A reporter with the now shuttered Dihaber, Selman Keleş, and journalist Arif Aslan were taken into custody by the police on March 20th, 2017, as they were taking photos of the concrete barriers placed in front of the Van Metropolitan Municipality building, whose administration the Ministry of Interior had seized by appointing a “special administrator.”
Municipal police officers imposed on them administrative fines. Aslan and Keleş were later detained and taken to the Van Police Department. Their cameras were also confiscated at the time of detention.
Photographs on the memory cards belonging to Selman Keleş and Arif Aslan were later presented as evidence for the charges brought against them.
It was claimed that the photographs found on Aslan’s memory card featured “PKK leaders and members wanted for being perpetrators of numerous attacks in the province”. It was alleged that some people in the photographs were “wanted by the Ministry of Interior”. On the other hand, it was also indicated that the two individuals in the photographs were Aslan’s brothers.
Other images on the memory card were also considered as criminal evidence: helicopters landing and taking off in the military zone, parked military vehicles, body and engine parts of an armored vehicle of the security forces, footage taken after the bomb attack on the Dilucu Customs Gate and Karabulak Gendarmerie Station, the moment of explosion of a suspected bag at the Gürbulak Customs Gate, and photos taken during a meeting by the Democratic Regions Party (DBP).
In the indictment, based on the photographs and news they sent to Fırat News Agency (ANF), the prosecutor claimed that Keleş and Aslan “carried out reconnaissance activities to assist PKK attacks.” It was claimed that they were in close contact with the organization’s armed militants in the countryside, and that Keleş and Aslan had to “carry out these activities within a certain hierarchy”.
In the indictment, Keleş and Aslan were charged with “membership of an armed terrorist organization”, as per Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code and Article 5 of the Anti-Terror Law. They now face a prison sentence from seven years, six months to 15 years.
The journalists’ trial started with the first hearing at Van 5th High Criminal Court on November 21st, 2017. The journalists were brought to the hearing from their prisons. Keleş and Aslan were released pending trial at the first hearing, even though the prosecutor requested that they remain in prison. However, the prosecutor’s office filed an objection to Keleş’s release. Upon this objection, an arrest warrant was issued for Keleş, who was detained on December 12th, 2017 in Diyarbakır. On December 13th, 2017, he was released for a second time, after presenting his defense.
The second hearing of the trial was held on February 22nd, 2018. The files of other lawsuits against Keleş were combined with this file.
The third hearing of the trial was held on June 5th, 2018. Another arrest warrant was issued for Keleş to receive his defense on the merged files and then to release him again.
The fifth hearing of the trial was held on March 21st, 2019. Lawyer Cihat Durmaz requested that the file of Selman Keleş, who was abroad, be separated from the current file. However, the court ruled to await the execution of the arrest warrant against
Selman Keleş. The court lifted Arif Aslan’s judicial control requirement of giving his signature at the police station.
The sixth hearing of the trial was held on September 5th, 2019. The panel of judges adjourned the hearing on the grounds that the defense of Selman Keleş, residing in Switzerland, was not received.
The seventh hearing of the trial took place on January 16th, 2020. The court again ruled to await the execution of the arrest warrant against Keleş.
The trial was supposed to continue with the eighth hearing on May 7th, 2020; however, the hearing was postponed due to measures against the “coronavirus” pandemic.
Ninth hearing of the case was held on September 3, 2020. Arif Aslan was present alongside his attorney Cihat Durmaz. However the court did not allow anyone except the journalists on trial and their attorneys within the scope of the measures taken against coronavirus pandemic. It was seen that the court board was changed.
At the hearing Arif Aslan stated that the ban on leaving the country issued against him was preventing him from takin part in trainings abroad. Requested the ban to be lifted.
Aslan said “All the evidences regarding me are collected. As things stand, we are waiting the other suspect to be captured. This situation causes an unjust treatment against me. I request the decision against me to be given as soon as possible.”
Prosecutor requested Arif Aslan’s files to be separated from the case. Prosecutor also requested Aslan’s request to lift the ban on leaving the country to be denied.
Court ruled to attend the execution of the capture warrant against Selman Keleş, who was abroad.
Court, as per requested by the prosecutor, ruled to separate the files of Arif Aslan from the case. According to the decision, Arif Aslan’s files were separated to be seen at this court and a new file was opened against Aslan. Trial of Selman Keleş was ruled to continue through this file on November 24, 2020.
The 10th hearing of the trial against Selman Keleş took place on November 24th, 2020. Two members of the panel of judges had changed. Journalist Selman Keleş and his lawyers did not attend. The court ruled to await the execution of the arrest warrant against journalist Selman Keleş.
The trial will continue with the 11th hearing scheduled for February 9th, 2021.
Press in Arrest is a database, monitoring, documentation and collective memory study of Press Research Association.
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