Jailed journalist Ünal: By arresting journalists you cannot save yourselves from Dec. 17-25 graft scandal

Journalist Mustafa Ünal

Former Ankara Representative of now-closed Zaman daily, Mustafa Ünal, who was standing trial after 419 days in pretrial detention, targeted the the corrupt government of Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday and said that “You can not save yourself by arresting journalists due to December 17-25 (2103 corruption scandal).”

Speaking during the hearing at the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court in the Silivri Prison compound on Monday, Ünal has stated that he and other colleagues in the same case are journalists who expressed their views in Zaman, not terrorists. Ünal has underlined that he was a journalist who was trying to survive by expressing his views in Zaman before it was shut down by the government. He also said he knows many members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) personally. “I want to ask them [AKP members]: Are we terrorists?” said Ünal.

Underlining that he is standing trial for writing against the government, Ünal said he has never been afraid of being tried for the things he has written. “However, the indictment will go down in the history of the judiciary and the media for not having even the suspicion of a crime having been committed, let alone evidence of one,” he added.

The translation of the full text of Mustafa Ünal’s defense before the court during his first hearing on Monday after 419 days of pre-trial detention as follow:

THE ONES ACCUSING US WITH TERRORISM, I DOUBT ON THEIR CONSCIENCE

“We, journalists who don’t have any action other than writing are here with the accusation of being terrorists. This is the picture that is not true. We are well known names in AK Party street of the conservative neighborhood. A Russian proverb says that ‘before a bear eats its own cub it smears with mud.’ We could be covered with mud but the truth cannot be plastered. Turkey doesn’t deserve this. We, as professionals, sustain our lives by writing. We would never have thought that writers like Ali Bulaç would be judged by the ruling AK Party government. It would not have been imaginary, but it happens. It was AK Party’s oath to prohibit the prohibitions. Look at the prohibitions today. Imagination and reality became Silivri (Prison). There’s something wrong with this. O Numan Kurtuluş, is Ali Bulaç a terrorist? Süleyman Soylu, is Mümtazer Türköne terrorist? O Abdullah Gül, am I a terrorist? I am asking the AK Party deputies having mind and conscience. This problem is not trolls’ problem.

I doubt on their conscience who call us terrorists. Seriously something is wrong in here. I have faith that the Turkish judiciary will correct this mistake.

THIS CASE WILL BE THOUGHT IN SCHOOLS

Whatever we talk here will be in history. It will be taught in schools. The most important specialty of the historical cases is without being under the influence, while you’re judging us, your judgement and all of us will be judged one day. I am being judged under OHAL in Turkey 2017. I’m deprived of my constitutional rights. I can talk to my lawyer just 20 minutes with the camera when the prison administration has decided. I couldn’t give my defense text to my lawyer, I could not consult. It was said that there was no staff to examine it as an excuse. The sacred right of defense is restricted to the last.

I’ve watched a lot of trial, but for the first time I’m here as a defendant. I mean, I’m a beginner defendant. I was very curious when I see my name on the detention list on July 27 (2016). I waited for the police in my house for 12 hours. As a justification ‘suspicion of escape’ for arrest cannot applied to me. Before the prosecution, I found myself in front of the Penal Court of Peace (Magistrate Court). I am an Ankara journalist. I know exactly what a magistrate’s justice is. The Magistrate Court is the political project of this period and will be referred to as the inquisition court in the future. The judge said with embarrassment, “I’m arresting all of you,” and he left his robes. I thought if my lawyers are also in custody. One night I found myself in Silivri.

INVESTIGATION IS CONFIDENTIAL TO THE DEFENDANT BUT OPEN TO SOME MEDIA

I wanted to know what the file is about, it was said that “the investigation is confidential.” I later found out that the silence was not due to confidentiality, but because there was nothing to say. The Magistrate Court did not give me the resumption of arrest every month and did not even respond to my objections. I waited while locked in jail. I found out I got life sentence without knowing my offence. Is it open to some media while the file is confidential for defendant?

I read many indictments during my profession, and for the first time I see that the defendant is not associated with crime. It is not judicial, words and terms are not judicial but political. Tomorrow it will be taught how the indictment will not be written in law classes. Charge for (three) life sentence (without parole) but no justification.

According to the indictment, I would overthrow the constitutional order, the government. How? By writing an article? Journalism is being judged here, not me. I am here because I wrote articles. According to the indictment writing is a crime. This will be in history of law. I’ll be remembered as a journalist having life sentence since who had written.

