“Berkin Elvan News” Trial

Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation against the news made in Cumhuriyet and BirGün, about the ongoing investigation of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan’s murder during Gezi Park Protests in 2013.

Both of the subject matter articles were published at March 11th, 2016, at Cumhuriyet Daily with the title “The police officer accused of shooting Berkin Elvan could not remember his place of duty” and at BirGün Daily with the title “Confidentiality order of Berkin investigation caused not to disrepute the murderer”.

Cumhuriyet’s article was written by Canan Coşkun and Ali Açar whereas the BirGün article was written by Can Uğur.

Berkin Elvan was hit in the head by a tear gas canister fired by the police during the Gezi Park Protests in 2013 and had lost his life after 267 days of treatment. The trial of 15-year-old Elvin’s death is still ongoing.

The indictment against Can Uğur, Canan Coşkun and Ali Açar was prepared by Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on November 21, 2019.

Prosecutor, argued that the article on Cumhuriyet Daily about the death of Elvan had the name of the officer written as “E…Y.” and the officer was identifiable from the photo.

Prosecutor, claimed that “Berkin Elvan’s death was exploited by some terrorist organisations” and the aforementioned articles “had put the suspect officer on target for left organisations”.

The indictment accused journalists of “identifying officials that were on anti-terror duties as targets”, regulated by the article 6/1 of the Anti-Terror Law. They are facing from 1 to 3 years of imprisonment. They were also requested to be bereaved of specific rights according to the article 53 Turkish Penal Code.

The trial of journalists Canan Coşkun, Ali Açar and Can Uğur was to start with the first hearing on April 9, 2020, at Istanbul 34th Assize Court. However the hearing was postponed to September 17, 2020 due to the measures taken against the “coronavirus” outbreak in Turkey.

The second hearing of the trial was held on September 17th, 2020. Journalists Canan Coşkun attended the hearing together with her lawyer Abbas Yalçın, and journalist Can Uğur with his lawyer Tolgay Güvercin. Ali Açar did not attend the hearing. Açar was represented at the hearing by his lawyer Buket Yazıcı.

Can Uğur stated in his defense statement, “The ID information of the person in question was not disclosed in the news article I wrote. An analysis of the article will confirm this. The article is about the gag order on the file. I received lawyers’ opinion before penning the article. I did not mention any names, or target a public official.”

Canan Coşkun also noted in her defense that when they published the article in question, three years had passed since Berkin Elvan’s shooting, and added, “The news article is a continuation of previous stories. From the file, I found that person’s statement. I published that. I did not report that with the intention of revealing the ID of the policeman, but in staying within the framework of journalism ethics. I do not accept the attributed crime. I published the news story to uphold the public interest.”

The hearing prosecutor requested that the shortcomings in the file be remedied. The judge ruled to adjourn the trial to receive Ali Açar’s defense statement.

The court ruled to send a writ to Istanbul Police Department to find out the department in which the policeman mentioned in the news story worked.

The court also ruled to send a writ to the Police Department’s Cyber Crimes Bureau to request information on whether “the murder of Berkin Elvan was claimed by any terror organization or not”.

The third hearing of the trial took place on November 10th, 2020. It was observed that a member of the panel of judges had changed. The defendant, journalist Canan Coşkun attended the hearing with his lawyer Abbas Yalçın, and journalist Ali Açar with his lawyer Buket Yazıcı.

Ali Açar stated in his defense speech that he did not accept the charge, and that he had not intended to target anyone with the news story.

On the other hand, it was stated that the police officer F.D., a defendant in the case concerning the death of Berkin Elvan, was added to this case as “complainant”. F.D. claimed that he was “targeted” by the journalists’ news stories. F.D. had been given permission to attend the first hearing of the trial over the Audio and Video Information System SEGBİS from Van. However, he had not attended that hearing in which the journalists he filed a complaint against stood trial.

The lawyers of the journalists on trial stated that the police officer F.D. was included in the case as a complainant; however, F.D. was not named in the news story and as such he could not claim to have been harmed. The lawyers demanded that F.D. be deprived of his status as complainant. Journalist Canan Coşkun indicated in her defense that “The name of this individual was not mentioned in the news story in question. Since his name was not mentioned, it is not possible for him to be harmed”.

The court accepted the request from the journalists and their lawyers as regards F.D.’s status as complainant. The court stated that F.D.’s name had not been mentioned in the indictment, and that he was not considered an injured party in any trial. As such, F.D.’s status of “complainant” was removed.

The trial was adjourned until the fourth hearing on February 23rd, 2021.

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