Mehmet Baransu, a former correspondent for the now-defunct Taraf newspaper, was arrested on 2 March 2015 for allegedly "obtaining and publishing" classified state documents in connection with the disclosure of a military document called the “Egemen” (sovereign) Operation Plan.
Detained on the charges of “Possession of documents classified as state secret,” “Exposing classified information crucial to state security and interests,” and “Damaging, procuring or stealing documents concerning the security of the state or using said documents outside their intended purpose,” Baransu has perhaps been in prison longer than any of the currently imprisoned journalists in Turkey.
Baransu, who is facing dozens of cases against him, was sentenced to a total of 19,5 years in prison, for reporting in 2013 about an alleged customs fraud involving genetically modified rice. At the final hearing that took place in July 2020, Baransu was sentenced to 2 years for “the violation of privacy,” 4 years for “disclosing prohibited information” and 13 years and 6 months for “FETÖ membership.” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was listed as an intervening party in the case, which was overseen by the Mersin 2nd High Criminal Court and where 77 defendants stood trial.
In the “Egemen Operation Plan” trial, which is overseen by the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, Baransu’s co-defendants are the former executives of Taraf, Ahmet Altan, Yasemin Çongar and Yıldıray Oğur. Baransu, the only detained defendant in the case, filed an application with the Constitutional Court, alleging that his detention was unlawful and his freedom of expression and freedom of press had been violated. However, his appeal was rejected. In addition to the allegations he was detained over, Baransu is facing the charges of “leading an armed terrorist organization” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.” If found guilty, he may spend up to 75 years in prison.
"2004 MGK headline” trial
Baransu is also on trial in a separate case along with Murat Şevki Çoban, the former responsible managing editor of Taraf, over a news report that was published in Taraf on 28 November 2013, titled “Gülen’i Bitirme Kararı 2004’te MGK’da Alındı” (The decision to finish off Gülen was taken by MGK in 2004). In the report, Baransu wrote about the Fethullah Gülen network being listed as a threat at a National Security Council (MGK) meeting in 2004. On 4 December 2019, the court that had been overseeing the trial, the Anadolu 10th High Criminal Court, issued a decision of non-jurisdiction and sent the case file to the Anadolu 2nd High Criminal Court, where the case is currently ongoing.
Both journalists are facing up to 52 years in prison for allegedly “Acquiring documents related the security of the state,” "Disclosing documents related to the security of the state through the press" and “Exposing documents regarding the operations of the National Intelligence Agency (MİT) through the press" in the case.
Presenting their final opinion during the hearing on 17 July 2020, the prosecution requested the court to convict Baransu and Çoban as charged.
The final hearing of this trial took place on 23 November 2020. The court sentenced Baransu to a combined prison sentence of 17 years and 1 month on four different charges under the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) and the Law on the State Intelligence Services and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT). Baransu was sentenced to 3 years and 4 months for “Securing confidential information related to the security of the state” (TCK 327/1); 6 years and 3 months for "Exposing confidential information related to the security of the state" (TCK 329/1); 4 years and 2 months for "Unauthorized acquisition of documents and information concerning the MIT’s duties and operations” (MİT Law 27/1) and 3 years and 4 months for “Disclosing the contents of documents and information concerning the MIT’s duties and operations through the press” (MİT Law 27/3). Murat Şevki Çoban was acquitted of all charges.
“Match fixing” trial
Baransu is also a defendant in a “match fixing” trial, heard by the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul. In addition to Baransu, the former chairman of the shuttered Samanyolu Broadcasting Group Hidayet Karaca and the former editor-in-chief of the now-defunct Zaman newspaper, Ekrem Dumanlı, are among the 108 defendants in the case, facing prison sentences up to 85 years for alleged “deprivation of liberty,” “violation of communicational secrecy,” “violating secrecy of private life,” “counterfeiting official documents,” “violation of privacy,” “using another person’s identity card or ID information,” “perjury” and “establishing and leading an armed terrorist organization.”
Baransu is still in detention on remand in the Silivri Prison in Istanbul, facing nearly a thousand years behind bars as part of dozens of different cases.