Foreign news editor of Artı TV Channel İnan Ketenciler shared the footage of the argument between a citizen and some neighbourhood wardens and the citizen being taken into custody on his personal Twitter account on June 23, 2019.
The event occurred the day of the Mayoral Elections in Istanbul. Supreme Electoral Council had annulled the results of Istanbul Mayoral Elections of the nationwide local elections held on March 31, 2019 and ruled for the repetition of the election. Istanbul election was redone on June 23, 2019.
Ketenciler, on his social media account shared the following:
“Warden terror in the middle of Istanbul. A worker of Rock’n Rolla Beyoğlu was taken into custody few minutes ago for calling the neighbourhood wardens, “wardens of AKP”.
The allegations are made up, moreover the wardens insulted hime by saying things such as ‘stop beating around the bush to save yourself’.
A client sits at a table, asks for a beer, the waiter says ‘wardens of justice are passing by, I can’t’. Wardens come over and take him into custody like this and said ‘you called us wardens of AKP’.”
Neighbourhood wardens in Turkey work under the Ministry of Internal Affairs as Police Officers as an additional help to the security forces. Wardens have the right to bear arms “in haste and necessary situations where general security forces are not available to respond immediately”. Powers of neighbourhood wardens, who have been around since the 1966-Law, were broadened by the law passed in February 2020.
Wardens who were in the footage filed an official complaint against journalist İnan Ketenciler who recorded the events and shared it on his social media account.
Due to the complaint, Cyber Crimes Investigation Bureau of Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation. Restaurant personnel who was taken into custody in the footage too, was included in the indictment against Ketenciler.
Ketenciler, within the scope of the investigation, was accused of “Illegally Obtaining or Disseminating Personal Data”.
A decision of non prosecution was given regarding the restaurant personnel from the footage shared by Ketenciler. However the indictment against Ketenciler was completed on March 5, 2020. Wardens were the “complainants” of the indictment.
The indictment accused Ketenciler of “Illegally Obtaining or Disseminating Personal Data” according to the article 136/1 of the Turkish Penal Code. He was requested to be sentenced to, from two years to four years. Ketenciler was also requested to be “bereaved of specific rights” according to the article 53 of the Turkish Penal Code.
The trial started on September 24th, 2020 with the first hearing at Istanbul 55. Criminal Court of First Instance. The sued journalist İnan Ketenciler attended the hearing along with his lawyers Erselan Aktan and Zelal Pelin Doğan. One of the three neighborhood watchmen who had filed the complaint about Ketenciler was also present.
Ketenciler stated that the waiter was attacked by the watchmen, and he had reacted against that. He also indicated that the watchmen did not have the authority to do body search. He emphasized that being a journalist, he recorded this unfair treatment with his mobile phone, shared it via his social media account, but then deleted the post upon the request of the venue owner. Ketenciler stated that he would accept a deferment of the announcement of the verdict in case he was sentenced to prison.
Ketenciler’s lawyer Zelal Pelin Doğan demanded the acquittal of her client, saying that he was not guilty and simply fulfilled his duty to the public as a journalist. The lawyers stated that an expert report had been drafted regarding the watchmen’s detention of the waiter as recorded by Ketenciler, and that the report indicated that their conduct was unlawful.
The watchman who filed the complaint against Ketenciler stated that he had suffered not material but moral damage, and that his complaint was still valid.
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.
The hearing prosecutor thus participating in the trial claimed that the charge against Ketenciler should be changed. He claimed that Ketenciler should be charged with “recording or transmitting audio and video during investigation and prosecution procedures without authorization”, rather than “illegally obtaining or revealing private data”.
Thus, although the prosecutor had requested two to four years in prison in the indictment, he now requested six months in prison for Ketenciler.
The hearing prosecutor also stated that Ketenciler should be given extra time to draft his plea in case the charge was changed as such.
The court accepted the watchman’s request to participate in the trial.
The court ruled that Ketenciler should be charged not with “illegally obtaining or revealing private data”, but rather “recording or transmitting audio and video during investigation and prosecution procedures without authorization “, which is considered a “prepayable” offense. The court ruled thus that the offense necessitates a prison sentence of imprisonment up to six months, and has no lower limit. Accordingly the court ruled that the case could be dismissed if Ketenciler paid an administrative fine of 600 TL, corresponding to 1 month of imprisonment, as well as the judiciary expenses, within 10 days.
If the said prepayment is not effectuated, the trial will resume on October 8th, 2020.
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