Anti-terror police gives testimony about the Özgür Gündem raid

30 January 2019
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Third hearing of the trial where 22 Özgür Gündem journalists are tried on charges of “resisting a public official to prevent them from performing their duty” and “libel” was held at İstanbul 5th Criminal Court of the First Instance; following the testimonies from the complainant police officer and four other witnesses, the trial was adjourned until 19 June.

İstanbul - Third hearing of the trial where 22 journalists who were taken into custody while the police was raiding Özgür Gündem daily’s office on 16 June 2016 was held at İstanbul 5th Criminal Court of the First Instance today. Each of the defendants are tried on charges of “resisting a public official to prevent them from performing their duty” and “libel,” with a request of 8 years and 4 months prison sentence. Özgür Gündem has since been shut down.

While none of the defendants attended today’s hearing, Gökalp Ertaş, one of the anti-terror police officers who were on duty during the raid, was present in the courtroom as a complainant and four others were present as witnesses.

The hearing began with Gökalp Ertaş’s statement. Claiming that he cannot remember the details of the incident very well, Ertaş stated that the search was conducted while the lawyers were present and that the search warrant was disclosed to the lawyers.

“They insulted us by saying ‘You’re AKP’s police, we’ve seen the likes of you many times”

Ertaş said, “They went on with the live stream while the search was being conducted. We warned them on this matter, telling them to stop the live stream immediately. However, they resisted about not shutting it down. Claiming that this practice was unlawful, at first they started to object to us verbally. Later, these verbal objections turned into physical opposition. We tried to take the computers one by one and continue with our duty while they were present; however, they started to push us around, showing opposition, claiming that the search warrant is unlawful.”

Ertaş continued, “The scene was very crowded so we had no chance to distinguish who did what on an individual basis. Defendants told us insulting things such as “You’re AKP’s police, we’ve seen the likes of you many times, even the Fethullah people were better than you.” They also went on to say things like, ‘what you’re doing is unlawful, you will see, the fate will turn. ”

Stating that he was there on duty, Ertaş said that he was filing a complaint and that he wanted to participate in the trial. He added that he cannot remember who said the insulting phrases and that he would not be able to recognize the defendants even if he saw them.

“They resisted by physical means and by chanting slogans”

Following the statement of complainant Gökalp Ertaş, four other anti-terror police officers who were on duty that day presented their statements as witnesses. One of the main points that came up in all of their testimonies was that the journalists were video recording them while they were conducting the search with their phones and live streaming the event via IMC TV.

Noting that it is a crime to expose the faces of anti-terror police, the officers claimed that they warned the defendants to stop recording and that the tension was raised while they tried to kick out the ones who were recording. They added that they were subjected to a physical attack, provoking statements, and slogans towards them.

All four witnesses gave very similar testimonies. The first one started by saying, “On the day of the event, we went to the concerned newspaper, which was spreading terrorist propaganda, in order to implement the court’s decision.” He continued by claiming that the journalists who opposed the search warrant “resisted verbally, by chanting slogans, saying provoking things to the police, by physically opposing to us. They were crowded. They didn’t want to let us search the concerned places, some of them where trying to physically prevent my colleagues from doing their jobs.”

Another witness, who claimed that he did not remember exactly which specific individual chanted slogans or physically attacked the officers, said: “There was a physical attack towards the police; however, I do not know whether anyone got hurt.”

Another witness stated, “There was a physical interference towards us. My t-shirt got ripped, my sunglasses got broken. I do not know exactly who did it. There was a big commotion. In response, we took them into custody gradually.”

There is no medical report indicating that the police were battered

On the defense counsel, Özgür Gündem daily’s lawyer Özcan Kılıç, and lawyers Cemal Polat and Hazal Pekşen Demirhan were present in the courtroom. Following the testimonies of the police officers, the lawyers stated that they do not accept these statements. Claiming that the officers are not telling the truth and are telling a very one-sided story, the lawyers noted that the police entered the building armed and outnumbered the journalists, who were mostly young women. The lawyers stated that a physical attack as it was described could have not been and was not the case at all. Lawyer Demirhan further emphasized that none of the police officers had a medical report indicating any signs of battery or physical assault. Demirhan claimed that it was in fact her clients that were physically assaulted by the police.

Following a short intermission, the judge presented the interim decision. It was decided that a request should be sent to Bakırköy Women's Closed Penitentiary in order to have defendant Reyhan Hacıoğlu ready for video-conference link SEGBİS for the next hearing, that the court must wait on the execution of the warrant against several defendants, and ruled a bench warrant for defendants Bayram Balcı and Ersin Çaksu. The trial was adjourned until 19 June 2019.