Court rules to keep former Taraf reporter Mehmet Baransu behind bars, sets 9 December as the date for the next hearing
CANSU PİŞKİN, ISTANBUL
The trial of former Taraf executives Ahmet Altan, Yasemin Çongar, Yıldıray Oğur and reporter Mehmet Baransu over the alleged publication of a secret military document called “Egemen operation plan” resumed this week at the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court.
Held over two days, on 12 and 13 October 2020, the sessions marked the 31st and 32nd hearings in the case. P24 monitored the sessions. Baransu, the only jailed defendant in the case, addressed the court from the Silivri Prison via the judicial video-conferencing network SEGBİS. Altan, Çongar and Oğur were represented by their lawyers while Suat Aytın, a retired military officer who requested to be a participant in the trial, was also in the courtroom.
Baransu’s lawyer Yahya Engin asked the court to revoke its previous decision allowing participants to join the trial, saying the present case file was not linked to the “Balyoz coup plan” case. Separately, citing a June 2020 judgment by the Mersin 2nd High Criminal Court, which convicted Baransu of “membership of a terrorist organization” (TCK 314/2), Engin asked the court to drop the “membership of a terrorist organization” charge in the file against his client
Aytın addressed the court, saying: “Balyoz was proved to be innocent by a Supreme Court of Appeals judgment.” In response to Aytın, Altan and Çongar’s lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu read out an excerpt from a speech delivered by General Metin Yavuz Yalçın during a March 2003 military seminar and asserted that Yalçın’s expressions, in which he said he would dismiss a district governor, or use excessive force on the public if he has to, constituted a crime. She said a military seminar whose subject matter is crime was unacceptable.
The prosecutor requested the court to reject Baransu’s 63-page motion seeking further investigation of evidence, submitted to the court during the previous hearing. The prosecutor said further investigation of evidence would not contribute to the merits of the case.
Asserting that the evidence against him in the case file was a setup, Baransu reiterated his request for further investigation of evidence.
During the 32nd hearing on 13 October, the court heard statements by defense lawyers. Baransu’s lawyer Dilara Yılmaz told the court that the evidence concerning her client was collected unlawfully and asked the court to dismiss the illegal evidence. She said the prosecutor conducting the investigation manipulated evidence. The lawyer also asked the court to release Baransu pending trial, saying he does not pose a flight risk and is already convicted as part of a separate case.
Baransu also addressed the court. Citing the 13-year prison sentence he was given in the trial in Mersin, Baransu said: “The court in Mersin sentenced me to 13 years for ‘membership of a terrorist organization’ over two news reports. I will not be able to leave the prison even if your court rules for my release. I ask to be released.”
Çongar and Altan’s lawyer Çalıkuşu told the court that their efforts over the past two-and-a-half years to stick to the merits of the case were being hampered by those bringing up the Balyoz coup plan: This trial is not about Balyoz, we request the court to revoke the participants' status,” Çalıkuşu said.
The prosecutor requested the continuation of Baransu’s detention on remand, citing “flight risk” and the classification of the imputed offense, and asked the court to reject Baransu’s motion for further investigation of evidence. The prosecutor also asked the court to deliver the case file to the prosecution for the preparation of their final opinion.
Issuing an interim decision, the court ordered the continuation of Baransu’s detention. Rejecting the requests to revoke the participants’ standing at this point, the court ruled to inquire of the Istanbul 1st Criminal Judgeship of Peace about requests for search warrants issued during the initial investigation, and to ask the Mersin 2nd High Criminal Court for a copy of their reasoned judgment in writing concerning the file against Baransu. The court also ruled to ask for a copy of the judicial opinion of the Office of the General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals concerning the Balyoz trial, overseen by the Istanbul Anadolu 4th High Criminal Court. The court also ruled to watch footage of the search conducted in the apartment of Baransu’s ex-wife and listen to a tape confiscated during the search.
The court set 9 December 2020 as the date for the next hearing.
The indictment accuses Baransu of “Establishing or leading an armed terrorist organization,” “Damaging, procuring or stealing documents concerning the security of the state or using said documents outside their intended purpose,” “Procuring classified information relating to the security of the state” and “Exposing classified information relating to the security of the state.” He faces a combined prison sentence between 35 and 75 years. Former Taraf executives Ahmet Altan, Yasemin Çongar and Yıldıray Oğur each face up to 52.5 years in prison. Baransu has been in pre-trial detention in the Silivri Prison in Istanbul since 2015.