ETHA reporter Adil Demirci is released

14 February 2019

Second hearing of the trial where ETHA reporter Adil Demirci, who has been imprisoned for about ten months, faces charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda on behalf of a terrorist organization” was held at Istanbul 25th High Criminal Court today. The judge decided to release Demirci with an international travel ban and judicial control measures; the trial is adjourned until 30 April

Istanbul - Second hearing of the trial where 22 defendants, including German-Turkish dual citizen Etkin News Agency (ETHA) reporter and social worker Adil Demirci, are tried on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda on behalf of a terrorist organization” was held at Istanbul 25th High Criminal Court today. There was a big turnout for the hearing. Among those who monitored the case were relatives and friends of the defendants, members of press, and a delegation from the German Consulate including Consul General Michael Reiffenstuel, SDP parliamentarian Rolf Mützenich, and the Cologne town councilor from the Left party, Jörg Detjen.

“Are they here again?”

The hearing started on time at 11:00 with no delays and the judge gave the floor to defendants tried without detention who have not presented defense statements yet until a lunch break. During the second half of the hearing, presiding judge Selami Yılmaz got disturbed by the interpreter who was translating the hearing for the German visitors. “Are they here again? I do not like this scene at all. Be quiet, I do not want to hear your voice. You’re distracting me. Do not translate; let them understand whatever they can,” Yılmaz reacted to the interpreter.

The hearing proceeded with the prosecutor presenting their opinion. The prosecutor demanded the release of detained defendants Adil Demirci, Ali Karaçay, Engin Sınağ, Ersin Sedefoğlu and Hasan Kılık with judicial control measures including an international travel ban. This opinion was based on the high possibility of the defendants’ legal status to be changed in their favor and the duration of their detainment.

“I attended these commemorations as a journalist”

Adil Demirci presented a brief defense statement following the prosecutor’s opinion: “I am accused of attending commemoration ceremonies. It is true that I have attended these events; however, I attended these commemorations as a journalist. I was in Turkey for a week-long holiday while I got arrested. I demand my release.” Despite the prosecutor’s opinion, only Demirci and Hasan Kılık were released. 

Defense lawyer Mustafa Peköz took the floor following Demirci’s statement and stated that he agrees with the prosecutor’s demand for release, but disagrees with the international travel ban request, underlining that this would constitute unjust treatment for his client who lives abroad. Peköz stated, “My client lives and works abroad. If he is released with a travel ban, he might lose his job. My client planned to apply to Boğaziçi University for a master’s program in 2015. He had heard about Aziz Güler’s funeral while he was on campus to meet people about his application. Attending commemoration ceremonies or funerals cannot be considered illegal. Even if any illegal activity were to take place, there is no material evidence showing that my client attended these and there is no reasonable doubt against him. We demand my client to be released with no judicial control measures. If it is necessary, we demand a control measure other than the international travel ban.”

Peköz reminded that Demirci’s mother is a late stage cancer patient and is in no condition to travel, further drawing attention to the fact that Demirci might lose his job in Germany.

The presiding judge gave a recess to deliberate on the demands of release. Following the recess, the judge decided to release Adil Demir and Hasan Kılık with judicial control measures. These measures include a travel ban and both are required to regularly check with the Turkish police and are banned from leaving the Istanbul area. The next hearing will take place on 30 April.

“We were expecting his release, will file an objection for the travel ban”

Adil Demirci’s lawyer Mustafa Peköz evaluated the court’s decision with the following statement: “We were already expecting this decision. When we look at the entirety of the case and the condition of the evidence presented in my client’s file, we’ve been of the opinion that Adil Demirci should have never been arrested in the first place because nothing he did constitutes a crime and we’ve expressed this opinion through and through since the very beginning. The court finally released him during today’s hearing; however, we were expecting this during the first trial. We will object to both the international travel ban and the ban to leave Istanbul. We need to file these objections by next week but of course the final decision belongs to the court. However, I expect this judicial control measures to continue for one or two hearings for my client.”