Under the circumstances where the right to report, to broadcast and to distribute the news is systematically blocked, reporting the current status of the journalists in jail has been very difficult. Both Basin-Is, part of Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DISK) and www.hukukpolitik.com.tr have achieved to complete a seemingly impossible task. They have brought together the lawyers of the jailed journalists In Istanbul.
LAWYERS SHARE INFORMATION
Although it cannot be called as “letter from the jail”, the meeting at which the latest and most current information regarding the jailed journalists was updated and the violations of their rights were shared has been very fruitful.
The lawyer of Ali Bulac, the columnist at Zaman newspaper shut down by executive order under emergency law and currently at 9th section of Silivri prison, Mehmet Ali Devecioğlu has given “breaking news” at the meeting which brought together the lawyers of 16 jailed journalists. Turning to the attendees at the meeting, he said that he would like to share the breaking news of a new investigation opened by the prosecutor at Diyarbakir with the allegations his client’s, Mr. Bulac, involvement in a terrorist propaganda. This is the most current situation. Turkey has become a country where any news reporting is being punished day by day or hour by hour.
‘YOU DID NOT APPRECIATE THE CHIEF, YOU WILL PAY THE PRICE’
Some information was pretty fresh for us. While being taking into custody, Ali Bulac was handcuffed with his hands behind. And of course, the statement by the police, referring to Turkish President, that you did not appreciate the chief, you will pay the price. Mr. Bulac with an accusation of FETO/PDY membership has been in custody for 6 months. His indictment is yet to be prepared.
He is accused of the continuing his column at Zaman newspaper even after there was a terror related investigation on its editor-in-chief, Ekrem Dumanli. There is a restriction on the books in the prison as well as the donation of his own collection to the prison library was rejected. On the days right after he was taken into custody, he was allowed to see his lawyer for as little as 20 minutes. At the moment, the meeting duration is back to normal. However, audio and video recordings of their meetings are still ongoing. The lawyer, Mr. Devecioğlu, expressed his frustration and mentioned that he cannot talk to his client freely as they are accompanied by a detention officer during their meetings.
Another Zaman newspaper columnist, Şahin Alpay was arrested at the same time as Ali Bulaç with the same accusations. His indictment is not prepared either. He is currently at 9th section of Silivri prison too. He is subjected to similar kind of restrictions on meeting duration and phone calls. The most recent news regarding both Şahin Alpay and Ali Bulaç whose property assets were seized earlier is that the restriction on their pensions was lifted.
GUNS WERE POINTED AT THE EDITORS
The lawyer, Mr. Özcan Kılıç, has shared the details regarding the police raid on 16th August on the premises of Özgür Gündem newspaper whose staff and journalists were assassinated and whose office was bombed in 1990s. In the raid by Special Forces, they pointed their guns at the editors of the newspaper. İnan Kızılkaya, Managing Director at Özgür Gündem newspaper and currently at Silivri prison, mentioned about all the difficulties he has faced. He added that there were some days when neither Evrensel and Cumhuriyet newspapers nor English books are allowed to them.
One of the lawyers, representing Cumhuriyet, Mr. Tora Pekin shared very enlightening details on the current status on the investigation and the arrest. Although he is not among the Board Members of the newspapers, he is being accused of being a member.
Representing Altan brothers, Mehmet and Ahmet Altan, Mr. Veysel Ok was another lawyer who updated us with their current conditions. He noted that Altan brothers are being accused of the same allegations as the ones who bombed the parliament on the coup night. The only evidence against them is whatever they have written on their columns.
THE CLAIM OF “SUBLIMINAL MESSAGE” WAS NOT EVEN ASKED
The lawyer, Mr. Veysel Ok has also conveyed another shocking information. During their arrest, a claim by the prosecutor, which has been a subject of all humor at that time, “the subliminal message” was not even asked during their initial interrogation.
The majority of the petitions filed, asking the release of the journalists, have been rejected by Peace Criminal Courts. The lawyers do not even look at the petitions. For example, a demand to release the audio and video communications can be overturned as a refusal to the release of the journalists.
The lawyer, Mr. Ali Deniz Ceylan, whose clients are Atilla Taş and Murat Aksoy, stated that the indictment is prepared and a court hearing will take place soon with an accusation of membership in terrorist organizations. Among the evidence is their columns, tweets, retweets and royalties from their publications.
NO FOOD, NO BOOK
Ali Deniz Ceylan who also represents Tunca Öğreten and Mahir Kanaat mentioned that they were taken into custody after the raids into their homes, they were in custody for 24 days and the food given to them was so bad that both of them lost weight by 10-12 lbs. According to his statement to the police, a member of Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP), a staff member at Birgün newspaper, Mahir Kanaat faces a restriction on his meetings as he is being accused of participating into FETO/PDY. He is not allowed to have the books he wants, one of the infamous restrictions of Silivri prison.
The correspondent, Cihan Acar, who earned the reputation with his live broadcast through Periscope when the government appointed Hasan Ölçer was threatening the staff at Bugün newspaper during the takeover, is also at 9th section of Silivri prison. During the custody days, he was subjected to a very hostile treatment. Among the evidence for the allegation of being a terrorist group member is his tweets, his interview with a former chief of police and his participation in the demonstrations in front of Çağlayan court.
Abdullah Kilic’s lawyer Ziya Metehan Arisoy said that his client’s name was listed on the “Baskentci” account -which has been suspended since- before he was taken into custody. According to the ‘PTO/ PDY Media Structure Indictment’, his co-workers; the editors and reporters of the newspaper are subpoenaed to testify against him. His attorneys’ visits with Kılıç, who is on trial for being a member of a terrorist organization, is being recorded and time allotted for counseling is restricted by the authorities.
According to TRT Correspondent Seyid Kilic’s lawyer, Kilic had to wait for two months before getting treatment for his health problem. He has very limited access to books even from the prison library.
Some of the journalists currently in custody wanted to defect citing the “effective regret law,” according to the lawyers. Some other journalists, nicknamed “sharpshooters” are suspected to be handing incriminating evidence against detained journalists to the prosecutors.
In Turkey, where the freedom of thought and expression is under tremendous pressure, the judicial and executive processes are also stumbling. The information provided by the lawyers clearly depicts gross violations of human rights in prisons. The magnitude of the situation requires a bipartisan effort from both sides of the aisle. This meeting is just a humble beginning.
Report from artıgerçek translated by Ela Gonca İzmirli & others from WHatti team