The case follows on the heels of a Constitutional Court judgment which held that Kural’s arrest violated freedom of expression, freedom of the press and prohibition of ill-treatment
CANSU PİŞKİN, ISTANBUL
Three police officers who used violence against former Bianet reporter Beyza Kural in 2015 as she was covering a demonstration in Istanbul appeared before court on 23 June 2021 for the first hearing of their trial.
The police officers are charged with “Violation of the freedom to work or labor by using force, threats or by any other unlawful act” under Article 117/1 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which carries a penalty of imprisonment for a term of 6 months to 2 years, or a judicial fine.
The trial, overseen by the Istanbul 35th Criminal Court of First Instance, follows on the heels of a Constitutional Court judgment rendered in January 2021, which held that Kural’s arrest violated three provisions of the Constitution: freedom of expression, freedom of the press and prohibition of ill-treatment.
P24 monitored the first hearing, where two of the defendants, Y.Ş. and K.A., and their lawyers were in attendance as well as the plaintiff Kural and her lawyer Meriç Eyüboğlu.
Y.Ş. told the court in his defense statement that security measures were heightened at the time due to the deadly Ankara railway station attack, which had taken place a few days before. Y.Ş. claimed that Kural failed to present her press ID card and that had he seen her ID, he “would not have made such an intervention.” Y.Ş. also argued that the threat he uttered (“Nothing is like they used to be anymore, we will teach you that”) while arresting Kural was “not personal.”
Kural’s lawyer then showed the court footage in which Kural is seen showing Y.Ş. her press ID and asked the police if he was the officer in the footage. Y.Ş. said he was the officer in the footage but claimed that Kural did not show a press ID.
Kural then addressed the court and recounted her arrest. While Kural continued her statement, recounting other examples of police brutality against journalists in Turkey, the judge intervened and warned her to stick to the matters in the indictment. Kural’s lawyer asked the judge not to intervene since her client waited for this court case to be opened for five years.
The lawyer representing officer Y.Ş. then addressed the court, arguing that the Constitutional Court judgment did not say “there had been a crime” but that “an effective investigation had not been conducted.” The lawyer insisted that the officer did not know Kural was a journalist.
Kural’s lawyer Eyüboğlu requested that the court take additional statements from the officers concerning threat and assault charges. She also said they would submit to the court a list of witnesses they want the court to hear.
Another officer on trial, who goes by the initials K.A., also argued in his statement that Kural failed to show her press ID and rejected that they cuffed Kural behind her back.
The judge then had footage showing the incident replayed in court. The prosecutor demanded that the court accept Kural and her lawyer’s request for intervention. The court agreed to grant Kural and her lawyer intervening party status. In an interim ruling, the judge ordered that the third officer who failed to attend the hearing, who goes by the initials N.D., be brought to court for the next hearing. The judge rejected Eyüboğlu’s request for additional statements to be taken from the defendants on threat and assault charges since these charges are not in the indictment. The next hearing of the trial will be held on 24 September 2021.