The detention of two prominent journalists, which has already been extended unnecessarily, was marred by due process violations, turning the process into a punishment by itself.
The government-orchestrated police operation against high-level media members, directors and producers of a popular television serial and police officers has been sharply criticized as a badly fictionalized film scenario by a defending lawyer, as two top executives of leading media outlets have been under custody since Sunday.
“The scenario, the scriptwriter and the producer [of the film] are bad. Those who shoot this film would go bust,” Fikri Duran, lawyer of Hidayet Karaca, the detained Samanyolu Broadcasting Group general manager, told reporters on Wednesday.
Twelve of the 30 people detained as part of the operation have been released after being interrogated by the police, but Ekrem Dumanlı, editor-in-chief of Turkey's best-selling daily Zaman, and Karaca are still in custody at the İstanbul Police Department.
Noting that the detention period was illegitimately extended for his client, Duran told reporters in front of the İstanbul Police Department where the suspects are being held and interrogated: “My client is tired and has been without sleep. He has been made to wait [to be questioned] for four days.” Duran also said his client was accused based on an audio clip that has been tampered with.
Police also began to question Dumanlı as well as Karaca on Wednesday, the last day that they could be legally detained.
The law has been violated in various ways during the detention period of the suspects, who were not allowed to know, due to a confidentiality order on the investigation, of what they were accused of until they were questioned.
Media members were taken into custody without solid evidence against them, but based on two columns and a report that appeared in the Zaman daily.
Hasan Yılmaz, one of the prosecutors in charge of the operation, is said to have interrogated the suspects at İstanbul Police Department rather than at the prosecutor's office.
Dumanlı and Karaca were not reportedly asked any questions during their first three days of custody, which indicates that the detainment is used as a sort of punishment.
Only a single prosecutor questioned some of the suspects during the first three days of the operation, but on Wednesday, three prosecutors including Yılmaz, reportedly took part in the questioning of Zaman daily's Dumanlı.
Lawyer not allowed to take dailies to detained client
People gathered in front of the İstanbul Police Department in support of those held in custody. Board members of the Antalya Bar Associations were also in front of the police department on Wednesday. It is a violation of their human rights that suspects were not allowed to know what they are accused of before being questioned, a member of the Antalya Bar Association told Samanyolu television channel on Wednesday.
Karaca's lawyer Duran also said the police did not allow him to take some dailies to his client on Wednesday. The lawyer, who underlined that this was against the law, said he was told it was the prosecutor who imposed the ban.
“We observe that behavior of police officers towards us is getting tougher with each passing day,” he said, protesting that even Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of a terrorist organization lives in better conditions.
People who peacefully protested the detention of media members in front of the police department in İstanbul's Fatih district held banners that read: “Free media cannot be silenced”, “It is not possible to make [people] forget [Dec.] 17-25.” Dec. 17-25 is a reference to major graft probes that were launched in December of last year.
Tufan Ergüder and Mutlu Ekizoğlu, former heads respectively of the Anti-terrorism Unit of the İstanbul Police Department and of the Department of Organized Crime, are also among the 18 suspects who were still under custody on Wednesday.
According to the government-orchestrated investigation, the case is built on charges of defaming a deadly al-Qaeda-affiliated group known as Tahşiyeciler (Annotators).
The prosecutor in charge of the operation claimed that journalists, through print coverage and broadcast media about the police raids conducted on this group in 2010, had defamed the suspects, including the leader of Tahşiyeciler, Mehmet Doğan. The suspects have been accused of attempting to seize the state, and charges of terrorism and fraud are also part of the investigation.
The government-backed operation against the media has been blasted by opposition parties and media organizations for undermining freedom of the press.
The government has also been criticized for the timing of the operation, as it came right before the anniversary of two major graft probes that were made public on Dec. 17 and 25 of last year. The government aims to divert the public's attention away from allegations of corruption, opposition parties said.
Fuat Avni claims Dumanlı, Karaca to be arrested
On Wednesday, a Turkish government whistleblower who writes on Twitter under the pseudonym of Fuat Avni has maintained that Dumanlı, Karaca, Ekizoğlu and Ergüder would be arrested.
It is on purpose that they are being questioned on Wednesday, on the anniversary of the first corruption probe, Fuat Avni wrote.
Fuat Avni, who claims to be in the inner circle of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and whose previous prophecies turned out out be true, maintained that it was Erdoğan, whom Avni nicknamed as “the tyrant”, who demanded that the four suspects be arrested on the anniversary of the first corruption probe.
Orhan Kapıcı, İstanbul deputy chief prosecutor who is in charge of the ongoing probe, was told to arrest the four suspects for plotting to defame the al-Qaeda-affiliated group.
The operation against the media has also been described by opposition parties as an “operation of revenge” by the government.
Following the corruption probes of last December, which revealed that Erdoğan and some of his family members may well also be implicated in corruption, four Cabinet ministers left their posts. The Zaman daily and the Samanyolu Media Group are among the rare media outlets in Turkey which have published allegations of corruption in the government following the probes.
Published on Today's Zaman, 17 December 2014, Wednesday