I AM LIGHT AS A BIRD

From Nazım Hikmet to Necip Fazıl, from Ali Bulaç to Hikmet Çetinkaya… Thought has been imprisoned. It happened during a government having the word of “justice” in its name. However, they constantly built new prisons. There is no weight for three life sentences (without parole) on my shoulders. I’m as light as a bird. The accusations against me are a collective charge, not personal.

I am forced to defend against accusations that are not based on concrete and material evidences. In all legal systems, the proof belongs to the prosecution duty, but I am asked to prove my innocence. The process of filing a complaint in the Press Law is 4 months. It’s over when this period is over. The cause ends with this, I would love to go and say goodbye, but I have three life sentences on me, I can not go. There is no single forcible violence charge in the indictment in person. The entire indictment was written like a propaganda crime and life sentence was added at the last minute.

For 20 years, there has been no case for my articles. I’m not saying for being proud of it. As you see I have not even been investigated for an insult. My criminal report was clean, until this indictment. Since the time of my visit to Pınarhisar Prison, where Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was jailed, I have been following Mr. President, as a journalist who traveled with him most abroad. I am not a terrorist, I am not a coup plotter, I am a journalist with all my cells. All Ankara knows this, all Turkey knows.

THE AKP DID NOT STICK A NEEDLE INTO ITSELF

I did not even write down my opinions about December 17 (massive corruption scandal), I wrote only developments. You can not save yourself by arresting journalists due to December 17-25 (2013 graft scandal). When the AK Party came to power, it established corruption commission and sent many politicians to the Supreme Court up to former Prime Minister Mesut Yılmaz. But it could not stick the needle into himself.

According to the prosecutor, I have exceeded the limits of freedom of expression, I have violated the rights of the authorities and institutions. I am asking to the prosecutor: Is there a crime in the law about violating the rights of the state and its institutions? No. I deny the allegations of ‘threatening national security, calling to disrupt the peace of society,’ I accept as insulting.

“Without separating I wrote strong articles against military coups. July 15, 2016 is same like other military coups for me.

THE INDICTMENT SCREAMS AS ‘EVICTION’

No one can be judged for being a journalist just for working for a media group. I have no relation with any terrorist organization. I am not a member of any organization. The indictment yells as eviction. That’s the one according to justice. I want justice, not mercy. I hope you won’t harm justice. I hope that it will not be up to European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) the decision of justice, but be taken by Turkish judges.”

The trial of 31 journalists and newspaper executives, 21 of whom are in jail, from the now-closed Zaman newspaper started on Monday, after a wait of 419 days in pretrial detention for most of them. The case was heard by the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court in the notorious Silivri Prison compound. The journalists are facing “terrorism” and “coup-plotting” charges due to having worked and written for the Zaman daily, which was linked to the Gülen movement, accused of mounting a coup attempt last year in July.

The court on Tuesday ruled for a continuation of the pretrial detention of 21 journalists, former employees of the Zaman newspaper, which was shut down by the government last year. According to the decision of the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court during a hearing at the Silivri Prison compound, the journalists’ request to be released on their own recognizance was rejected, and the trial was adjourned until Dec. 8.

Former Zaman employees Mümtaz’er Türköne, Şahin Alpay, Ali Bulaç, Ahmet Metin Sekizkardeş, Ahmet Turan Alkan, Alaattin Güner, Cuma Kaya, Faruk Akkan, Hakan Taşdelen, Hüseyin Belli, Hüseyin Turan, İbrahim Karayeğen, İsmail Küçük, Mehmet Özdemir, Murat Avcıoğlu, Mustafa Ünal, Onur Kutlu, Sedat Yetişkin, Şeref Yılmaz, Yüksel Durgut and Zafer Özsoy have been in pretrial detention for 14 months as the judges repeatedly rejected challenges to their detention despite the fact that there was no reason to keep them in jail pending trial.

They appeared before the court on Monday and Tuesday after a pretrial detention of 419 days.

Former Zaman employees Ahmet İrem, Ali Hüseyinçelebi, Süleyman Sargın, Osman Nuri Arslan, Osman Nuri Öztürk, Lalezer Sarıibrahimoğlu, Nuriye Ural and Orhan Kemal Cengiz are also named as suspects in the indictment, but they are being tried without detention. Professor İhsan Duran Dağı, who used to work as a columnist for Zaman, is cited as a fugitive in the indictment.

Zaman journalists are facing “terrorism” and “coup-plotting” charges due to having worked and written for the Zaman daily, which was linked to the Gülen movement, which Turkish authorities accuse of being behind a failed coup last year.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has showed that 284 journalists and media workers are now in jails as of September 18, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 259 are arrested pending trial, only 25 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 135 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt. Turkey’s Contemporary Journalists’ Association (ÇGD) recently announced that more than 900 press cards were cancelled.

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