On November 28, 2013, Taraf newspaper penned an article titled “Gülen’i Bitirme Kararı 2004 MGK’da Alındı” (“The Decision to Finish Gülen Taken at the National Security Council (MGK) in 2004”), which cited a document about the MGK meeting dated August 25, 2004. After the news story was published, the Prime Minister’s Office, National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and MGK filed a criminal complaint against Taraf newspaper in December 2013. After Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office reached a decision of lack of jurisdiction, the criminal complaints were forwarded to Istanbul. Subsequently, an investigation was launched against Mehmet Baransu, a reporter at Taraf Newspaper, and Murat Şevki Çoban, the then-managing editor of the newspaper.
Following the publication of the news story, the then-government spokesman and minister in charge of media relations, Bülent Arınç said, “This is not journalism but disrespect.” The then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated, “Should we go on and make such revelations, too? The world would tremble. The state has hidden secrets, which must not be disclosed to anyone. This has nothing to do with the freedom of press.”
The trial is underway at the Istanbul Anadolu 10th High Criminal Court.
At the first hearing on June 3, 2015, Mehmet Baransu was in Silivri Prison for another offense. He couldn’t attend the hearing due to an illness.
His lawyer Sercan Sakallı said, “In the current trial, my client has published this news story in order to protect public interest, and this is in conformity with the constitution.”
The lawyer requested that a letter be sent to National Security Council (MGK) to learn whether there was an administrative or judicial investigation on this issue, and another letter be sent to the Turkish Parliament for the related parliamentary questions to be answered. The court accepted both requests.
At the second hearing on September 9, 2015, Baransu’s lawyer Serkan Sakallı and the lawyer of both defendants, Veysel Ok, demanded that the case be dropped since the statute of limitations stipulated in the Press Law had expired.
The lawyer for the complainant National Security Council stated, “The case has nothing to do with press or freedom of press. The indictment refers to articles in the Turkish Penal Code. We see malicious intent here. The secret documents of the state were disclosed via the press with malicious intent.”
The lawyer for the other complainant, National Intelligence Organization, also requested the rejection of defense lawyers’ demands. Prosecutor Kenan Pehlivan likewise requested the rejection of the demands in question. The panel of judges obliged.
Mehmet Baransu stated that he would make a defense on the procedures, and also requested time to draft a defense against the accusations.
The panel of judges accepted the requests of the National Security Council - Secretariat General and the Undersecretariat of National Intelligence Organization to participate in this public case.
At the third hearing on November 17, 2015, the lawyers requested again that the case be dropped as per the Press Law. Baransu stated that he agreed with his lawyers. The panel of judges again rejected the request.
Baransu indicated that for this hearing he was taken from prison at 11:00, he had not eaten anything, it was 18:00 and he could barely stand, and that he would not present a defense.
At this hearing, the court ordered that Çoban be exempted from all the hearings, and that letters be sent to the National Intelligence Organization, Turkish Armed Forces and Ministry of Interior to learn whether any judicial or administrative investigation was launched as regards the document in question.
At the fourth hearing on March 10, 2016, Baransu stated that the lawsuit had not been filed within the four-month period stipulated by the Press Law.
At the fifth hearing on April 19, 2016, Baransu’s lawyer stated that the hearing had started 3.5 hours late, and requested the postponement of the hearing so that the defense would not be divided. The court accepted the request.
At the sixth hearing on May 2, 2016, Baransu started to present his defense. The defense was recorded with the court videoconferencing system SEGBIS. In his additional defense against a possible accusation pursuant to Turkish Penal Code Articles 334/1, 336/1 (“Obtaining and disclosing confidential information”), Baransu pleaded non-guilty and stated that he was simply doing his job.
