Odatv’s Yıldız and Tele1 TV’s Dükel are charged with “securing confidential information” in a new indictment against them, which the court decided to merge with the ongoing trial in December
CANAN COŞKUN, ANKARA
The second hearing in the trial of Odatv news portal’s Ankara News Director Müyesser Yıldız and Tele1 TV Ankara Representative İsmail Dükel on the charge of “Disclosing information that must be kept confidential for reasons relating to the security, or domestic or foreign political interests of the state” under Article 329 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) took place on 6 January 2021 at the Ankara 26th High Criminal Court.
Yıldız and Dükel are accused over their phone calls with their news source, Erdal Baran, a non-commissioned officer who is the third defendant in the case and who has been in pre-trial detention for the past seven months. Yıldız and Dükel were taken into custody on 8 June 2020 on the allegation of "military espionage.” After being held in custody for three days, Yıldız and her source Erdal Baran were jailed pending trial while Dükel was released under judicial control measures. Yıldız was released at the end of the first hearing of the trial on 9 November.
P24 monitored the second hearing, where all three defendants and their lawyers were in attendance.
Presiding judge Halit Kılıç announced at the beginning of the hearing that the court had received a response from the Ministry of Defense as to the inquiry on whether Baran had access to the documents in question. The Ministry notified the court that Baran only had access to documents relating to his field of duty. The judge also noted that the court was submitted documents regarding Baran's mental health.
In between the two courtroom hearings, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued a new indictment where the defendants are charged with “Securing information that must be kept confidential for reasons relating to the security or domestic or foreign interests of the state” under TCK 327. The presiding judge told those in attendance that the court panel ruled on 14 December 2020 to merge the new indictment with the ongoing case.
Addressing the court in response to the accusation in the new indictment, Erdal Baran said the Defense Ministry’s letter to the court proved that he did not have access to classified documents and said he obtained the information through the Internet and newspapers.
Addressing the court next, Yıldız said that while striving to come up with a new charge to punish them, the prosecution should also have conducted further investigation to find who the informant was or who tapped her phone calls and prepare an indictment against them.
Yıldız added: “Securing information is basically what journalism is about. A journalist first obtains information and then reveals it to the public. […] A piece of information does not become confidential just because the General Staff says so. It is not difficult to find out who the commander of [Turkish troops] in Libya is. Recently photos were dispatched from a concert organized [for the troops] in Libya. Was that too a disclosure offense?”
Yıldız’s lawyer Erhan Tokatlı addressed the court next. He asked the court to hear former Police Chief Hanefi Avcı as a witness concerning the legal merits of the case.
In his statement in response to the new accusation, Dükel’s lawyer Semih Ecer told the court that the second indictment failed to explain how the confidential information was secured by the journalists and to show Dükel’s intent.
Following the defense statements, the prosecutor demanded that the court wait for the response from the Ankara Police Department Anti-Terror Branch concerning the identity of the informant who filed the complaint against the journalists. The prosecutor also requested the continuation of Baran’s detention on remand.
In its interim ruling, the court rejected the request to hear Hanefi Avcı as a witness. Ordering the continuation of non-commissioned officer Erdal Baran's detention, the court also rejected the request for further investigation on whether Yıldız's calls were tapped.
The court set 5 February 2021 as the date for the third hearing.