Demir is charged with “memberhsip in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” over news material found in memory cards stolen from his home in 2016
ALTAN SANCAR, ANKARA
The trial of journalist Hayri Demir on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” based on news footage stored on memory cards handed over to the police after being stolen from his home in 2016 resumed on 30 June 2021 at the Ankara 15th High Criminal Court.
Demir did not attend the hearing, which marked the eighth in the trial. He was represented by his lawyer Rumeysa Özkaya. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the presiding judge did not allow spectators and journalists in the courtroom.
Demir is on trial based on his social media posts and the photos he took while working as a journalist. The images and footage held as evidence against him were obtained from the memory cards stolen from his home on 28 February 2016. Interviews Demir made and the photos he took in 2015 while he was covering the civil war in Syria are also held as evidence against him.
The court previously ruled to have Demir’s memory cards stored in the property and evidence unit of the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office handed over to the court for examination by the anti-terror unit of the Ankara Police Department. The property and evidence unit told the court that the file had been closed. The court then decided to make a new request. At this week’s hearing, which lasted only five minutes, the court decided to wait for a new response from the property and evidence unit and adjourned the trial until 12 October.
Nuray Özdoğan, one of Demir’s lawyers, told P24 following the hearing that the trial against her client over his work as a journalist was a violation of the right to presumption of innocence. Stressing that Demir is charged with a serious crime, Özdoğan added: “For a journalist to be on trial for such a long time on such a serious charge as ‘membership in a terrorist organization’ both violates the right to be presumed innocent and the right to not being labeled as a criminal. This trial has also been putting Demir's professional activities at risk. It is difficult for a journalist who is subjected to such a lengthy trial to continue his profession.” Özdoğan added that the court had no reason to convict Demir under the current circumstances.
An investigation was launched against Demir over his reports from northern Syria when he was a correspondent for the Dicle News Agency (DİHA). He was detained in Ankara on 16 March 2017 and released after spending eight days in police custody. In the indictment issued some two years later, Demir was charged with “membership in an armed terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda.” The prosecutor's office is demanding a prison sentence between 9 years and 22.5 years for Demir.
In his defense statements at the hearings, Demir described the case as a conspiracy and drew attention to the fact that the person who found the memory cards for which he is on trial after they were stolen from his home was working with the Bolu Gendarmerie Command.