Ahmet Sever - “Publicy Insulting the President” Trial

The book Ahmet Sever wrote about his impressions of the term he served as key press consultant of former President Abdullah Gül, “İçimde Kalmasın/Tanıklığımdır”, was published in 2018.

After the book was published, President Tayyip Erdoğan, made an official complaint to the prosecutor’s office, against the book. The 4-page-complaint, Erdoğan’s attorney Ahmet Özel made to Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on October 31, 2018, included 22 quotations from the book. Complaint claimed that “President was insulted”.

The complaint claimed that the book had accused President Erdoğan of “Judicial Intervention”, “arbitrary and wasteful spending of opportunities and funds of the state”, “bringing down the state”, “ending the legal system”.

It was defended that “the content of the book was statements made with the purpose of gossip without providing any solid evidence”. It was claimed that “Erdoğan’s personal rights, pride and dignity were attacked”. It was also claimed that the sentence “this book will not end here” written in the epilogue of the book “clearly showed that the intentional attacks were to follow”.

Complaint claimed that Sever “had crossed the limits of freedom of expression and press”. Sever was claimed to have “acted in a way to insult, belittle in the eyes of the public, accuse President Erdoğan through press”.

The indictment against journalist Ahmet Sever was prepared by Press Related Crimes Bureau of Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on February 4, 2019 due to the complaint of President Tayyip Erdoğan.

“We are facing a government, a one-man in fact, that seems books more dangerous than bombs”

“Erdoğan does not have a new discourse about future any more”

“He is mealy-mouthed, he keeps contradicting himself”

“Everything is sacrificed for a man’s hunger for power and authority. Credits and funds, collected with great sacrifice during the early stages, were spent loutishly by the one-man”

“A system was formed in order to keep Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in power. This system, formed to intimidate, frighten, discourage and silence everyone is full of spy gendarme”

“Is it not possible that after starting the road together, Erdoğan left the cause behind and shifted his ground? Does Erdoğan never betray? Why is it that no one in that neighbourhood thinks that those who started the road with Erdoğan, may, in time, be forced to step aside, sold off or in other words betrayed?”

Sever, in the indictment, was accused of “publicly insulting the President” according to the article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code. He was requested to be sentenced to, from one year two months to four years eight months of imprisonment. Sever was also requested to be “bereaved of specific rights” according to the article 53 Turkish Penal Code.

The indictment was approved by Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.

Journalist Ahmet Sever’s trial started with the first hearing at Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on April 4, 2019. It was stated that the official mandate to send Sever’s house abroad was being translated. It was ruled that an official request was to be sent to the Ministry of Justice in order to take Sever’s defence statement abroad.

Second hearing was held on October 10, 2019. Ahmet Sever was represented by his attorney Oya Aydın Göktaş at the hearing whereas Presedent Tayyip Erdoğan was represented by his attorney Ela Ezgi Yelmen. Attorney Yelmen stated that their complaint regarding the book was standing and requested Sever to be punished. Attorney Oya Aydın Göktaş requested to wait the results of the official dispatch to take Sever’s statement abroad. Judge granted the request.

Third hearing of the case was held on February 13, 2020. Hearing was adjourned with the same reason.

Fourth hearing of the case was to be held on May 14, 2020. However, the hearing was adjourned due to the measures taken against the “coronavirus” pandemics in Turkey. Next hearing is set to September 15, 2020.

The sixth hearing of the trial took place on September 15th, 2020. Sever did not attend the hearing. Sever was represented at the hearing by his lawyer Oya Aydın Göktaş.

With the onset of the Court Year 2020-2021, a previously lifted practice has been reintroduced. Accordingly, prosecutors can once again participate in hearings at the criminal courts of first instance. Their presence in these hearings had been ended in 2011. So a prosecutor attended Sever’s hearing as well.

Lawyer Oya Aydın Göktaş cited a statement by Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu on an article by the academic Prof. Baskın Oran. Göktaş said, “The prosecutor had reached a decision of non-prosecution in the investigation concerning Soylu’s depiction of Oran with words such as ‘rascal, slave, nasty, deceitful’. In the lawsuit for damages we filed at the criminal court of first instance, the court rejected the case stating that these words fell under the scope of the freedom of expression.” Göktaş added that, compared to the minister’s words, the expressions used by Sever were very mild. Göktaş said, “It is unacceptable for him to stand trial for a journalistic book where he shared his observations in an official duty.”

The court accepted President Tayyip Erdoğan’s request to participate in the trial. The court decided to wait for Sever’s statement to be taken in the country where he resides. The trial will continue with the sixth hearing to be held on December 3rd, 2020.

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