At the seventh hearing on September 22, 2016, the prosecutor Halil İbrahim Beşer stated that even if additional time were given to them as regards the charge of “Obtaining and disclosing confidential information”, Mehmet Baransu and Murat Şevki Çoban had to be sentenced separately for the other charges in the indictment, such as “Obtaining documents relating to state security”, “Disclosing documents relating to state security”, “Disclosing documents relating to the duties of the MİT.” Prosecutor Beşer requested that Baransu and Çoban be imprisoned for a period of from 21 years, 9 months to 47 years, 6 months pursuant to Articles 326/1, 329/1, 43/1 of Turkish Penal Code and Article 27 of MİT Law. Baransu said he disagreed with the judicial opinion of the prosecutor.
The eighth hearing of the case was held on November 9, 2016. Baransu’s lawyer Ahmet Emre Bayrak indicated that his client had been taken from prison in the early hours of the morning, had not eaten anything, and was unable to present a defense. Baransu stated that he was not delivered all the documents in the file, and demanded extra time. The court accepted the request to give him extra time for the defense, because the hearing normally scheduled for 14:00 had started at 18:30.
At the ninth hearing on February 8, 2017, Baransu could not be brought to the hearing because he had been transferred to the Adana F-Type High Security Closed Prison.
Baransu was brought to the 10th hearing on April 19, 2017. At this hearing, Baransu requested that the NSC document, the “FETÖ Umbrella Indictment” published in Hürriyet newspaper, Report of the Parliamentary Commission for the Investigation of the Coup, the minutes of “Internet Memorandum”, and some newspapers be added to the file. His request was rejected.
At the 11th hearing on July 5, 2017, Baransu stated, “The court has rejected all the documents that I requested to be included in the case. I’m trying to gather the documents together. It takes much time due to the state of emergency and my imprisonment; I have difficulty in accessing documents.”
On October 25, 2017, the 12th hearing was held. Stating that he had been transferred to the hospital due to an illness, Baransu indicated that the treatment would last long: “I had prepared all my documents. Then they confiscated the documents I was going to present to you. They seized the books. If the court writes an official letter, I will be able to present my evidence.” The court ruled that the documents that Baransu claimed were seized by the prison administration be presented to the court.
Baransu could not attend the 13th hearing on January 9, 2018, due to another trial at the Istanbul 23th High Criminal Court.
At the 14th hearing on March 21, 2018, Baransu’s defense lawyer resigned. Baransu stated that he would hire another lawyer. Baransu was given time for his final defense.
Baransu and his new lawyer Yahya Engin attended the 15th hearing on June 27, 2018. Baransu requested some documents from the court. His lawyer demanded time, stating that he had been recently appointed to the case.
Baransu could not attend the 16th hearing held on October 17, 2018 due to another trial of his at a separate court. He could not attend the 17th hearing on December 12, 2018 and the 18th hearing on March 6, 2019 due to health issues.
He attended the 19th hearing on June 19, 2019 without a lawyer. He indicated that he had previously been tried and acquitted at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance and Ankara 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance for this file. He requested that the case be rejected and dropped since the statute of limitations had expired.
A new prosecutor was appointed to the case. The court ordered that the case be referred to the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for the opinion as to the accusations.
At the 20th hearing held on September 24, 2019, the prosecutor claimed in his judicial opinion that the crime was committed via the press and requested that the case be referred to the 2. High Criminal Court for lack of jurisdiction.
At the 20th hearing of the case on September 24, the court gave extra time to the lawyers to prepare a statement against the prosecutor’s opinion.
Murat Şevki Çoban did not attend the 21th hearing held on October 24, 2019. Çoban’s lawyer Figen Çalıkuşu, Mehmet Baransu and Baransu’s lawyer Yahya Engin presented a defense against the prosecutor’s opinion. The court decided to send the case to the prosecution for the drafting of the opinion as to the accusations.
Murat Şevki Hoban did not take part in the 21st hearing at October 24th, 2019. Hoban’s attorney Figen Çalıkuşu, Mehmet Baransu and Baransu’s attorney Yahya Engin presented their defences against the opinion as to the accusations. Board ruled to send the files to the prosecution to prepare the opinion as to the accusations. Next hearing of the case was held at December 4th, 2019. Court Board ruled that the case was to be sent to Anatolian 2nd Assize Court which was in charge of the press-related crimes.
