Daily Cumhuriyet’s reporter Seyhan Avşar penned a news article on March 6, 2019, reporting that Istanbul Public Prosecutor, who had prepared the first indictment against Sözcü newspaper’s employees, had stood trial himself in the past.
According to his article, prosecutor had been denounced by the suspects of an earlier investigation of his. A lawsuit was filed against prosecutor for this reason, and he had been sentenced to prison. The court had then alleviated the sentence, ordering that prosecutor be removed from public office for “2 months and 15 days” for professional misconduct. According to the news article, prosecutor’s sentence was upheld by the Court of Cassation. The report asked how prosecutor could continue to serve as prosecutor despite this sentence.
Necdet Önemli, the manager of Sözcü newspaper’s web site, published this article concerning the prosecutor in the case against his newspaper. The news article made references to daily Cumhuriyet and Seyhan Avşar, but no other aspects were mentioned.
An investigation was launched against Avşar and Önemli on charges of targeting the prosecutor.
Prosecutor was mentioned as “injured party” in the indictment against Avşar and Önemli.
The indictment indicated that prosecutor had filed a lawsuit against the employees of the Sözcü newspaper, for alleged “membership in a terrorist organization.” For this reason, Avşar and Önemli were charged of “targeting a public official -namely, prosecutor- who takes part in the fight against terrorism” (Anti-Terror Law, Article 6/1).
Prison sentences of 1 to 3 years are requested for Avşar and Önemli.
The first hearing of the trial was held. In this hearing, Avşar presented her defence argument. Highlights of her defence were as follows:
“The political power does not want journalists to write the truth. It does this, sometimes by holding jurisdiction over journalists as a bat, sometimes by using the shareholders who have a beneficial relationship with them, the media bosses. They do not the truth to be known, heard or written. Because they know that one day they will be tried in these chambers as well as the competent people of their time were tried. And us, journalist who want to justly fulfil their duties will write about their trials.
As to the base of the case, for almost a tear I have been working at Cumhuriyet Daily as a judicial reporter. In this courthouse where I show up early every morning and run through the halls, I follow sometimes a few hearings. I watch the verdicts of the jurisdiction, unlawfulness within the jurisdiction and the cases the public follow with great interest. I make news about female homicides, child abuses and press-related cases against my colleagues. In a way I try to be the voice of the bedevilled, wronged but not heard citizens..
This indictment with what I am being tried, tries to say to us journalists that you can be sued and tried for the news you make but you can not make news about a prosecutor who has been proven guilty by a court decision. Yet, everywhere in the world a decision against a prosecutor who was accused of such things, and sentenced is newsworthy and requires to be made news. Besides, after the decision reached me, I went ahead and reached out to the wronged parties of the incident and interviewed them too. I do not even need the necessity to state that this news was not made in order to target anyone.
The indictment claims that I made prosecutor a target of the terrorist organisation. Even before my article he was a prosecutor well-known by the press and had news made about him very often. My article was not the first time his name was heard. Moreover in the recent days Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor Yüksel Kocaman made a statement. Kocaman, in his statement pointed out that there have been major developments on fight against FETÖ/PDY and added “no one can say this organisation is wiped out for sure; however we can say that they have no operational power left”. I am being tried for making prosecutor a target of an organisation that has no organisational power left. If your board thinks alike I do not want the announcement of my sentence to be deferred.
The hearing was left to May 21st 2020, 14:00 in order to take Önemli’s defence statement. The hearing of the case could not be held on May 21st 2020, as planned. The trial, postponed to October 7, 2020 due to Coronavirus pandemic measures.
The third hearing took place on October 7th, 2020. Journalist Seyhan Avşar attended the hearing with her lawyers Buket Yazıcı and Nesrullah Oğuz. Journalist Necdet Önemli attended with his lawyer İsmet Yılmaz. The panel of judges had changed. Journalist Necdet Önemli presented his first defense speech at this hearing. He did not ask for additional time to draft his defense, and delivered his defense via the Audio and Video Information System (SEGBİS).
The court ruled to send the case file to the prosecutor’s office for drafting the judicial opinion as to the accusations.
The fourth hearing will take place on March 11th, 2021.
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