Turkish court rules to keep jailed journalist Baransu in prison again

An İstanbul court on Wednesday ruled to keep in prison former Taraf daily journalist Mehmet Baransu, who was jailed in March 2015 after he revealed an alleged government plan to “eliminate the Gülen movement” based on a secret document he published in 2013.

İstanbul’s 13th High Criminal Court has continued to try now-closed liberal Taraf daily’s jailed former editor-in-chief Ahmet Altan, former deputy editor-in-chief Yasemin Çongar, former managing editor Yıldıray Oğur, former jailed reporter Mehmet Baransu and journalist Tuncay Opçin in the case’s 7th hearing.

Mehmet Baransu, who was the only defendant who has attended into the hearing, has demanded rejection of the judges. Baransu said that “Your delegation tried the case of journalist Şahin Alpay, and you have not implemented the order of the Constitutional Court’s over violation of the rights of Alpay. How will I believe that a court that does not implement the decision of the top court will be impartial and independent. I have been tried for a year and a half and 11 judges have changed during this process. Judges have changed but decisions have always been the same. You have decided for continuation of my pre-trial detention in a file even you do not know whether or not I have made my defence. ”

During the hearing, the prosecutor requested the court to reject Mehmet Baransu’s demand for rejection of the judges claiming that non-implementation of the order of Turkish top court regarding the case of journalist Şahin Alpay has no relation with Baransu’s case. In parallel to prosecutor’s rejection request, the court has rejected Baransu’s demand. The court has also decided to postpone the trial to May 2-4, 2018 for the continuation of Mehmet Baransu’s defence.

İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court had rejected the Constitutional Court’s (AYM) release decision on the grounds of “infringement of rights” of jailed veteran journalist Şahin Alpay and had stated in its decision that “it is not legally possible to fulfill the release order of the Constitutional Court” by accusing the top court of “grabbing its mandate.”

İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court’s decision had been the first instance of resistance showed by a local court to a clear order of the Constitutional Court which was established by 1961 Constitution. The present Turkish Constitution clearly says that any decision taken by the Constitutional Court is binding for legislative, executive and judicial bodies. 

The local court’s decision of resistance against the order of the Constitutional Court has also resulted in the abolishment of the “effectiveness of the individual applications to the Constitutional Court” which was legislated by a popular referendum on September 12, 2010.

İstanbul’s 26th and 13th High Criminal Courts have also refused to comply with the order of Turkey’s Constitutional Court for the release of jailed veteran journalists Şahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan. Turkey’s Constitutional Court ordered to release jailed journalists Mehmet Altanand Şahin Alpay (74), who was a jailed veteran journalist and columnist of now-closed Zaman daily, ruling that their detention constituted a rights violation.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 245 journalists and media workers are in jails as of January 24, 2018, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 218 are arrested pending trial, only 27 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 140 journalists who live 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 more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt.

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