The prosecutor demands that the case against the police officers who engaged in violence against Biçici dismissed due to statute of limitations. The trial is adjourned until 13 September
CANSU PİŞKİN, ISTANBUL
The trial of five police officers who engaged in violence against Gökhan Biçici, the chief editor of dokuz8NEWS, as he followed the Gezi Park protests in 2013, has commenced nine years after the event.
The first hearing of the trial of the defendant police officers, identified by their initials A.E., F.K., G.D., O.E. and Y.U., on charges of “actual bodily harm by means of exceeding the limits on authority to use force,” “insult” and “violation of the freedom to work and employment” took place at the İstanbul 48th Criminal Court of First Instance on 29 June 2022.
Defendant police officer O.E., Biçici and his lawyers attended the hearing, which was monitored by P24.
Biçici’s lawyer Metin İriz reminded the court that defendants were charged with “insult,” “actual bodily harm” and “violation of freedom to work and employment,” the Constitutional Court had described the case as “treatment incompatible with human dignity.” İriz asserted that the allegations constituted the act of torture according to the Constitutional Court judgment and therefore demanded that the court rule on its lack of competence and convey the case to a High Criminal Court as per Article 5 of the Turkish Criminal Procedure Code. The court decided to evaluate this request together with the opinion of the prosecution as to the accusations, when concluding the proceedings.
“He saw my press card and swore at me”
Speaking at the hearing, defendant police officer O.E. said that he did not know Biçici and denied the charges. Biçici, who then addressed the court, stated that the trial starting nine years after the events prolonged the torture he suffered. Biçici said that the perpetrators not having been sentenced despite the establishment of the crime was a reflection of a systematic attitude against journalism in general and not just himself as an individual.
Biçici summarized the events of the day as follows: “Although it was clear that I was there as a journalist and I was wearing my press card on my collar, O.E. swore at me after looking at my press card and said ‘detain him’ to the officers serving under him. I was directly prevented from performing my job. Later, when they said, ‘take him to a building’s stairwell and finish him off’ I started to resist. I assumed the fetal position to protect myself since they were kicking me. The people around reacted very strongly as I was being subjected to violence. After a while, as can be seen in the footage, the police officers took me to the detention car, two of them holding me by the hands and the other two by the feet. After making me wait near the vehicle with my hands cuffed behind my back, one of the police officers said, ‘We would have killed you, but this is not the place for it’ and put me on the bus.”
The opinion of the prosecution as to the accusations asserted that the date of the offence was 2013 and the duration of the statute of limitations was eight years. For this reason, the opinion demanded that the case be dismissed as per Article 223/8 of the Turkish Criminal Procedure Code.
Biçici spoke against the opinion, saying he disagreed that the statute of limitations applies here, because the offence in question is torture and as such, the trial of the defendants should be transferred to a High Criminal Court. Biçici’s lawyer İriz demanded additional time to prepare written statements against the opinion of the prosecution.
The court accepted the request and the trial was adjourned until September 13th 2022.
About the case
Biçici was subjected to police violence while covering the Gezi protests in Istanbul’s Şişli district on 16 June 2013. Upon Biçici’s complaint, the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into the five police officers, but decided that there were no grounds to prosecute in 2014. Biçici then applied to the Constitutional Court for the violation to be identified and prosecuted. With a unanimous decision on 8 June 2021, the Constitutional Court ruled that “the prohibition of treatment incompatible with human dignity” and “the freedom of expression and the freedom of press” were violated and returned the case file to the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for the investigation to be relaunched to redress the consequences of the violation.
The Prosecutor’s Office, which relaunched the investigation, concluded that there were no grounds to prosecute on 3 December 2021, this time due to the expiration of statute of limitations. Upon Biçici and his lawyer’s appeal, the İstanbul 6th Criminal Court of Peace examined the investigation file and returned it to the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office to revoke the decision on the expiry of the statute of limitations, on grounds that it “violated legal procedure and legislation,” and for further action to be taken. Following the ruling by the İstanbul 6th Criminal Court of Peace on 5 April 2022, the Chief Public Prosecutor’s office prepared an indictment against the defendant police officers A.E., F.K., G.D., O.E. and Y.U. over allegations of “actual bodily harm by means of exceeding the limits of the authority to use force,” “insult” and “violation of the freedom to work and employment.”