Third hearing of the trial where Sözcü writer Çiğdem Toker is sued for 50.000 Turkish Liras in reparations for an article she wrote for Cumhuriyet in April 2018 about a tender held by the Organization of Post and Telegraph (PTT) was held at Ankara 20th Civil Court of First Instance today. Toker’s lawyer Şükrü Evrim İnal requested the dismissal of the case, arguing that the article is based entirely on Turkish Grand National Assembly’s minutes of proceedings.
In her Cumhuriyet column from 22 April 2018, Çiğdem Toker wrote an article titled “PTT’s privileged company.” In this column, Toker wrote that PTT had awarded a camera procurement auction worth 70 million Turkish Liras to a company called STM, and that this company received 42 million Turkish Liras before even providing any services. In her article, Toker pointed out that Commercial Registry Gazette lists Reha Denemeç, former AKP MP and current senior advisor to the President, as an Executive Board member for this company. Following the publication of this article, PTT sued Çiğdem Toker and Cumhuriyet’s former Executive President Akın Atalay, Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu, and Managing Editor Farun Eren for 50.000 Turkish Liras in reparations.
In their petition addressed to the court, PTT had claimed that Toker’s article is “denigrating and includes statements that destroy the credibility of the organization in the eye of the public.”
Third hearing of the trial was held at Ankara 20th Civil Court of First Instance today. While Çiğdem Toker and former Cumhuriyet executives did not attend the hearing, their lawyers were present in the courtroom. Judge Ali Çörten noted that a copy of the Cumhuriyet newspaper has been received by the court and that information regarding the colophon and staff have also been provided. Çörten stated that an address was reported for defendant Çiğdem Toker in order for her financial situation to be examined. Çörten added that inadvertently, an additional letter requesting an examination with this new address has not been written yet.
Toker’s lawyer: ‘The article is based on Grand National Assembly minutes of proceedings’
PTT’s lawyer Salihanur İldeniz stated: “The objections regarding the lawsuit not being filed against the appropriate individuals is not acceptable. All defendants are liable within this case. I do not accept the objections regarding general exception. The Supreme Court decision that we have presented to the court should be taken into account in this regard. I demand our case to be accepted for all defendants.”
Çiğdem Toker’s lawyer Şükrü Evrim İnal requested the dismissal of the case on behalf of Akın Atalay, Murat Sabuncu and Faruk Eren, arguing that they have no liability in this case. İnal added, “I request the case to be dismissed on Çiğdem Toker’s behalf as well because her article is based on the Turkish Grand National Assembly’s minutes of proceedings, which are all public. Hence, I believe that requirements for a reparations claim are not met and the case shall be dismissed.”
The court decided to seek information on journalist Toker’s financial situation and requested the district police station to provide an answer to this request in writing. The trial is adjourned until 11 June.