İstanbul - The trial of journalist and translator Meşale Tolu and 26 others who are accused of membership in a terrorist organization and propaganda related charges resumed at İstanbul 29th High Criminal Court today. The defendants’ request to have their judiciary control measures lifted was not granted and the trial was adjourned until 23 May.
The eighth hearing of the trial where 27 journalists including German journalist and translator Meşale Tolu are standing trial with charges relating to “membership in a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” was held at İstanbul 29th High Criminal Court today. While Tolu who is tried without arrest did not attend the hearing, defendants Deniz Havuç, Emre Altunkaya, Neriman Şaşmaz, and Suat Çorlu were present in the courtroom.
German Green Party MP and Education and Media Policies Spokesperson Margit Stumpp and several officials from the German Consulate were monitoring the trial on behalf of German citizen and Etkin News Agency (ETHA) reporter Meşale Tolu.
Secret witness will identify defendants from their photos
The judge informed the courtroom that the expert report about the defendants’ photos has been received, and that the process regarding taking the secret witness’ statement and identifying defendants by looking at these photos has officially begun. The prosecutor requested the continuation of the judiciary control measure for 23 defendants since their legal status has not changed.
Defendant Deniz Havuç took the floor and stated that he recently got engaged and became a Swiss citizen and requested his international travel ban to be lifted. “My fiancée is in Switzerland. I cannot go there to see her. Moreover, I need to go abroad for my job but I can’t do that either,” Havuç said. Defendants Emre Altunkaya and Neriman Şaşmaz also requested their international travel ban to be lifted and demanded their acquittal.
Suat Çorlu took the floor next and demanded the return of the digital materials that were confiscated while the police raided their home. He said, “The police confiscated my wife’s phone while it was unlocked. All the digital materials in our home, including my 3-year-old son’s tablet and my relatives’ gadgets, were confiscated. I demand their return.”
Claiming that she disagrees with the court’s opinion, lawyer Kader Tonç stated that it is not appropriate to have the secret witness identify defendants by looking at their photos, further claiming that doing this in an environment where no lawyer is present arouses the suspicion that the court is trying to fabricate false evidence about her clients. She called the judiciary panel to revoke their decision to follow through with this proceeding.
Following the lawyers’ defense statements, the panel of judges recessed prior to announcing their decision. The interim decision ruled for the continuation of the judiciary control measure of 23 defendants. Concluding that demands expressed during this hearing will not make a major contribution to the legal proceedings, the judge rejected them all and stated that these requests will be reconsidered once the secret witness’ statement about the photos is taken. The next hearing will be held on 23 May.
About the case
Meşale Tolu was arrested in May 2017 in İstanbul where she worked as a reporter and a translator on charges of being a member of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) and spreading propaganda on their behalf. She remained in prison with her son for about 8 months. Tolu’s attendance at MLKP members’ funerals and memorials as a reporter was presented as evidence, and her being a member of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) was regarded equivalent to membership in a terrorist organization. Tolu was released from prison on 18 December 2017 and her husband Suat Çorlu’s international travel ban was lifted on 16 October 2018.