Expression Interrupted

Journalists and academics bear the brunt of the massive crackdown on freedom of expression in Turkey. Scores of them are currently subject to criminal investigations or behind bars. This website is dedicated to tracking the legal process against them.

Journalist Dicle Müftüoğlu not released at second hearing

Journalist Dicle Müftüoğlu not released at second hearing

Presiding judge announces decision to keep Müftüoğlu behind bars the moment defense statements end. Secret witness to be heard at the next hearing


The second hearing in the trial of journalist and Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG) Co-Chair Dicle Müftüoğlu on the charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “establishing and administrating a terrorist organization” was held at the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court on 18 January 2024. Müftüoğlu has been in pre-trial detention since 3 May 2023.

P24 monitored the hearing, which Müftüoğlu attended from the Sincan Women’s Closed Prison via the judicial videoconferencing network SEGBİS while her lawyers Resul Temur and Veysel Ok were present in the courtroom.

The hearing began with a delay. Observers included DFG Co-Chair Serdar Altan and other executives of the association, administrators from the Mezopotamya Women Journalists Association (MKG), DİSK Basın-İş trade union, Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS) and Southeastern Journalists Association, as well as MPs from DEM Party, CSO representatives and fellow journalists. Many riot police in uniform were also present in the courtroom.

Although the previous hearing had ended with a ruling to hear witnesses and therefore the witnesses were expected to be heard, the presiding judge first asked Müftüoğlu to deliver her defense.

Müftüoğlu: “It is journalism that is on trial”

Müftüoğlu stated that she would repeat the defense statement she had delivered at the previous hearing and once more emphasized that it was journalism that was on trial.

Müftüoğlu said that the need for the truth had increased in the face of violence and exploitation women and children faced with, and the profit regime the environment goes through. She stated that it was the duty of journalists to tell the people the truth and that she considered it significant that she had been imprisoned pending trial on 3 May World Press Freedom Day.

Müftüoğlu then turned to the allegations and witnesses’ statements in the case file and said that her journalistic activities were being depicted as terrorist activities in the file. Müftüoğlu remarked that she had run all her activities openly as a requirement of the journalistic profession and continued: “My phone conversations are included in the indictment. All of the people named there are my colleagues, what could be more natural than me speaking to them on the phone? There are allegations that our phones could be picked up by the same signal towers, which is also quite ordinary.”

Müftüoğlu said that her work as the co-chair of DFG were also being depicted as terrorist activities and said: “These are publicly known activities. Our association is a legal organization. There was no need for witnesses to establish this. It is also completely clear that I engage in journalistic activities.”

Müftüoğlu ended her defense by stating that she was being prevented from practicing her profession through remand and requested her release.

Connection failure with secret witness, prosecutor requests imprisonment to be sustained

The court then heard witness Kerem Gökalp, who said he had seen Müftüoğlu in the “media field” at a training session of the KCK Press Committee. He added: “I was there as a trainer, I do not know what her duty was at this event.”

Upon the witness stating that this event had taken place in July 2014, Müftüoğlu was asked about the date and she replied that the date was wrong and at the time she could not travel due to health issues. Müftüoğlu added that she had not traveled to Iraq on the dates mentioned, but in 2017, to report on the independence referendum.

Upon the connection with the witness failing, the prosecutor was asked to speak. The prosecutor for the hearing requested the court to sustain Müftüoğlu’s imprisonment.

Asked for another statement, Müftüoğlu said, “I have not engaged in any terrorist activities. For 15 years I have been in many cities as a journalist, I was involved with the DFG and fought against censorship. Journalism is not a crime, and it should be practiced in a free environment.”

Lawyer Temur: “There is suspicion that the witness’ statements were guided”

Speaking afterwards, lawyer Resul Temur said that Kerem Gökalp had been handed over to Turkey by the KDP on 20 November 2019 as a state’s witness and did not make any statement concerning their client that was entered into the identification report during this process. Temur added: “[Gökalp] was then taken to Ankara and delivered new statements, which give rise to suspicions of being guided. Our client was detained based on these statements. She was put in pre-trial detention after being identified through a secret witness’ statement.”

Temur went on to say that their client had been involved in a severe traffic accident in 2012 and continued to receive treatment for a broken neck during the dates mentioned by the witness, adding that it would not have been possible for their client to undertake an arduous journey to attend the event mentioned by the witness while undergoing physical therapy.

Temur said that their client’s medical records could be ascertained from hospital records and her continued practice of journalism from the news she had covered at the time, but that the prosecutor had avoided placing any documents in the file that could benefit Müftüoğlu.

On witnesses’ statements, Temur spoke as follows: “Witness Kerem Gökalp said that he had delivered training for a week but did not know for what reason our client was there. This means he is lying. Answering a question in another court case, the secret witness said that he had worked on behalf of the state. In this case, the secret witness must either be an investigator or an agent provocateur, and in either case, he is open to being guided. He has not testified before the court and we could not question him. Secret witnesses’ testimonies are received in categorized fields and using templates produced by the police. Over the last two years, more than 30 journalists have been imprisoned pending trial on the same allegations and nearly all of them were released. If we were to look at all the statements by the secret witness, we would find that he used the same expressions for several people.”

“Placing journalists in pre-trial detention is a form of censorship”

Temur said that neither law enforcement, nor the prosecutor had inquired into what was the DFG, despite it being named in the indictment and being a legal association, and this showed “what a single-sided investigation” had been carried out.

Concluding his statement, Temur said, “As my client has stated herself, she is being placed under a form of censorship through being held in remand” and requested her release given the duration of remand and evidence situation.

Lawyer Ok: “Prosecution cannot impute intentions”

Speaking afterwards, lawyer Veysel Ok said that the statements delivered by the witnesses contained many contradictions and said that the prosecutor had “filed an indictment without expending the necessary effort.” Ok said: “They have not even asked what it means to be a member of a cadre. Cadre members do not head associations, they do not publish news stories under their own name.”

Ok said that the prosecutor had used the expression “… it has been established” in the indictment and said: “A prosecutor does not establish things. The prosecutor cannot impute intentions. They must base what they say on actions.”

Speaking of other allegations, Ok said the Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK) report benefited their client and that the signal tower issue in the indictment was established to be not legally relevant by a Supreme Court of Appeals judgment and repeated the request for Müftüoğlu's release.

The moment lawyer Ok’s defense statement was over, the presiding judge announced without taking recess that the court had ruled to uphold remand.

The trial was adjourned until 29 February 2024 for the secret witness, whose connection was interrupted, to attend and be heard.

Representatives of professional organizations, observers and journalists, who read out a press statement outside the courthouse after the hearing, said that journalism was being put on trial in the person of Müftüoğlu and called for mass attendance to the hearing on 29 February.