Etkin News Agency (ETHA) reporter Ali Sönmez Kayar was taken into custody by police officers on February 1, 2018 as he left the agency. He was taken to İstanbul Vatan Police Station and his lawyers were not informed of the reason for his detention. Under the scope of the same investigation, nine members of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) were taken into custody.
After six days in custody, he was referred to Bakırköy Courthouse on February 6, 2018. In the interrogation, he was questioned about protests and activities organized by ESP between 2013 and 2015, and statements against Kayar by three “secret witnesses”.
After the prosecutor’s interrogation, he was referred to court on charges of “membership of a armed terrorist organization.” Bakırköy Third Criminal Court of Peace ordered his arrest on charges of “membership of a armed terrorist organization.” Six other people aside from Kayar were arrested. He was sent to Silivri No. 2 F-Type Closed Prison.
İstanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office drafted the indictment against Kayar. The 242-page indictment was completed on March 1, 2018. It was accepted by Istanbul 32. High Criminal Court on April 11, 2018. The indictment requested that Kayar be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison, on charges of “membership of a armed terrorist organization.”
The first hearing of the case was held on July 13, 2018. At the hearing, Kayar presented his defense and said, “The protests and activities that I follow for journalism purposes are presented as ground for accusation. I do not accept the accusation. I have committed no crime.”
At the first hearing, the court ruled the continuation of Kayar’s detention. Kayar was released on October 31, 2018 on condition of “judicial control.”
The next hearing will be held on October 13, 2019.
The sixth hearing took place on February 13rd, 2020. The secret witness code-named “Zafer Atılım” was heard via the Audio and Video Information System (SEGBİS). The witness’s appearance and sound were manipulated to conceal his identity. However, due to a malfunction in SEGBİS, the witness could not be heard clearly. The president of the court decided not to hear the witness.
However, lawyer Gülhan Kaya stated that the witness’s statements concerned Ali Sönmez Kayar and therefore she would present her defense statement only after hearing the said witness. The court then ruled to hear the secret witness on another date.
The seventh hearing was scheduled for June 9th, 2020. However, the hearing was postponed due to the measures against the “coronavirus” pandemic.
The eighth hearing took place on November 5th, 2020.
In the previous hearing, the court had decided to hear Zafer Atılım, an anonymous witness, as regards Kayar. However, the anonymous witness did not attend the hearing. The court decided to send another writ to hear the anonymous witness at the next hearing.
Another witness indicated that many years had passed since the incidents in question and that he did not remember well. “Over 8 years have passed. I have nothing to add. I heard Ali Sönmez Kayar’s name. I know his name in the context of the Gazi neighborhood and ESP’s activities”, he said.
Kaya stated that he did not know Ali Sönmez Kayar in person, and said that he identified him from the footage shown to him at the police station when he was detained under the scope of the investigation. “I did not know him by name. I did not know the names of these individuals until I had given my statement. I was shown footage and that’s how I identified him,” said Kaya and added, “I had seen Ali Sönmez Kayar in protests, demos and rallies. His face was not covered.”
The court ruled to extend all the probation measures against Kayar and the other defendants.
The trial will continue with the ninth hearing scheduled for February 16th, 2021.
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