The court rules for the continuation of journalist Mehmet Gündem’s detention

14 March 2019

İstanbul 35th High Criminal Court ruled for the continuation of journalist Mehmet Gündem’s detention, who has been in pre-trial detention on “membership in a terrorist organization” charges for the past 500 days.

Fourth hearing of the trial where journalist Mehmet Gündem is tried whilst in detention was held at İstanbul 35th High Criminal Court today. Gündem was arrested on 1 November 2017 during an operation targeting The Journalists and Writers Foundation (JWF) as part of a FETÖ/PYD (Fethullahist Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure) investigation. Gündem and his lawyers were present in the courtroom. The Prosecutor requested for the continuation of Gündem’s detention since the imputed offenses are among the list of crimes categorized in the Turkish Criminal Procedure Code as crimes that automatically require detention.

“Is this a sentence or control measure?”

Gündem stated in his defense statement that he has been imprisoned for 500 days and that there isn’t any tangible evidence indicating the alleged crimes. Noting that he has been a journalist for 25 years, Gündem said: “The primary thing in journalism is communication. In my profession, there is the principle of reaching people. If you take your reader seriously, then you end up establishing an interactive relationship with the reader over time. Being reachable, relatable, and open to criticism is necessary in this profession. In this way, you get to know people over the years and make contacts. Making phone calls is labeled as having terrorist connections in my indictment. I have a hard time understanding this logic. None of these phone calls include the planning of an organization that constitutes a crime.”

Responding to the allegations that he deposited money to Bank Asya “for improving moral and motivation,” Gündem stated that he’s had a bank account at the concerned bank since 2001 and that this is normal within the flow of life. Explaining that he became a member of the Journalists and Writers Foundation in January 2015, Gündem said: “I became a member for journalistic activities but ended up resigning after 11 months. When I resigned, I signed the necessary petition. Decisions following this have been included in the foundation’s minute book retrospectively. If I had a membership, I wouldn’t have left the foundation at such a critical time. When the foundation decided on the honorary membership, concerned authorities did not object to this decision. The foundation was shut down pursuant to a decree-law during the state of emergency. Decisions that have been made after my resignation does not concern me.” Gündem denied the allegations regarding his ByLock use as well. The Presiding Judge intervened in Gündem’s defense statement and said, “Let’s come back to our case. You keep saying the same things during each hearing. If you have any demands, state them now.” Gündem replied, “We keep getting diminished while I am locked away. My father and grandfather passed away but I couldn’t even attend their funerals. Is my 500-day detention a sentence or a judicial control measure, I leave that to your judgement,” and ended his statement.

“He is serving a sentence that hasn’t been given”

Gündem’s lawyers stated that the alleged accusations are not tangible and Gündem is serving a sentence that has not been given yet. They demanded Gündem’s release. The court ruled for the continuation of Gündem’s detention. Ruling that necessary letters shall to be written for the submission of an expert report regarding the investigation of digital materials, the court adjourned the trial until 8 May, 11:30 AM.