Journalists to remain under arrest
An Istanbul court ruled for continued arrests of two famous reporters on trial for alleged links to Ergenekon group.
The pair said that press freedom and journalism itself – instead of journalists – was on trial. The next hearing will take place on Jan. 23, journalists tweeting from the courthouse published on the microblogging website Twitter.
“My responses to the accusations doesn’t construe acceptance. We are living in times in which we shall not speak of silence. This is a case against press freedom,” said Ahmet Şık, one of those on trial.
"The situation is obvious. I do not request a discharge. I request nothing. I am journalist and I have always been after the truth. I never got any orders from anyone.”
The eighth hearing of the Oda TV case, in which 14 suspects, including arrested journalists Ahmet Şık, Nedim Þener and Soner Yalçın, are being tried, continued yesterday.
The case has raised numerous concerns over media freedom in Turkey, which is currently holding more than 100 members of the news media in jail, one of the highest numbers worldwide.
“I didn’t bring my book, God forbid it might explode,” told Şık in the court referring to his book which was declared “illegal” and confiscated by police before it was published.
Nedim Şener and Şık, investigative journalists who were arrested in March and have been held since in a top-security prison outside Istanbul, were among the 14 defendants in court to open their defense yesterday. The defendants are accused of having ties to the Ergenekon gang, which allegedly tried to overthrow the government by first fomenting chaos in society.
Many journalists, academics and intellectuals attended the trial in order to give support to the arrested journalists.
Şık has written books about how the Fethullah Gülen movement, which is centered around a Turkish theologian based in Pennsylvania and is considered to be close to the ruling party, has infiltrated the police.
Deriding the case, he said: “With this indictment, you could accuse all journalists of being a member of Ergenekon. It’s ridiculous. There is an organization as you claim. But its name is contra-guerilla, that is, the deep state, not Ergenekon.”
Şık said he had never met Yalçın, the journalist and owner of the Oda TV, a website known for its criticism of the government.
“I have never met Soner Yalçın, whom I am allegedly taking orders from. Ideologically, we are on opposite sides,” Şık added.
“Eleven people are in their 11th month in jail. We don’t even know what we are accused of. There’s no crime in prosecutor’s indictment,” he said.
Şener, an award-winning journalist who has written books about Turkey’s clandestine deep-state activities, greeted observers as he entered a packed courtroom, saying, “Welcome to the theater” and taking a bow.
“I was tried in almost 100 different cases because of what I have written in previous years. But for the first time in my life, I have been arrested and tried for a book which I haven’t written,” he said.
Şener said there was a structure inside the police and the national intelligence services that had tried to cover up the truth of the assassination of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.
“I don’t want my daughter to grow up in a society where Hrant’s murderers are free,” Þener said.
Şener said he was awarded with many national and international journalism awards.
“My name is on the ‘Press freedom heroes’ list at the International Press Institute with those of [murdered daily Milliyet journalist] Abdi İpekçi and Hrant Dink. In addition, I was awarded with a PEN Literary Award which was also given to Hrant Dink and [human rights defender] Ragıp Zarakolu. Unfortunately Abdi İpekçi and Hrant Dink are assassinated, I and Ragıp Zarakolu have been arrested,” Şener added.
Several hundred suspects, including retired senior military officers, academics, lawyers and journalists have been detained in cases related to Ergenekon.
Yalçın Küçük, an author and television debate show presenter, Yalçın and several colleagues from Oda TV also participated in the hearing yesterday.
Also in the dock was a former police chief, Hanefi Avcı, who has written about the alleged infiltration of the police by Gülenists.