Turkish court rules for continuation of journalist Mehmet Baransu’s imprisonment

A Turkish court ruled on Friday for the continuation of former Taraf daily journalist Mehmet Baransu’s imprisonment after three days of hearings and also adjourned the trial until August 7-8-9, 2018

Baransu continued his defence before the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court for the eighth hearing of the trial on Friday. Stating that “nobody could say that Sledgehammer [coup plan) was not a coup plan. I told what I saw and what I understood,” Baransu said, denying the accusations leveled against both him and the Taraf daily.

Baransu said: “They say, ‘You killed Ali Tatar’; however, we never reported on Ali Tatar. They say, ‘You caused Ahmet Şık and Nedim Sener to be jailed.’ However, at that time we came out with the headline ‘Is this Ergenekon?’ They say, ‘You killed Kuddusi Okkır.’ However, Okkır was arrested on November 23, 2007. At that time Taraf daily was not yet established.”

Stating that there is an understanding based on non-accountability in Turkey, Baransu said, “So, when we wrote about them, they said it was a conspiracy,” adding: “I wrote everything without fear. Maybe that was my biggest mistake.”

Baransu stated that all the documents he published in Taraf were given to him by the state and challenged that “you cannot make a FETÖist out of me.”

“FETÖ” is a derogatory term coined by ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by Islamist Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to refer to the Gülen movement,

“I wrote the news articles on the action plan, which had a wet signature, against reactionaryism. They said there was no such a thing. A military prosecutor’s inquiry has been launched into [Col.] Dursun Çiçek. My thoughts still have not changed,” Baransu said and added: “I did not have any clandestine thing. The journalist writes what he/she sees, what he/she knows. I still believe in the existence of  Sledgehammer. A mistake may have been made, but I believe it is true.”

“I did not target the Turkish military [with my news stories],” Baransu said. “When they could not respond to [the news stories covering] their lawlessness, they subverted the agenda. It is the main reason for them to try to create a [false] perception. [For example] I wrote a news article about [Fenerbahçe Football Club’s Chairman] Aziz Yıldırım, who had not fulfilled his obligatory military service. In order to prevent this crime from being publicized, he immediately labeled me a FETÖist.”

During the hearing on Friday, requests made by former colonel and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Dursun Çiçek, retired admiral Kadir Sağdıç and retired colonel Suat Aydın to be complainants in the case against Baransu and the Taraf daily were accepted by the court.

Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Wednesday. If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 254 journalists and media workers were in jail as of May 3, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 192 were under arrest pending trial while only 62 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 142 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down about 200 media outlets, including Kurdish TVs and papers, after a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

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