Reporters Without Borders deplores the fact that the Istanbul court that is trying the Oda TV news website case failed to release the writer and journalist Yalçin Küçük and Hanefi Avci, the other defendant still in preventive detention, when the latest hearing in the trial was held on 21 March.
Küçük, who has been detained since 6 March 2011, is also facing a possible life sentence in the ongoing Ergenekon conspiracy trial.
“It is regrettable that the Turkish courts insist on maintaining certain defendants in detention,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This hearing produced no significant progress. Küçük is paying the price of this judicial sluggishness. We reiterate our call for the withdrawal of all the proceedings and charges against all of the accused journalists and media workers.”
The hearing began with Judge Mehmet Ekinci announcing that the Istanbul Directorate for Security had responded to a query about the video that the police made of their raid on Oda TV’s office in the Istanbul district of Beyoglu in February 2011. The police said the video was recorded without sound for security reasons, because the participants could otherwise have been identified by their names.
The 13 defendants in the Oda TV trial are charged with assisting the alleged Ergenekon conspiracy by using articles published on the Oda TV website and in books (published or in preparation) to discredit the prosecution of Ergenekon’s alleged members.
Turkey’s judicial authorities claim that Ergenekon was an ultra-nationalist and secularist clandestine organization that plotted to overthrow the current Islamic-leaning government.
During the 20 March hearing, Küçük criticized the indictment’s “baseless” claim that one of his fellow defendants, Oda TV managing editor Baris Pehlivan, went to Küçük’s home several times to receive instructions. Küçük said that before being jailed he had only met Pehlivan once, when CNN Türk interviewed him for the programme "Oradaydim" ("I was there").
Küçük went on to say that political cases scared judges and that evidence used against defendants followed them all their lives even when they were acquitted. “In political cases, no one knows their crime, neither the poet Nazim Hikmet nor Tuncay Özkan, not even after years of detention,” he said.
One of the two Oda TV trial journalists still held at the end of 2012, Oda TV owner Soner Yalçin, was finally granted a provisional release on 27 December after 22 months in preventive detention. He had been held since 14 February 2011 in a prison in Silivri, 60 km northwest of Istanbul.
Yalçin nonetheless remains under judicial control like the other journalists accused in this case who are now free - Nedim Sener, Ahmet Sik, Muhammet Sait Cakir, Coskun Musluk, Müyesser Ugur, Dogan Yurdakul, Baris Pehlivan and Baris Terkoglu.
These journalists, who all spent at least several months in prevention detention before being released, attended this week’s hearing in a sign of solidarity with the two defendants still detained.
Other journalists and representatives of organizations that defend journalists also attended the hearing, at the end of which the two defendants still held were returned to Silivri prison. The next hearing is scheduled for 13 June.
(Image: Erol Onderoglu)