All three journalists were charged with “disclosing the identity of a public official who took part in the fight against terrorism” for reporting on the Berkin Elvan investigation
CANSU PİŞKİN, ISTANBUL
The sixth and final hearing of journalists Canan Coşkun, Can Uğur and Ali Açar's trial on the charge of “disclosing the identities of public officials involved in the fight against terrorism” under Article 6/1 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMK) was held at the Istanbul 34th High Criminal Court on 7 October 2021.
P24 monitored the hearing, where Coşkun and the lawyers representing the journalists were in attendance. Uğur and Açar did not attend the hearing. Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) MP Sezgin Tanrıkulu was also in the courtroom to observe the hearing.
During the previous hearing, held on 8 June 2021, the prosecutor demanded conviction for all three journalists for two news articles published in March 2016 in Cumhuriyet and BirGün newspapers. Both reports were about the investigation into the death of 14-year-old Berkin Elvan after being hit on the head by a gas canister fired by the police during 2013’s Gezi Park protests.
Addressing the court for her final statement, Coşkun said the name of the police officer who allegedly fired the tear gas canister was mentioned in her report because his name was among suspects in the Berkin Elvan investigation. “My only intention was to report on the investigation,” Coşkun told the court, adding: “The article did not disclose the identity of the police officer. I did not write the article to mark the officer as a target [for terrorist organizations].” Coşkun requested to be acquitted.
Coşkun’s lawyer Abbas Yalçın addressed the court next. Asserting that his client’s report was not aimed at disclosing the identity of the police officer, Yalçın said Coşkun’s report was within the scope of press freedom and requested his client’s acquittal.
Uğur’s lawyer Tolgay Güvercin spoke next. Asserting in his statement that neither the indictment nor the prosector’s final opinion laid out which expressions in the news articles marked the police officer as a target for terrorist organizations, Güvercin requested his client’s acquittal.
Açar’s lawyer Damla Çaltepe requested a continuance to prepare their final defense statement because she was only recently appointed to represent the journalist. The court rejected the request.
Rendering its judgment at the end of the hearing, the court ruled for Coşkun, Uğur and Açar’s acquittal on the grounds that the alleged offense was not prescribed in the law.
An indictment was issued against Coşkun, Uğur and Açar on 21 November 2019, citing the reports titled “Berkin Elvan’ı vurduğu iddia edilen polis görev yerini hatırlamadı” (Officer who allegedly shot Berkin Elvan does not remember where he was stationed), published on 11 March 2016 in Cumhuriyet; and “Berkin soruşturmasındaki gizlilik kararının sebebi katilin itibarı zedelenmesin” (Reason for confidentiality order in Berkin investigation: Do not damage the reputation of the murderer), published on BirGün’s online edition.
Arguing that “Berkin Elvan’s death was exploited by some terrorist organizations,” the prosecutor's office claimed that the Cumhuriyet and BirGün reports marked the police officer who was a suspect in the Berkin Elvan investigation as a target for leftist terrorist organizations.
Alleging a link with the assassination of public prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz in the Istanbul Courthouse, the indictment said that in a statement by the DHKP/C about the assassins Şafak Yayla and Bahtiyar Doğruyol, the police officer’s identity had been disclosed and that he had been threatened with death.