Prosecutor demands journalist Cansu Pişkin to be punished

25 March 2019

İstanbul - Second hearing of the trial where Evrensel daily reporter Cansu Pişkin is accused of “disclosing or publishing the identity of a public official on anti-terrorist duty and identifying such persons as a target,” was held at Istanbul 36th High Criminal Court today.

Pişkin faces these accusations for a news story published in Evrensel on 5 April 2018, titled “Special prosecutor for Boğaziçi students.” The Prosecutor presented their opinion as to the accusations and requested Pişkin to be sentenced for the imputed offense. The court ruled to give extra time to Pişkin and her defense lawyers to prepare their defense statements and adjourned the trial until 7 May.

“A journalist acts with public consciousness”

Pişkin presented her defense statement in response to the indictment today and said the following:

“In response to this indictment that incriminates my journalistic activities, I will defend my profession instead of my own self. A journalist is someone who tries to objectively report on the news that concern the public responsibly. A journalist does not think in an individualistic manner; instead, a journalist acts with public consciousness. A journalist cannot have personal gain or benefit from any news story that they cover. The fact that the investigation’s prosecutor was changed on the day that Boğaziçi students were brought before the court following a long custody, which the public showed great interest in, is newsworthy.

The prosecutor who was assigned to the case had previously defined People’s Democratic Party (HDP) as a political party that functions with guidance from terrorist organizations and this too is newsworthy. It is newsworthy because to make such a remark conflicts with a prosecutor’s professional principles, which includes protecting fundamental principles of law.

Per the ethical principles of this profession, journalism is not practiced to target or bring under suspicion the people that are covered, its sole purpose is to inform the public without leaving the light of truth. I practice journalism by living up to these principles. I deny the accusations of identifying the prosecutor whose name is mentioned in my news story as a target and demand my acquittal.”

“Not a public official but an individual that has judicial duty”

Following journalist Cansu Pişkin’s statement, lawyer Levent Pişkin took the floor and demanded his client’s acquittal, claiming that the imputed crime’s material elements have not been constituted. Pişkin stated:  

“Concerned news story does not contain any element of scienter. The news story does not identify this individual as a target in any way. I am assigned to the Boğaziçi students’ case as well. Taking the prosecutor whom we’ve been in touch with throughout the 2-week custody period off the file is not common practice and it newsworthy. It is highly natural for this change to covered by the press. The Constitution defines judges and prosecutors as individuals who have judicial duties per the principle of separation of powers, not as a public official.”

Reminding the court that the prosecutor who is named in the concerned news story was promoted to the Appellate Court, lawyer Pişkin presented other news stories that mention him by his name:

“We all know this prosecutor. He is someone who penned many significant indictments that concern the public. His name is not mentioned only in this news story. His name is mentioned in an article on ByLock arrests published in Güneş. An article in Milliyet notes that one of his investigations is very significant in fighting FETÖ (Fethullahist Terrorist organization). Another news story titled “FETÖ operation targets 2900 soldiers” published in Sabah daily mentions him by the name, too. His name is also mentioned in press statements of the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Praising news stories do not trigger legal action

Lawyer Devrim Avcı presented relevant State Security Court (DGM) decisions that ruled acquittal for similar cases:

“For example, the court ruled for acquittal in a case where the defendant was accused for identifying a DGM prosecutor as a target, arguing that the elements of the crime were not constituted. When a praising news story names prosecutors, you do not take any legal action. Whenever someone mentions a prosecutor’s name in a critical news story, you file a lawsuit; this constitutes an abuse of power. Since the elements of the crime had not been constituted, I demand my client’s acquittal.”

Lawyer Mustafa Söğütlü took the floor last and noted that they had an objection regarding a violation of procedure.  

“The file includes a non-prosecution decision in relation to the investigation about my client regarding this case. An indictment has been prepared without filing an objection to this. This constitutes a violation of the Criminal Procedure Code. Despite such irregularity, the indictment was admitted by your court and the lawsuit was filed.”

At this moment, the presiding judge intervened and said: “The Chief Prosecutor has the return authorization regarding the decision of non-prosecution.”

Lawyer Söğütlü responded, “There is no such procedure. If no new evidence can be added to the file, a prosecution cannot be executed regarding the same crime. We looked up the relevant legislation. We saw that this practice is not based on legislation. In this case, abatement must be ruled; however, pursuant to the Criminal Procedure Code, abatement cannot be ruled in a situation where immediate acquittal can be ruled. Since the elements of the crime have not been constituted, we demand immediate acquittal. If you’re of the opposite opinion, we request you to evaluate these procedural problems.”

The prosecutor presented their opinion as to the accusations

Following a brief break, the Prosecutor stated that he does not request the prosecution to be extended and provided his final opinion as to the accusations. Claiming that journalist Pişkin had indeed committed the alleged crime, the Prosecutor requested Pişkin to be punished.

The court accepted the defense lawyers’ request to prepare a defense statement in response to the Prosecutor’s final opinion and adjourned the trial until 7 May, 4 PM.