Court released Özgürlükçü Demokrasi employee Pınar Tarlak

12 September 2018

Elif Akgül, İstanbul - Case hearing of 14 employees (6 of them in detention) of the now shuttered pro-Kurdish Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper has started at the İstanbul 23. High Criminal Court. Pınar Tarlak was released whereas 5 other defendants will remain in detention.

Hearing started at 11 AM and was monitored by the families of the defendants, journalists, representatives from NGOs and People's Democratic Party (HDP) MPs Ahmet Şık, Ali Kenanoğlu and Züleyha Gülüm.

Pınar Tarlak, Hicran Urun, Reyhan Hacıoğlu, İshak Yasul, İhsan Yaşar and Mehmet Ali Çelebi who have been in detention and Ramazan Solak were present in the courtroom whereas Mizgin Fendik, Yılmaz Yıldız, Önder Elaldı, Günay Aksoy, Fırat Benli, Ersin Çaksu and Davut Uçar were absent. Panel of judges heard the statements of grant holder İhsan Yaşar, editor-in-chief İshak Yasul, editors Reyhan Hacıoğlu and Hicran Urun, employee Pınar Tarlak, writer Mehmet Ali Çelebi and newspaper driver Ramazan Solak.

Presiding judge Ahmet Oğuz asked the defendants whether they 'knew the rights and responsibilities of journalists', what their 'publishing policy' is,' where they gather information from' and whether they 'felt uncomfortable when they read the news story that defines the Turkish army as an occupant'.

'I have been in detention for 5 months because I am an insured employee of the paper'

Tarlak and Solak stated they had never intervened in the news stories published in the paper. Grant holder İhsan Yaşar said that he purchased the newspaper for profit making, had never made any changes in the news that were published and rejected all accusations. Editor-in-chief İshak Yasul who has been in detention stated: ”A journalist is responsible for informing the public. They must stand on democratic and peaceful grounds whilst doing so.”

Kurdish songs presented as evidence

Editor Hicran Urun remarked that the Kurdish songs in her mp3 player and a photo of her sitting at the meeting table of the paper were presented as evidence of crime in the indictment. She rejected all accusations. Reyhan Hacıoğlu stated: ”We are not charged with corruption or theft here. We are being tried because we told the stories that were not told, because we reported the truth.

'I request my acquittal, journalism is not a crime'

Hacıoğlu took the floor an said: “A journalist's job is not to confirm and approve the practices of the ruling power. Judiciary is the conscience of a country, press is the morality. If one is lost, the other one will be lost as well. We did our jobs in order to prevent social decay, of course there is a cost. We have been paying that cost for 5 months. I request my acquittal, journalism is not a crime.”

After the defence statements of the lawyers, prosecutor Fatih Gündüz requested the continuation of detention of all defendants. Court ruled to release Pınar Tarlak on judicial control and keep 5 other defendants in prison. Hearing was adjourned until 6 December.