Journalists Yıldız and Dükel and their source are charged with “obtaining and disclosing information that must be kept confidential for reasons relating to the security or the interests of the state”
CANAN COŞKUN, ANKARA
The third hearing in the trial of Odatv news portal Ankara News Director Müyesser Yıldız and TELE1 TV Ankara Representative İsmail Dükel over their phone calls with their news source Erdal Baran, a non-commissioned officer, was held on 5 February 2021 at Ankara 26th High Criminal Court.
P24 monitored the hearing, where CHP Eskişehir Deputy Utku Çakırözer was also among spectators. Yıldız, Dükel and Baran were present in the courtroom, accompanied by their lawyers. Baran is the only jailed defendant in the case. Yıldız's lawyer, Erdoğan Tokatlı, told the court panel that press ombudsman Faruk Bildirici had prepared an expert opinion on the case and was in the courtroom to submit his opinion.
As the trial began, the presiding judge announced that a medical report on Erdal Baran’s mental health and the Ankara Police Department’s response to the inquiry about the identity of the informant, whose claims constituted the basis for the investigation, have been submitted to the file. The Ankara Police Department could not identify the informant.
Afterwards, Yıldız addressed the court. She said that although it has already been proven that they are on trial for their journalistic activities and what they did was not “espionage,” “they will obviously give us a penalty.”
Addressing the court concerning the transcriptions of phone records held as evidence for the accusations, Yıldız's lawyer Naci Uğur said the information on the tapes was not confidential. Mustafa Güler, another lawyer representing Yıldız, said that he was a former intelligence officer and that most of the information on the tapes would be dismissed by any intelligence officer.
Erdal Baran addressed the court next and told the panel that his mental state was unstable. In his statement, Dükel said he was curious as to how the informant could not be identified, while his lawyer, Semih Ecer, said that since the informant cannot be identified, the tip-off should be dismissed and therefore should be regarded as unlawful evidence. “This fundamental error is guiding the entire prosecution. Therefore, the fact that we are here [based on a tip-off] is against the law. The court should rule for immediate acquittal,” Ecer said.
Faruk Bildirici’s expert opinion
Afterwards, the court heard press ombudsman Faruk Bildirici’s expert opinion. Bildirici told the court that he examined the journalists’ connection with Erdal Baran in terms of the nature of the information he provided, how the journalists used the information, and the impact of the information described. “Neither of them has a financial connection to Erdal Baran. There's no relationship other than journalism. There's not even a friendship. There's a journalist-news source relationship. The protection of this relationship is about freedom of the press,” Bildirici said.
Asserting that there was no accusation in the indictment that Yıldız and Dükel used the information they received from Baran for purposes other than journalism, Bildirici said, “The limits of journalism has not been exceeded. Freedom of the press and journalists’ relations with news sources should not be prosecuted.”
Prosecutor’s final opinion
Following Bildirici’s presentation, the prosecutor submitted their final opinion.
Arguing that Dükel and Yıldız had “crossed the boundaries of journalism and disclosed confidential information,” the prosecutor asked the court to convict Yıldız, Dükel and Baran for “systematically obtaining and disclosing information that must be kept confidential for reasons relating to the security or the interests of the state” under articles 327 and 329 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).
Issuing an interim ruling, the court granted the defendants time to prepare their final defense statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion and set 8 March 2021 as the date for the next hearing. The court ruled for the continuation of Erdal Baran's detention and the judicial control measures imposed on Yıldız and Dükel.