Ahmet Şık removed from courtroom in Cumhuriyet hearing, journalists to remain under arrest
A judge ordered journalist Ahmet Şık to be removed from the courtroom on Dec. 25, preventing him from making a “political statement” in his defense during the fifth hearing of the trial Cumhuriyet journalists held at Istanbul’s Çağlayan Courthouse.
The court later ruled for the continuation of arrests of Şık, editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu and CEO Akın Atalay, setting March 9, 2018 as the date of the next hearing.
During Dec. 25’s hearing, the court’s head judge, Judge Abdurrahman Orkun Dağ, stopped Şık’s "political" defense statement and ordered him out of the courtroom after he continued his speech.
"There is a judiciary controlled by the government that is translating this ’terrorist’ term into preposterous accusations," Şık, who has now been in prison for 360 days, told the court before being interrupted.
Judge Dağ did not allow Şık to continue and ordered his removal.
"That’s enough! If you want to play politics, become a member of parliament... I cannot allow him to defend himself like this. Take the defendant outside!" Dağ said.
Angry supporters in the courtroom responded by shouting: "You are all going to be tried one day" and "Ahmet will get out, he will write again" causing the trial to be adjourned for lunch.
After the break, Sabuncu also refused to give his defense, citing Şık’s removal from the court.
“I had prepared a statement in my defense, I wanted to read it, but naturally, I will not give my defense since Ahmet could not,” Sabuncu told the court.
“Ahmet Şık is one of the most honest journalists in this country and if he could have made his statement, he would have told the truth again. I only have one request from you, my friend [Şık] is alone downstairs, I want to go to him,” he added.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkulu criticized the judge’s decision.
“This is already a political trial, how can you defend yourself without making political a statement,” he said at the courthouse.
Before the hearing, dozens of supporters gathered outside the court in Istanbul, holding signs saying "You are not alone, we are not alone", "Justice for all" and "Freedom for all journalists".
Some held the issue of the day of Cumhuriyet whose front page read: "Justice immediately."
"This trial is a symbol of the attempt to silence freedom of expression in Turkey. It is a symbol of pressure on journalists," Gülendam San Karabulutlar, a defense lawyer, told Agence France-Presse.
Şık spent for more than a year in jail in 2011-2012 after writing a book on the infiltration of the Fethullah Gülen network in the Turkish police and judiciary.
The Cumhuriyet journalists are charged with supporting through their coverage three outlawed groups : The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), and the Gülen network.
They face up to 43 years in prison if convicted.
In May, Şık had applied to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) demanding his immediate release, citing a court ruling from three years ago stating that his rights had been violated.
The Turkish government has argued that Şık was not arrested for his journalistic activities, in its defense submitted to the ECHR on Nov. 27.
Şık was arrested on Dec. 30, 2016 over several tweets and articles for Cumhuriyet, accused of “helping and being a member of terrorist groups.”