Alican Uludağ, Olcay Büyüktaş Akça - "Disclosing the Identities of Those Who Denounce Crime and Criminals" Trial

Alican Uludağ’s article “Police knew about the preparations of the massacre in Ankara train station, 8 days before the attack” was published in Cumhuriyet Daily on November 22, 2019. Following the article, Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation against Uludağ and editor in charge of the paper Olcay Büyüktaş Akça.

The article had claimed that the ISIS members had attempted to purchase “nitrate 33” fertiliser from a fertiliser shop in Gaziantep’s Nizip providence, 11 days before the bomb attack in Ankara on October 10, 2015, where 103 people were killed. According to the article, owner of the fertiliser shop had reported the incident to the police. The article claimed that even though the police knew about the identities of the suspects, did not capture them and these suspects then had taken part in the train station massacre.

After the article was published, the shop owner appeared at Nizip Police Station’s Anti Terror Bureau Directorship, where he had reported the incident, and filed an official complaint as his name was used in the article.

Police station then informed the prosecutor’s office about the situation. Nizip Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, forwarded the case files to Istanbul with a decision of non-prosecution.

Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation against Alican Uludağ, who prepared the article and Olcay Büyüktaş Akça, editor in charge of the paper.

Uludağ, by the order of İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, gave a statement in Ankara. According to the indictment, Uludağ, in his statement, said that; “within the scope of the press freedom, capturing personal information regarding the incidents with public value was not a crime”. He also stated that after the news was published the shop owner had called him and that he informed the shop owner that his name and the address of his shop was taken out and was no longer available in the article in the web page.

The indictment against paper’s editor in charge Akça, along with Alican Uludağ, was completed on March 17, 2020.

The indictment claimed that Alican Uludağ’s article “Police knew about the preparations of the massacre in Ankara train station, 8 days before the attack”, published on November 22, 2019, revealed the address of the shop and the identity of the owner contravening the Anti-Terror law.

The indictment included the shop-owner statement that in September 2015 a stranger had walked into his shop in Nizip province and wanted to purchase 33 nitrate fertilisers but was unable to provide the necessary official documents in order to proceed with the transaction therefore he had not made the sell.

Indictment also included the shop-owner’s words where he said he reported the incident as he became suspicious of the person’s actions. The indictment stated that about 10 days after shop-owner’s report, on October 10th, 2015, two bombs went off in Ankara, killing a large number of people.

The indictment stated that Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office had launched the investigation after Alican Uludağ’s article “Police knew about the preparations of the massacre in Ankara train station, 8 days before the attack” was published in Cumhuriyet Daily on November 22, 2019, revealing the identity of the shop-owner.

The indictment also included the following words from the subject matter article; “According to the files, discovered by Cumhuriyet, a person called Nizip Police Station on September 30th, 2015 at 17:45 and said ‘I own the xxxxx xxxxx xxxx shop in front of the xxxxx xxxx. Is there any intelligence regarding terrorist acts in Nizip? A suspicious-looking person asked for fertiliser. I said ‘I have to sell 33 nitrate fertiliser with a certificate of custodianship. After I said that two people left without buying anything”.

The indictment also reminded that according to the Press Law, cases that involve crimes committed through written pieces or the criminal cases foreseen by this law must be opened within 4 months time of the daily publications’ date.

Regarding the content of the subject matter article, it was claimed that the article had revealed the name and the address of the complainant’s work place and violated the article 14 of the Anti-Terror Law by crossing the limits of informing the public.

In the indictment, Uludağ who prepared the article was accused of “revealing or publishing the identity of those providing information about crimes or criminals” according to the article 6/3 of the Anti-Terror Law.

Uludağ was also requested to be “bereaved of specific rights” according to the article 53 Turkish Penal Code.

The indictment said that “It is understood that responsible editor Olcay Büyüktaş Akça, suspect who did not take part in committing the crime, is, according to the law, criminally responsible, and the advance payment proposal was not complied within the legal deadline since March 4th, 2020, when she was notified about the offer, and in this case she had committed the crime”.

The trial started with the first hearing held in Istanbul 32nd High Criminal Court on October 22nd, 2020.

Uludağ stated that the news report in question served the public interest: “The documents in the court file and reports by the Ministry of Interior’s inspectors have already confirmed the negligence of public officials in this incident. However, to date, no public official reported to act negligently prior to the massacre was brought to justice. Nonetheless, I stand trial for the news report I penned.”

“I think that main reason for this lawsuit is not that I mention the fertilizer dealer who reported the incident, but rather the negligence of public officials,” he said and stated that it was up to the judges’ to reach a fair verdict.

Uludağ stated that “the report did not disclose anyone’s identity”, requesting that “the court accept that there is no evidence of crime” and “that the news report falls within the freedoms of press and expression.”

Olcay Büyüktaş Akça stated, “The news story was important to us. The news story serves the public interest. The only evidence against us is the news story published in the newspaper. There is no evidence to prove that we may be guilty. The news falls within the limits of the constitutional rights of the press”.

The court ruled to send a writ to Nizip Police Department in Gaziantep to demand the denouncement which formed the basis of the lawsuit against the journalists. Furthermore, the court ruled to send a writ to Ankara 4. High Criminal Court to demand the indictment in the case file concerning the terror attack before the Ankara train station.

The trial will continue with the second hearing on January 12th, 2021.

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