Baransu, Çoban - MGK Haberi Davası (İddianame)
Jin News Agency reporter Beritan Canözer stood trial for testimonies given by witnesses with known identities. In the indictment dated December 5, 2018, drafted by the Diyarbakır Public Prosecutor’s Office, it was stated that an investigation was launched against Beritan Canözer as it was alleged by witnesses that she was a member of the armed terrorist organization PKK/KCK, was active within the organization, and acted upon the orders and instructions of senior leaders within its hierarchical structure.
Canözer was claimed to be a part of the said organization in statements given by Canan Ceylan, Rifayi İpek, Mehmet Salih Ateş, and Baran Aslan, who are separately standing trial for membership to the armed terrorist organization PKK/KCK.
The indictment drafted by Prosecutor Ayhan Ataman stated that Canözer in her statement indicated that she had no connection to the armed terrorist organization PKK/KCK, she was not a part of the organization, she did not know the witnesses against her, and she did not accept their testimonies. Canözer was charged with membership of an armed terrorist organization pursuant to Turkish Penal Code, Articles 314/2, 53, 58/9 and Anti-Terror Law, Article 5.
The first hearing of the case was held on March 20, 2019, at the Diyarbakır Ninth High Criminal Court. Witnesses Mehmet Salih Ateş and Baran Aslan connected to the court via the Audio and Video Information System (SEGBİS), and stated that they did not know Canözer and that their statements had been extracted by torture. At the second hearing on June 26, the prosecutor asked Canözer to be sentenced to 7.5 to 15 years. Her lawyer requested additional time and the trial was adjourned until October 16, 2019.
Canözer was acquitted of all charges in the final hearing of the trial.
Beritan Canözer - Üyelik Davası (İddianame)
Berzan Güneş, a reporter for the Mezopotamya News Agency, was detained on June 11, 2018, in Şırnak. He was arrested on charges of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” with his social media posts.
However, since further investigations were launched against him, Güneş went abroad. The trial continues in his absence.
Berzan Güneş - Sosyal Medya Davası (İddianame)
Bülent Şık was a member of the Food Safety and Agricultural Research Center at Akdeniz University, between 2010-2016. During his stint at the center, he participated in a Ministry of Health study on the impact of environmental factors on health. The study ran between 2011-2016. Its title was “Assessment of Environmental Factors and Their Impact on Health in the Provinces of Kocaeli, Antalya, Tekirdağ, Edirne and Kırklareli.”
Since Bülent Şık signed the Petition for Peace issued on January 11, 2016, his work in the research center was discontinued and he was removed from the Ministry project. Moreover, he was dismissed from his position as a faculty member at the university, with the Decree Law numbered 677 and dated November 22, 2016.
The Ministry did not publish the results of the study although it directly concerned public health, and in response Şık penned a series of articles for Cumhuriyet newspaper on the Ministry’s study. The first article was published on April 16, 2018, and made the headline.
In his article, Şık stated that the study showed that pesticides hazardous for human health exceeded the maximum residual limits in green beans, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, parsley, strawberries, plums and apples, and that water had too much hydrocarbon residue with known carcinogenic effects.
The Ministry of Health filed a criminal complaint against Bülent Şık on April 17, 2018 on charges of “publishing information that had to be kept confidential and causing public unrest.”
In response, Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation against Bülent Şık.
In the indictment dated July 16, 2018 drafted by Prosecutor Gökhan Boydak, Bülent Şık was charged with “Disclosing Confidential Information”, “Obtaining Confidential Information” and “Disclosing Professional Secrets”.
The Istanbul Second Criminal Court of First Instance reached a verdict at the third hearing of the case, on September 26, 2019. Bülent Şık was acquitted of charges of “Disclosing Confidential Information” and “Obtaining Confidential Information.” However, he was sentenced to 1 year, 3 months in prison for “Disclosing Professional Secrets.”
The court ordered a deferment of the announcement of the verdict.