Muş Court rules to keep journalist İdris Sayılğan in detention  

5 October 2018

Deniz Tekin, Muş - Hearing of the now-shuttered Dicle News Agency (DİHA) reporter İdris Sayılğan, who is represented by the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) Legal Unit, was held at Muş 2. High Criminal Court. The court ruled to keep Sayılğan in prison due to 'strong criminal suspicion'.

Sayılğan was detained on 24 October 2016, on 'membership in a terrorist organization' charges, due to his reporting, social media posts and phone calls with news sources. İdris Sayılğan joined the hearing via the judicial conferencing system (SEGBİS) from Trabzon Prison where he has been imprisoned for almost two years. Sayılğan's father Ramazan and their his relative Süphiye Sayılğan were present in the hearing, as well as MLSA Legal Unit's Zelal Pelin Doğan and other defense lawyers.

Prosecutor requested the continuation of detention

Hearing started with the reading of the new documents that were added to the case file. The prosecutor requested the continuation of detention of all defendants due to 'strong criminal suspicion' and 'escape risk'.

Sayılğan: The indictment is filled with lies

İdris Sayılğan submitted his defense statement in Kurdish. He stated that there were only two claims in the indictment regarding himself and said: “The indictment proves that I am an opposing journalist and that this lawsuit is a political one. This indictment is the proof of these. As much as the lawsuit has a political agenda, it is also constructed upon false evidence. I had submitted a 10 page long written defense statement to the court. I want to add a few things to that. Pages 158, 159 and 160 of the indictment are completely full of lies. Page 158 claims that I had called the state forces as 'occupying forces'. There is no evidence in the indictment to back this up. Also there is the claim that I had written 'the operations of the state are not legitimate whereas the defense of PKK is'. This is another lie. ”

Sayılğan completed his defense statement by criticizing the indictment and the proceeding and finally requested his release.

Doğan: There is no evidence presented against my client except for his news stories

After Sayılğan's defense, his lawyer Zelal Pelin Doğan from the MLSA Legal Unit stated that her client has not been brought into the courtroom in person since he was detained. She remarked that her client is being forced to submit his defense via SEGBİS which constitutes a violation of 'right to fair trial'. She said that Sayılğan has been imprisoned for 719 days, due to his journalistic work and added: “The imprisonment of journalists due to their professional work does not only violate their right to free expression and press, but also the public's right to information.”

Doğan stated that the indictment does not present anything against Sayılğan other than his news stories and said: “The tape records presented as evidence in the indictment are solely the phone calls of my client, with his news sources. If the evidence in the case file is to be reviewed by a third party expert, the expert report will state that my client is a journalist. The decisions of the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights clearly states that journalism is not a crime. Journalist Sayılğan has been imprisoned unlawfully for a very long time. His detention has exceeded the limit of being a legal measure. I request his release.” 

After the defense lawyers completed their statements, the court recessed for a short while to make an interim decision. After the break, court ruled to keep Sayılğan and 3 other defendants in detention due to the nature of the offense, the evidence available, strong criminal suspicion about the defendants and their escape risk. Court adjourned the hearing until 24 December to complete the missing documents in the case file.