Historic statements by journalists of Turkey's Cumhuriyet at first trial of case against them

BİRGÜN DAİLY 25.07.2017 13:24
Historic statements by journalists of Turkey's Cumhuriyet at first trial of case against them
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The trials of the historic case filed against Turkey’s Cumhuriyet newspaper were started yesterday (July 24) and will last for five days.

19 professionals - 12 tried under arrest - from Turkey’s one of the leading opposition news sources, including former and current chief editors, journalists, and staff, are being accused of ‘support and propadanga for three different terror groups’, FETÖ, PKK, DHKP-C.

The prosecutor of the case, Murat İnam, who is himself faced with a case against him in scope of FETÖ investigations, has sought up to 15 years of imprisonment for the suspects.

As Zeynep Kuray from BirGün reported, before even the trial started at Çağlayan Courthouse of İstanbul on Monday morning, a brief tension rose when a soldier attended the court room armed. Though lawyers objected to it by saying ‘trials cannot be held under the shadow of guns’, the soldier remained in the room. Restrictions in regards to each suspect being allowed to have maximum three lawyers to defend them were also objected by lawyers.

Editor in chief of Cumhuriyet, Murat Sabuncu, was the first defendent to plead; however, he stated that the genderme officers in prison had seized his documents of defense; so, he asked to plead later.

Kadri Gürsel: ‘Accusations are not legal but political’

Editorial adviser Kadri Gürsel denied the accusations and answered each of the three accusations against him. Gürsel stated that the claims about him having contacted suspects of FETÖ who were ByLock users were not reflective of truth as he mentioned that he had recieved multiple messages from such users at the time of the first major operation against the followers of Gülen in the police department.

Underlining that it seems as a campaing launched against press members on purpose, Gürsel said: “I believe that the reason for those people to try getting in contact with me for 5 consecutive days at that time was because I am an independent and critical journalist. However, it is obvious that their attempts to get support from me gave no results (for them)”.

If anyone who had ‘merely been contacted’ by suspects is to be considered as ‘guilty’, then, ‘the citizens of the whole country can potentially get accused’, Gürsel said and continued: “Journalists are curious people and they can have contact with anyone. The duty of a journalist who takes his/her job seriously – especially if writing columns – is to broaden and diversify his/her perceptions about important issues in the country and to then provide to the readers a healthy, wholistic, and sound perspective. This act cannot be seen as a crime and receive punishment in any democracy in the world. This is called journalism; and, journalism is not a crime”.

In response to claims about Cumhuriyet’s reports sounding like in support of FETÖ, PKK, and DHKP-C, Gürsel said it was ‘nonsense that his advising position was being related to the so-called radical changes in Cumhuriyet’s editorial policy’.

“How is it possible for someone who had started his position on 27 September 2016 and held that position for only 34 days to change an editorial policy? The fact that I was writing columns for the previous 5 months is not sufficient enough for me to have impacted the policy, either. It is also a misconduct (of authorities) to write in police report that I am an authorized person at Yenigün News Agency, although I am not”.

In regards to the accusations that he has taken part in ‘creation of a perception that Turkey has become authoritarian’, Gürsel said this is ‘not a legal accusation but a political one’.

“At different times, I did claim in my writings that the regime in Turkey was becoming authoritarian. Unfortunately, this prediction of mine has become true. Otherwise, I would not have been appearing before the court 9 months later in reference to baseless accusations. Punishing through long detention time is in itself against human rights”, he said. Requesting his release, Gürsel concluded his testimony by saying there was a ‘malicious intention’ behind the efforts for him to get jailed.

Akın Atalay: ‘Case against Cumhuriyet is murder of legal order’

Chief executive officer Akın Atalay presented a 41 pages long defense. Saying the ‘investigation against the Cumhuriyet newspaper, which is one of the most rooted and respected news sources in Turkey, is a murder of legal order’ and a threat and attack on all newspapers and journalists, Atalay stated there are two reasons behind it.

“First is to seize or silence the Cumhuriyet newspaper. And, the second is to show other newspapers and journalists what they will face if they even think about publishing reports that the government would not like or be pleased by”, he said.

Asserting the Cumhuriyet newspaper has ‘love of freedom in its make-up’, Atalay said ‘journalists never surrender’ and also reminded that journalists of Cumhuriyet had also been subjected to unlawfulness; attacks; and murders but ‘never surrendered’.

‘Prosecutors do not have the right to intervene with editorial policies of newspapers’, Atalay added.

Musa Kart: ‘Yes, I’m a member of an organization: All Children of My Country’

Following Atalay, cartoonist Musa Kart pleaded. After mentioning everyone knows that the prosecutor who launched the investigation is now himself facing legal action over accusations of ‘being a FETÖ member’, Kart showed the cartoons he has drawn – since 1980 – where he made violent organizations the subject of his drawings.

Referring to the ‘absurdness’ of accusations against him and other suspects of the case, Kart said: “And, so, it turns out that I had called, in order to arrange a 3 days long vacation in Bodrum, a travel agency known by everyone and whose advertisements are published on full-page in newspaper. And, this contact is put in front of me as an evidence of contacting a terrorist group. While I was hoping to at a room in Bodrum with view of the sea, I stayed in a cell in Silivri with the view of a cement wall. And, what I’ve been through is not something that could be put aside as a simple booking mistake”.

“Yes, throughout my life as a cartoonist, I have supported only one organization. The name of this organization is Ü.T.Ç. It stands for ‘Ülkemin Tüm Çocukları’ (All Children of My Country). Among its members, there is also my 2.5 year old grandchild. And, I am also sure that the children of this jury here and the children of our friends in this room are all among the members of this organization”, Kart said and denied all accusations.


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