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 Zehra Özdilek’s trial gets under way

Journalist Zehra Özdilek’s trial gets under way

Özdilek is charged with “disclosing the identity of an official assigned in the fight against terrorism” 

CANSU PİŞKİN, ISTANBUL 

Zehra Özdilek, a reporter for Cumhuriyet newspaper, appeared before the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 12 February 2020 for the first hearing of her trial on the charge of “disclosing the identity of a state official assigned in the fight against terrorism as a target.” 

Özdilek is facing conviction for revealing the identity of a secret witness in a criminal investigation in an interview she made with a teacher who was dismissed from her position through a statutory decree.

P24 monitored the hearing, which began two hours later than scheduled. Özdilek and her lawyer Buket Yazıcı were in attendance in the courtroom. 

Addressing the court in relation to procedure, Yazıcı pointed out that on 7 October 2019, while the investigation was ongoing, the prosecution ruled that there were “no grounds for a trial” considering that “the act fell within the scope of the freedom of the press and journalistic activities.” However, 20 days later an indictment was issued against Özdilek. Yazıcı said they found out about the non-prosecution decision through UYAP, the National Judiciary Informatics System, after the trial was already launched. 

Speaking of how an indictment against Özdilek was drafted even though additional evidence to substantiate the claim could not be found, Yazıcı told the court that as per Article 172 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CMK), once a decision of non-prosecution is given, unless new evidence comes to light, a criminal case cannot be launched.

Yazıcı also requested the case to be dropped since it was launched after the expiry of the four-month statute of limitations for pressing charges as per Article 26/1 of Turkey’s Press Law.

Özdilek highlighted the fact that the name of the secret witness was revealed by other newspapers before her interview was published. “I do not think my news report was a crime and it should be evaluated within the context of the freedom of the press,” Özdilek said and requested to be acquitted.

Speaking after the defense, the prosecutor requested the file to be handed over to the prosecution for the preparation of the final opinion. 

Addressing the court again, Yazıcı asked the court to consider their request in relation to procedure and requested additional time to prepare their defense statements. 

Issuing an interim decision at the end of the hearing, the court rejected Yazıcı’s objections, saying that the non-prosecution decision was never officially issued. The court also rejected Yazıcı’s objection to the lack of additional evidence. Ruling to send the file to the prosecution for the preparation of the final opinion, the court adjourned the trial until 14 April.

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