October 6, 2015

Claims that judges Özçelik, Baser received orders via text message discredited

Claims made by pro-government newspapers that the two judges who ruled to release imprisoned journalist Hidayet Karaca had taken orders from an organization in Spain have been disproved as the messages the judges received turned out to be promotional messages from a shopping mall in Spain.

Pro-government newspapers, notably the Star daily, claimed in a July report that judges Metin Özçelik and Mustafa Başer, who in April ruled for the release of leading journalist Hidayet Karaca and 63 police officers who had uncovered politicians' graft schemes, had taken orders from members of the faith-based Gülen movement in Spain.

However Önder Durdu, the lawyer for Özçelik, announced recently he had accessed his client's mobile phone records that show Özçelik had received an advertorial message from a shopping mall in Spain after a vacation there.

Durdu told the Bugün daily on Tuesday Özçelik's phone records had been checked all the way back to 2008 and the authorities had not been able to find anything.

“All they [authorities] had was a clean, shiny history,” he said.

“When a person shops, they might receive such messages on their phones. Certain airlines, certain shops have this practice. Does the fact that they [judges] received a text message from Spain mean they were ordered to release [Karaca and the police officers]?” he asked.

“The detainments and arrests made based on HTS [Historical Traffic Search] records constitute deliberate and continuous rights infringements,” Durdu said.

Star claimed the judges received orders from members of the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, a faith-based social initiative inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

Although the İstanbul 32nd Court of First Instance ruled for the release of Karaca and the imprisoned police officers who have been kept under pre-trial detention for months despite a lack of evidence substantiating their imprisonment, the court's ruling was not enforced by public prosecutors in a move that is difficult to understand in a state of law.

Başer, the judge of the İstanbul 32nd Court of First Instance, and Özçelik, the judge of the İstanbul 29th Court of First Instance, were arrested early in May.

Karaca, the CEO of Samanyolu Broadcasting Group was detained on Dec. 14, 2014, along with 31 suspects, including former Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı, as part of a crackdown on dissenting media by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party).

Dumanlı was subsequently released on Dec. 19, while Karaca, whose indictment has yet to be prepared, is still in prison along with three others. Dumanlı resigned from his post on Monday evening due to recent pressure on him and the media.

HTS records have been used in the past by prosecutors in government-led operations against media or members of civil society to place a person at a certain place at a certain time, many a time to substantiate an otherwise weak court case.

Published on Today's Zaman, 6 October 2015, Tuesday