September 23, 2015

‘An official hunt for journalists’ started

Erhan Başyurt

Our columnist Gültekin Avcı was arrested over 7 columns and faces life imprisonment now.

Avcı was charged with “establishing and managing an armed terrorist organization”, “plotting to overthrow the government or prevent it from performing its activities”, “providing state information that must remain confidential, for political and military espionage” through his columns.

This is a scandalous decision in every respect.

First, European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) decisions clearly state that arrest of journalists for what they write constitutes a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) “article on freedom of expression.”

Second, contrary to allegations, the columns in question did not expose a single “confidential document” or information. Besides, the ECtHR rules that even intelligence information can be disclosed for the sake of public interest.

Third, Gültekin Avcı says that he has written the said columns upon various reports about “Iranian female operatives” that had previously appeared in Hürriyet, Sabah, Habertürk and TRT Türk. Contrary to allegations, he did not receive “instruction” to write them. There is not any evidence in the investigation file supporting the allegations about receiving instruction.

Fourth, some of the charges are based on episodes of a TV series aired after his columns had been published. What the scriptwriters wrote or where they got their inspiration from has nothing to do with Avcı. Moreover, the script of a fictional TV series cannot be cited as a “crime.”

Fifth, Avcı is charged with “establishing an armed [terrorist] organization” but the investigation file does not contain evidence on arms, activities and links of this organization. Anyway, there is no such “organization”, either.

Sixth, Avcı has never talked face to face or on the phone with those accused of being “the leader, senior figures, or members of the organization.” There is no evidence whatsoever proving the contrary.

Seventh, there is not a single court order about the alleged “armed organization”, which was cited as reason for arrest. On the contrary, there is a decision by the Supreme Court of Appeals General Council showing there is no such terrorist organization.

Eighth, Avcı is charged with “espionage” but the file does not contain any other evidence than columns.

Ninth, Avcı is charged with “plotting to overthrow the government” but there is not a single act that can be cited as evidence, except for writing the columns.

Tenth, Avcı is charged with “creating perceptions” but the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) does not define such a crime. Nobody can be charged for a crime that is not defined by the law. Moreover, the “Tawhid-Salam” espionage and terror organization, about which Avcı is accused of creating perceptions, was confirmed by the Supreme Court of Appeals in three separate rulings in 2002, 2006 and 2014, as linked with the murders of Uğur Mumcu and other Turkish intellectuals.

Eleventh, there is no suspicion of escape for Avcı. When he was referred to as a “suspect” by the pro-government media 6 months ago, he wanted to testify to the very prosecutor who issued the arrest warrant for him yesterday, but was eventually rejected. The columns are out there and there is no suspicion of spoliation of evidence. There is no ground for his arrest.

Twelfth, the police did not take his testimony. Nor did the prosecutor at the courthouse. The charges he faces were not announced. That the prosecutor requested his arrest without taking his testimony and collecting favorable evidence is inconsistent with legal practices.

Thirteenth, Avcı’s detention period was extended for 3 days although his testimony was not taken. And there is legal “enmity” between Avcı and the on-duty judge, who was available at Sunday night. The judge sued Avcı. It is legally impossible for the judge to hear this case – due to the conflict of interest.

Consequently, Avcı was charged and arrested over 7 columns he had written, as a result of legal interception conducted by public officials upon court decrees, investigations carried out by the prosecutor’s office, and cases submitted to courts.

With this approach, you can sentence every man, let alone a journalist, to life imprisonment by bringing the same charges against him without presenting any evidence.

Indeed, it was revealed by the press and the social media that the 1,700-page “summary of proceedings” and the “general file” which was prepared by the police at the order of the prosecutor and which formed the basis for the arrest of Avcı, include similar charges against many journalists and even politicians, based on various news reports and interviews.

The arrest of Avcı apparently marked a transition from the stage of intimidation and silencing operations to “a hunt for journalists”, as attested by widespread media coverage.

The method of accusing “without offering evidence”, which led to the arrest of Avcı, can pave the way for “depriving journalists of their freedom” on charges of “establishing an armed terrorist organization, plotting to overthrow the government and of engaging in military espionage.”

With the violation of the freedom of the press and unusual practices of law, the New Turkey has already made us long for the Old Turkey. Those who contributed can pride themselves on their work!

Published on BGNNews, 23 September 2015, Wednesday