The publisher and correspondent of the Silvan Mücadele newspaper, Ferhat Parlak was taken into custody after a police raid to his home in Diyarbakır’s Silvan district on April 11, 2018. After three days in custody, he was referred to the prosecutor’s office.
Following the procedures at the prosecutor’s office, three individuals in custody were sent to the criminal court of peace with a request of judicial control, and Parlak with a request of arrest.
The court ruled in line with the requests of the prosecutor’s office, and ordered the arrest of Parlak and Aşıcı on charges of “membership of a terrorist organization” and released the other three individuals on condition of judicial control.
Parlak, placed in Diyarbakır D-Type Closed Prison, stated that he was arrested for his journalistic activities: “Journalism is being criminalized in our region. I do not accept the accusations. I am in high spirits despite everything.” The indictment against Parlak was subsequently completed and the first hearing was scheduled for July 8, 2019. Parlak appeared before the judge 450 days after his detention, and the indictment against him was based on the charges in another case, of which Parlak had been acquitted previously. The indictment cited among the evidence CDs, DVDs, flash memory, hard disk, mobile phone, books, magazines and some newspapers, which had been seized by the Silvan Public Prosecutor’s Office within the scope of a separate investigation, but then returned to Parlak, after the court reached a decision of non-prosecution.
Another item presented as evidence against Parlak is an interview he conducted with Murat Karayılan during a press tour to Kandil mountain during the so-called “peace process”, together with other journalists including a reporter of the Anadolu Agency. The indictment also includes the Contents page of Parlak’s book “Şehitler Şehri Silvan” (Silvan: The City of Martyrs), which discusses the unsolved murders of the 1990s, and the biographies of those murdered. In his statement, Parlak indicated that “No investigation was launched against the book and it was not banned. It is a legally published book, available in the library of the Turkish Grand National Assembly as well. They are trying to prosecute not the perpetrators of the unsolved murders, but those who write about them.”
It is claimed in a testimony by a secret witness that Parlak threw a petrol bomb at an armored police car. Parlak asks this claim to be investigated, through an examination of the footage in the said vehicle’s camera, footage from MOBESE security cameras in the vicinity, and any fingerprints taken after the said assault.
The indictment mentions various names, who were allegedly recruited to the terrorist organization by Ferhat Parlak. However, in his testimony, Parlak describes where these people live and their professions. These individuals actually exist but they have no ties to the said organization. Parlak requests that these people, whom he is unacquainted with, come and testify at the court.
The indictment claims that Parlak shot footage for the terrorist organization and shared these in his newspaper and social media accounts for propaganda purposes. Parlak, however, claims that he is simply a journalist. He proves that numerous other journalists were active during the armed clashes in Silvan and that mainstream newspapers published images similar to his as well. The prosecutor requested that Parlak stand trial on charges of “membership of an armed organization” pursuant to Law no. 5237 Article 314/2, Law no. 3713 Article 5, Law no. 5237 Articles 53, 58/9, 63. The trial took place at Diyarbakır 11. High Criminal Court and Parlak was released at the first hearing on July 8, 2019. The trial was adjourned until November 6, 2019.
The hearing where the witnesses were given a chance to make their statements, was adjourned with the decision of continuation of the judicial control.
The 4th hearing of the case could not be held 6 May 2020, as planned. The trial, postponed to 21 September 2020 due to Coronavirus pandemic measures.
The fifth hearing of the trial took place on September 21st, 2020. Parlak attended the hearing. The court decided not to hear three witnesses, two of whom were secret witnesses.
At this hearing, the prosecutor presented his judicial opinion as to the accusations, charging Parlak with “membership of an armed terrorist organization” pursuant to Article 314/2 of Turkish Penal Code, and Article 5 of Anti-Terror Law. The prosecutor requested a sentence of seven years, six months to 15 years, as was the case in the indictment.
Parlak demanded extra time to draft his plea against the judicial opinion. The court accepted Parlak’s request for extra time to draft his defense against the judicial opinion.
The sixth hearing of the trial took place on December 7th, 2020. The panel of judges had not changed. Parlak attended the hearing with his lawyer Mehdi Özdemir. The hearing prosecutor reiterated his judicial opinion as to the accusations.
Parlak submitted a 233-page defense statement against this judicial opinion. He stated that he had been a journalist for 16 years, and was tried and acquitted in eight different courts for a book he penned. He added that the secret witness statements presented as evidence for the charges against him were too abstract. He remarked that he was already acquitted from the same charge by Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court. He indicated that this trial was a repetition of the previous one, and requested his acquittal.
His lawyer, Mehdi Özdemir, stated that there was no concrete evidence against Parlak in the file. He said that secret witness statements alone were not sufficient. He demanded the acquittal of Parlak, who in his opinion only acted as a journalist.
The panel of judges stated that Parlak was tried and acquitted for the same charge by Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court, and that the acquittal verdict was upheld on October 16th, 2017. The court found that the date of the alleged crime in that trial was the same with this trial, and that the evidence coincided as well.
For these reasons, the panel of judges ruled to dismiss the case against Parlak.
Due to this trial, Parlak had been arrested in April 2018 and spent nearly a year in prison before an indictment was drafted by the prosecutor. After the indictment was completed in April 2019, he was released in the first hearing of the trial, following about 15 months of detention. In his judicial opinion as to the accusations, the prosecutor requested that Parlak be imprisoned, from seven years, six months to 15 years.
The panel of judges unanimously ruled to dismiss the case.
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