No verdict is announced in the trial of Bakur filmmakers, trial is adjourned until July

2 May 2019

Batman - The court did not reach a verdict as a result of today’s hearing in the trial where Çayan Demirel and Ertuğrul Mavioğlu face “terrorist propaganda” charges with the prosecutor demanding a prison sentence of up to 5 years for both filmmakers. The court adjourned the trial until 18 July after ascertaining that the investigation documents regarding Mavioğlu in Ankara need to be examined.

Sixth hearing of the trial where Çayan Demirel and Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, directors of the documentary film “Bakur/North,” face “terrorist propaganda” charges was held at at Batman 2nd High Criminal Court today. Demirel and Mavioğlu, who are tried without detention, were present in courtroom. Among those who attended the hearing in solidarity with the directors were HDP Co-Vice President and MP Ayşe Acar Başaran, HDP MP Ahmet Şık, Altyazı Cinema Magazine Editorial Board Member Enis Köstepen and Managerial Board Member of the Association of Documentary Filmmakers in Turkey Serdar Güven as well as many other filmmakers. Çayan Demirel, who is 90 percent disabled due to a stroke, had trouble being seated with the help of his wife, those who attended noticed.

The hearing commenced by reading out loud documents included in the case file between hearings. The presiding judge informed the court that a new investigation on Ertuğrul Mavioğlu was launched based on allegations of “terrorist propaganda” by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, which the judge saw via national judiciary informatics system (UYAP). After noting that in order to determine whether the mentioned investigation concerns the same issue, the judge stated that they would have to request a copy of the investigation files from Ankara in order not to have a repetitive trial and declared that they’ll wait for those documents and won’t be able to reach a decision during this hearing.

The prosecutor took the floor first and stated that he repeats the opinion as to the accusations that he presented in the fourth hearing which took place in February. The prosecutor requested the punishment of Demirel and Mavioğlu for “successively making  propaganda of a terror organisation” via media and publication. Following these remarks, Mavioğlu’s lawyers Şirin Şen, Rozerin Seda Kip and Erkan Şenses took the floor in turn and stated that they are ready to present their defenses in response to the prosecutor’s opinion. The lawyers added that they would prefer to defend in response to prosecutor’s opinion after examining the investigation files on Mavioğlu. Following the lawyers’ statements Ertuğrul Mavioğlu took the floor and noted that he will defend himself in response to the prosecutor’s opinion as well. Presiding Judge indicated that they would not be able to arrive at a decision in the current hearing due to the need to examine investigation documents from Ankara, and asked Mavioğlu to voice his plea in response to the prosecutor’s opinion in the following hearing. Thereupon Mavioğlu declared that he would voice his plea in response to prosecutor’s opinion after the case file is completed with the addition of missing documents.

Çayan Demirel’s lawyer Meral Hanbayat Yeşil, after having presented the written defense they prepared in response to the prosecutor’s opinion to the court, said:

“This documentary has been screened all around Turkey. There’s a mix-up in this file. This case was opened solely based on a report prepared by Batman Anti-terror Directorate. It is crucial that we explain what documentary cinema is, based on the experts’ opinion. We present the report regarding documentary cinema prepared by the Managerial Board of the Association of Documentary Filmmakers in Turkey to be included in the case file. We request this document to be taken into account. We also request that the fact that the Ministry of Culture has not censored or banned this documentary film in any way, to be taken into consideration. This documentary was prepared and screened during the peace process. There are many ECtHR decisions regarding freedom of thought and expression. In these decisions, there is not a single decision regarding infringement on the side of any film director. In this case, Anti-terror Law has been implemented arbitrarily. This case has been opened due to an assertion detached from documentary cinema, based solely on a 2-minute trailer of a 92-minute documentary. My client has not conducted a single screening of this movie. If there’s a trial concerning the documentary film, this has to at least take place in Istanbul, where my client resides. Contrary to the opinion of the prosecutor, my client has requested his acquittal and has not admitted to any wrong-doing. Throughout the hearings, my client was not even heard. My client has an ongoing health issue for a long time. He has a 90 percent disability report. He has trouble attending the hearings.” Lawyer Meral Hanbayat Yeşil added that she’d present a statement in response to prosecutor’s opinion later.

Çayan Demirel indicated that he has nothing to say and that he’d defend himself in response to prosecutor’s opinion later.

The court, which announced its interim decision after the pleadings, decided that the accused and the lawyers be given time until the next session to prepare their defence in response to prosecutor’s opinion, and that a request in writing be submitted to Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for sending a copy of the investigation file on Mavioğlu.

The court rejected the lawyers’ request for the case file to be sent over to İstanbul due to a decision of non-jurisdiction, adding that this decision cannot be made once the defendants’ defense statements are heard. The court adjourned the trial until 18 July.

Defense lawyers pointed out that plane tickets would be expensive at that time of the year and requested the next hearing to take place at a later date. The Presiding Judge replied, “Then you shouldn’t bother coming.” Members of audience and the lawyers protested against this reply and said, “We will come anyway.”