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 Dindar Karataş acquitted

Journalist Dindar Karataş acquitted

Karataş, who was charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” on account of his reports, remained in pre-trial detention for 2.5 months as part of the case

RUŞEN TAKVA, VAN

The final hearing of Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) reporter Dindar Karataş’s trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” under Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) was held on 17 November 2021 at the Erzurum 3rd High Criminal Court. The court ruled for Karataş’s acquittal.

Karataş was arrested in November 2020 as part of an investigation conducted by the Erzurum Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and was released at his first hearing held on 9 February 2021 after spending two-and-a-half months in pre-trial detention. The news reports penned by Karataş and his phone calls with his sources were held as evidence against the journalist in the indictment.

P24 monitored the hearing, which was originally scheduled for 16 November but was postponed by the trial court due to a ceremony at the Erzurum Courthouse.

Karataş, who is based in Van province, addressed the court from the Van 4th High Criminal Court via the judicial video-conferencing network SEGBİS.

“Instead of the torturers, I am standing trial”

The hearing began about 45 minutes later than scheduled. Addressing the court for his statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion, Karataş stated that it was unacceptable for his news reports to be held as an element of crime. “I am a journalist. Medical reports issued by the hospital showed that those people in Tutak district had been tortured but instead of the torturers, I am standing trial,” Karataş said.

Reminding that he was released pending trial after being detained for more than two months, Karataş said, “My reports about prisons were also held as evidence in the indictment. During the time I spent in prison I experienced more rights violations than I reported in my stories. As a journalist, I will continue to write about those violations,” Karataş added and requested to be acquitted.

Following Karataş, his lawyer Erselan Aktan addressed the court. Asserting that his client’s report about a villager murdered in Tutak was based on first person accounts by the victim’s relatives and their lawyers, Aktan said: “The report was published after Karataş researched all aspects of the incident and it was published on a legal news portal. The prosecution, on the other hand, is attempting to dictate the syntax of how the news report should be written. This is not his domain. I demand the acquittal of my client on the grounds that there is no criminal element in the case file.”

İrfan Sarı, another lawyer representing Karataş, also stressed that his client is a journalist and that he works for a legally operating news agency. Noting that Karataş became subject to both physical and technical surveillance after reporting on the incident in Tutak, and that no incriminating evidence came out of the surveillance, the lawyer demanded acquittal for Karataş.

Issuing its judgment after hearing Karataş and his lawyers’ statements, the court acquitted Karataş on the grounds that the elements of the crime did not occur.

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