Cumhuriyet reporter Zehra Özdilek made an interview with a teacher who was dismissed by the Decree-Law(KHK) within the scope of the State of Emergency(OHAL) declared in the aftermath of the attempted military coup on July 15, 2016.
The article “Free after 1,5 years” published on May 9, 2019 was an interview made with a teacher who was released from prison after 1,5 years, who had made protests in Istanbul and Ankara and said “I want my job back” after being dismissed.
Following the news, an investigation was launched against Özdilek for “identifying officials on anti-terror duties as targets”. Özdilek was accused of revealing the identity of a secret witness in the article.
On October 7, 2019, a “decision of non prosecution” was given, regarding the investigation.
The indictment against her was prepared 20 days after the non prosecution decision. The indictment was prepared by the prosecutor who had given the decision of non prosecution for the investigation.
The indictment accused Özdilek of “identifying officials on anti-terror duties as targets” according to the article 6/1 of the Anti-Terror Law. She was requested to be sentenced to, from on year to three years of imprisonment. She was also requested to be “bereaved of specific rights” according to the article 53 of the Turkish Penal Code.
Trial of journalist Zehra Özdilek started with the first hearing on February 12, 2020 at Istanbul 27th Assize Court.
Özdilek, in her defence statement said “I make news of violation of rights. Aforementioned article was again about a violation of rights. I do not think that my article is a crime. It must be considered within the scope of the press freedom. Said secret witness was previously subject to many news in different mediums” and requested her acquittal.
Court board ruled to sent the indictment to the prosecution in order to prepare an opinion as to the accusations.
The trial was set to continue with the second hearing on April 14, 2020. However the hearing was postponed to June 5, 2020, due to the measures taken against the “coronavirus” outbreak in Turkey. That hearing too, was postponed due to the measures taken against “coronavirus” pandemic.
Fourth hearing of the case was held on September 24, 2020. Özdilek was present alongside her attorney Buket Yazıcı. It was seen that one of the members of the court board was changed.
Prosecutor, presented his opinion as to the accusations at this hearing. The opinion stated that similar news were made by different press outlets too and there was no information as to the revealing the identity of the witness. It was stated that there was no intention of targeting the witness. The opinion said that the article “is understood to be considered within the scope of freedom of press, expression and thought…”. Prosecutor, in the opinion, requested Zehra Özdilek to be acquitted.
Journalist Özdilek, in her defence regarding the opinion stated that; the name of the secret witness was already published in different press outlets, before her article, such as daily newspapers Sabah and Yeni Şafak and Anadolu Agency. Özdilek said, “Since I did not reveal the identity of the witness, I plead not guilty. I request my acquittal”.
Özdilek’s attorney Buket Yazıcı stated that, the witness, mentioned in the article, was a secret witness in many other lawsuits. Therefore the name of the witness was subject to many news since 2017. Yazıcı said “My client is not the one revealing the identity of the witness. The accusation is not discernible in any way” and requested Özdilek to be acquitted.
Court evaluated that the similar news regarding the witness mentioned in Özdilek’s article, were made by different press outlets. The decision read that aside from the witness’ name, there was no information as to the revealing of the witness’ identity.
Court considered the article “was within the scope of freedom of press and freedom” and ruled to acquit Özdilek on the grounds that “the criminal factors of the accusation were not formed.”
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