evidence and the time he had already spent in prison. The second hearing of the case took place on May 15, 2019.

Dursun didn’t attend the hearing. The trial was adjourned until October 25, 2019.

The 6th hearing of the case could not be held 21 April 2020, as planned. The trial, postponed to 14 July 2020 due to Coronavirus pandemic measures.

The seventh hearing of the trial was held on July 14th, 2020. Dursun, not under custody, did not attend the hearing.

The hearing prosecutor presented his opinion as to the accusations at this hearing. The prosecutor charged Dursun with “membership of an armed terrorist organization”, requesting a prison sentence of seven years, six months and 15 years. Dursun’s lawyer, Erhan Çiftçiler, requested extra time to draft their defense against the judicial opinion. The panel of judges accepted the request and adjourned the hearing.

The eighth hearing was scheduled for December 4th, 2020.

Press in Arrest is a database, monitoring, documentation and collective memory study of Press Research Association.
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