Aziz Oruç - “Membership of an Armed Terrorist Organization” and “Propaganda of Terrorist Organization” Trial

Journalist Aziz Oruç had left the country in 2017 because of the lawsuits against him. Ours, who lives works as a journalist in Northern Iraq, was takin into custody in Doğubayazıt province of Ağrı by the police. 2 more people were taken into custody along him. Those who were taken into custody along him were accused of “helping Oruç”.

Oruç and those who were taken into custody with him were taken to Doğubayazıt Police Precinct. Oruç remained silent in custody. The custody process took a week. On December 18, 2019, he was taken to the court. There too, he executed his right to remain silent. He was accused of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”. He was taken to Ağrı Patnos Prison. The 2 people who were taken into custody with Oruç, too were arrested.

He was prisoned, as he was waiting for the indictment against him to be completed, for almost six months. The indictment was completed on August 8, 2020.

The indictment lined the allegations against Oruç regarding him being left at the Turkish side of the border from the Iranian side and him being brought to Doğubayazıt Province of Ağrı from the border with a car.

Ağrı Doğubayazıt Police claimed that they were informed that Oruç “was in Doğubayazıt” and “he was captured during the search performed by the Anti-Terror Bureau on the highway”. Meanwhile it was claimed that Oruç had stated that “he was working at Roj News Agency”.

The indictment claimed that “Roj News” webpage “was guided by PKK/KCK-YPG/PYD armed terrorist organisation“.

It was claimed that Oruç “had stated that he was not acting within the terrorist organisation however, his claim that he was working at Roj News agency, which is restricted in Turkey, was confirmed”.

The indictment claimed that “Information claiming that Oruç was working within PKK/KCK-PYD/YPG armed terrorist organisation in Iraq”. However, the indictment did not include any details regarding this information.

It was stated that an investigation was made on Oruç’s social media accounts. Seven posts he made on his Twitter account were shown as the base of the accusations.

The indictment claimed that Oruç “had attempted to illegally arrive to European countries, first, through Iran-Armenia route, then, after failing, he had entered Doğubayazıt Province by illegally crossing the Turkey-Iran border”. It was claimed that “he was assisted by the other suspects of the indictment”.

It was noteworthy that the indictment stated that Oruç had “entered Turkey legally”. However the indictment claimed that “as to being a member of the terrorist organisation, it was defining, that he had not informed the security forces after crossing the border”.

The indictment accused Oruç of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” according to the article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code and article 5 of the Anti-Terror Law. Whitin that scope, he was requested to be sentenced to, from seven years six months to 15 years of imprisonment.

Oruç was also accused of “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation”, according to the article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law. Within that scope, he was requested to be sentenced to, from one year five months to five years of imprisonment. However the indictment claimed that “the crime of making propaganda for a terrorist organisation was committed in a successive manner”. Thus the requested sentence was requested to be increased by, from a quarter to three quarters according to the article 43 of the Turkish Penal Code .The indictment also claimed that the crime of “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation in a successive manner” was committed “through media”. Therefore the already-requested-to-be-increased-by-half sentence was requested to be increased by a half, according to the 2nd subsection of the article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law. Within that scope, he was requested to be sentenced to, from one year 10 months 15 days to 13 years one month 15 days of imprisonment for “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation through media in a successive manner”.

Therefore, in total, Oruç was requested to be sentenced to, from nine years four months 15 days to 28 years one month 15 days of imprisonment.

Oruç’s trial started with the first hearing at Ağrı 2nd Assize Court on July 21, 2020.

Oruç took part in the hearing through Audio and Video Information System (SEGBİS) from Patnos Prison where he was being kept. Oruç was represented in the courtroom by attorneys Barış Oflas, Zelal Pelin Doğan and Erhan Çifteler.

Within the scope of the measures taken against coronavirus pandemic, nobody except suspects and their attorneys, was allowed in the courtroom.

Prosecutor requested Aziz Oruç’s detention to continue. Prosecutor based his request on the allegation “that more than one capture warrants were issued against him before he was captured and the question of illegally crossing the border”.

Court ruled for Oruç’s detention to continue. 2 suspects who were being tried within the scope of the case, were released to pend trial with a judicial control condition.

The second hearing of the trial took place on September 21st, 2020. It was observed that the panel of judges and the hearing prosecutor had changed completely. The journalist on trial, Aziz Oruç attended the hearing from Ağrı Patnos Prison via the Audio and Video Information System (SEGBİS).

The judge did not allow journalists and observers to the courtroom on the pretext of the coronavirus epidemic. As such, the hearing was closed to the public

Oruç stated that he had been detained for 10 months and said, “My detention has turned into a sentence.” Expressing that he is married and has two children, Oruç added that he had difficulty seeing his family. He said that the inmates are at great risk due to the coronavirus pandemic, even if certain measures are taken. Expressing that he is only a journalist and that he does not have ties with any criminal organization, Oruç demanded to be released, under the heaviest probation measures if need be.

Lawyer Erhan Çiftçiler stated that the charge leveled against Oruç is based on “two witness statements, social media posts and his illicit entry from Iran to Turkey”. Lawyer Çiftçiler indicated that Oruç had already been tried on the basis of the witness statements and sentenced and that he had already been tried for the social media posts and sentenced, and so added, “Apart from these, the only crime that may be attributed to Oruç is his illicit entry to the country”. Oruç’s other lawyer Erselan Aktan stated, “Aziz Oruç is no member of a criminal organization. Everyday thousands of people enter the country illegally, and this act does not necessarily constitute a crime”.

The hearing prosecutor demanded that Aziz Oruç’s detention continue. However, in his latter judicial opinion, as in the previous judicial opinion, the prosecutor did not mention the charge of “violating the border by illegal means”.

The court ruled to continue Aziz Oruç’s detention.

The third hearing of the trial took place on November 9th, 2020. The panel of judges had not changed. Observers were not allowed to the courtroom on the pretext of the coronavirus pandemic. The journalist on trial, Aziz Oruç attended the hearing via the Audio and Video Information System SEGBİS, from the Patnos L-Type Prison where he was held. In the courtroom, Oruç was represented by his lawyers Erselan Aktan and Erhan Çiftçiler.

Oruç said that he was arrested by Iranian authorities while passing from Armenia to Iran with a fake passport; he told Iranian authorities that he wanted to be delivered to Turkey; he paid the court 140 dollar in fines; and he was told in court that he would be delivered to Turkey. Oruç added that he was brought to the Gürbulak border gate, but was dropped at the border gate despite the court ruling and had thus had to cross the border illegally, Aziz Oruç indicated, “There were cuts on my hands and feet. I was in panic. I was afraid of what could happen to me if I were caught. Due to psychological reasons and the cuts and blood stains, I got out of the car so as not to pass through the police checkpoint twice and walked through the checkpoint.” He requested to be released.

The hearing prosecutor requested that Oruç remain in prison.

The court ruled to release Oruç as his defense statement was now received. Oruç was banned from going abroad. Oruç was put on probation, requiring him to give his signature at the nearest police station once every two weeks, on Sundays. The court warned Oruç that he would be arrested in case he did not conform to the probation measures.

The court adjourned the trial until the fourth hearing on April 16th, 2021.

Documents

Indictment

Journalists
Aziz Oruç

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