Mehmet Aslan was jailed pending trial in January on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” due to his reports
CANSU PİŞKİN, ISTANBUL
The first hearing of the trial of journalist Mehmet Aslan, who was arrested on 9 January 2021 on charges stemming from the reports he wrote for the Mezopotamya news agency (MA), was held on 26 May 2021 at the Istanbul 24th High Criminal Court.
P24 montiored the hearing, where Aslan’s lawyers Özcan Kılıç, İslam Aslan and Özgür Barça were present in the courtroom while Aslan addressed the court via the judicial video-conferencing network SEGBİS from the Antalya L Type Prison. Aslan's colleagues also monitored the hearing.
Aslan, who is charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” under Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), denied the accusation and stated that he was on trial for his journalistic activities.
“A journalist can report for many television channels or newspapers. It doesn't matter what TV or newspaper it is. News reporting is not a crime. The prosecution criminalizes me because of the news agency I work for,” Aslan told the court.
Stating that he is a member of the Human Rights Association (İHD), Aslan stated that he was not affiliated with or connected to any other organization.
Reminding the court that the indictment alleges that the location of the crime committed was Antalya, Aslan said: “I do not have any idea as to what I did in Antalya or what happened there. The indictment alleges a crime was committed in a certain location, but it talks about no crime.”
Aslan added that he was denied medical care in prison. “I could not take my medicine for 15 days. So if another journalist in the same [prison] unit covers this situation, will he also be a ‘member of a terrorist organization?’ We report on things so that the unlawfulness stops. This is why we became journalists. It is not a crime to report on hunger strikes. People want to draw attention to this issue, so we hear them out and report on what they say.”
Aslan also asserted that he was subjected to a strip search in prison although the prosecution denies this.
Aslan added: “The main reason for my arrest is because I reported on damages caused by the government’s policies.”
The prosecutor demanded that Aslan be released under judicial control measures taking into account the time he spent in detention.
In their statements, Aslan’s lawyers demanded their client’s release. Özcan Kılıç argued that the indictment lacked the qualities of a legal document while İslam Aslan said his client was on trial so as to prevent him from carrying out his journalistic activities.
Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court decided to release Aslan under a ban on traveling abroad and set 14 October 2021 as the date for the second hearing.