‘I am on trial because I am a critical journalist’

‘I am on trial because I am a critical journalist’

In the indictment I am charged with “helping an armed terrorist organization while not being a member.”

The first specific accusation is that I have communicated with 92 suspicious individuals who use ByLock and with 21 people who are under investigation for ties to the FETÖ/PDY (Fethullahist Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure) terror organization.

The second accusation is that as a publishing consultant for the Cumhuriyet newspaper I have first-hand signature authority at Yenigün Haber Ajansı Basın A.Ş. and that I am responsible for the alleged radical policy change at Cumhuriyet and for the kind of publishing that serves the manipulative aims of the FETÖ/PDY and PKK/KCK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party/Kurdistan Communities Union) organizations.

Finally, based on my July 12, 2016 column entitled “Erdoğan wants to be our father,” I am accused of “openly and directly targeting the president’s personality and trying to create a perception that there is an authoritarian regime in Turkey.”

All of these accusations are baseless.

The claim that I had communicated with 92 ByLock users and 21 other people under investigation for ties to FETÖ/PDY is completely unfounded. The alleged communication with 102 of the 112 people consists of only one-sided SMS messages (85 persons) and/or one-sided telephone calls (17 persons). Since I did not answer any of these SMS/calls it cannot be claimed that I was in communication with these people. On the contrary, we can only speak of their efforts to contact me, efforts that remained unsuccessful. In other words, these people communicated with me, but I did not communicate with them.

I had communication with only eight of the 112 people claimed in the indictment. Five of those eight people are ByLock users and of course, these five people are persons with whom I was in contact for reasons related to my journalistic profession in an absolutely legitimate manner. Of course, there is no way that I could have known or guessed that these people were going to be ByLock users.

It should not be forgotten that journalists are curious people and (in the course of their work) they meet different people. This activity cannot be a crime and cannot be punished in a democracy. This is called journalism and journalism is not a crime.

To make any connection between my position as an editorial consultant (at Cumhuriyet) and the alleged policy change of the newspaper defies logic. First of all, the publishing consultancy, which I was only able to perform for 34 days before I was taken into custody, is not a position from which one can make decisions or changes regarding the policy of the newspaper. The publishing consultant is the person whose opinion is asked if needed. The decision whether to take the consultant’s opinion into consideration or not, lies with the management. In any case, how and when could a publishing consultant who started his job on Sept. 27, 2016 and who could only perform his job for 34 days make a radical policy change at Cumhuriyet?

With regards to the third accusation, in Turkey there is no crime called “openly and directly targeting the president.” On the contrary, a good journalist would openly and directly scrutinize his subject of criticism. Besides, in democracies there can’t be a law that says the president is excluded from criticism nor can there be the practice saying that if the president is going to be criticized it must be done in an implied or indirect way. 

Because of the column (of July 12, 2016) I am also accused of trying to create the perception that there is an authoritarian regime in Turkey. This is not a legal accusation but a political one. The job of a journalist is not to create perceptions but to evaluate the facts in an objective way. If a journalist expresses an opinion he supports this with facts. My impugned column involves an opinion that is supported and confirmed by unshakeable facts.

On top of that I am a columnist who has been openly warning for years, in every medium, that the (Turkish) regime is becoming more authoritarian. In 2009, I wrote a column for (the newspaper) Milliyet called, “We are on our way to an authoritarian regime with elections.” Since then, I have warned in many columns of the regime’s increasingly authoritarian tendencies.

Unfortunately, my foresight has become real. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be on trial today as a criminal of thought and I wouldn’t have had to wait nine months in prison before having the opportunity to refute all of these baseless, empty and unfounded accusations in front of a court.

All these charges against me not only lack intelligence and logic, but they are also outside of any standard of law and conscience. These charges only produce injustice. If I am testifying here in front of you as a “defendant,” the reason is that my name was caught up last minute in the political operation to purge Cumhuriyet. The aim of including my name was to shut up and isolate me. The view was that the only way to shut me up just before Turkey was preparing for a constitutional referendum was to arrest me.
The operation against Cumhuriyet was also used as an opportunity to arrest me and make it impossible for me to write, speak or perform journalism. This occurred to them at the last minute.

The reason I am here in front of you is not because I “helped a terror organization while not being a member.” It’s because I was an independent, critical, questioning journalist and because I have never compromised my work as a journalist and always insisted on doing my job correctly. 

I was punished in advance by a long period of pre-trial detention because I succeeded in remaining a journalist despite all of the government’s oppression and threats. You cannot find any single, real piece of evidence that would support the charges against me because nothing in my attitude, words or articles provides any evidence. On the contrary, I have always approached the organization in question (FETÖ/PDY) with the utmost suspicion my entire career. I have always been strictly critical of them. When FETÖ was known as Cemaat and when this Cemaat was working together with the AKP (Justice and Development Party) government, my view towards this structure was categorically negative. And my view on this never changed.

I exposed the de facto coalition partnership between the current government and this group in the past, and I foresaw the damage that this sinister cooperation would cause to the country. On several occasions I highlighted the plots that what was then called Cemaat carried out with the support and power of the government and several times I expressed that the AKP could also be a victim of this alliance. A lot of the articles I have written and the things I have said on TV prove this. All my foresight became real. Everything is in the archives. The accusations against me have taken on a surreal dimension with lies and forgeries without even the need to base them on fake evidence.

I had to spend nine months at Silivri Prison before I could express these truths in front of a court. This punishment by extended pre-trial detention is against the law and is a violation of human rights in and of itself.

In view of all the issues I have mentioned, I respectfully request to receive a verdict of not guilty.