Turkish prosecutor charges 4 journalists for reports over fatal terror attack in Ankara

A twin bombing that took place in Ankara on Oct. 10, 2015 — the deadliest terror attack ever to take place in Turkey, killed 107 people including the two suicide bombers.

A Turkish court has charged four journalists for publishing leaked official documents that showed police were aware of an Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) bomber had entered the country from Syria before he and accomplices carried out a suicide attack that killed 109 people in Ankara, online news portal Ahval reported on Friday.

According to the reports in Turkish media, the Ankara 2nd High Criminal Court has accepted an indictment, which was prepared by Prosecutor Ali İhsan Akdoğan, that demands up to three years in jail for journalists Cem Gurbetoğlu and Tamer Arda Erşin, who work at the left-wing Evrensel newspaper, for publishing a leaked document belonging to anti-terror police. The case will be heard at on Jan. 15, 2018.

Evrensel daily’s editor-in-chief Fatih Polat and then-editor-in-chief of the secularist Cumhuriyet newspaper, Can Dündar, were also charged with “abetting a crime” for publishing the report.

“If there is information that security forces there did not carry out their duties despite having obtained intelligence, then reporting this is the duty of a journalist,” Polat said in response to the charges.

The document, entitled “Possible Attack” and dated Oct. 10, 2015, named three ISIL-linked radicals including Yunus Emre Alagöz, warning that they had recently entered Turkey from Syria with the intention of committing “sensational acts”.

On the same day, Alagöz , and another suicide bomber whose identity has never been determined, killed 109 civilians at a peace march in the capital Ankara, the deadliest bomb attack in Turkey’s modern history.

In the wake of the bombing, then-Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told NTVthat “We have a list of the suicide bombers who are in Turkey, but we cannot arrest them unless they carry out an attack.” Instead, he suggested, protesters should either be prevented from holding large meetings or security forces should take better precautions.

After the initial investigation on Ankara attack one of ISIL attackers had been identified as Yunus Emre Alagöz. The other couldn’t be identified but Turkish authorities said that he is a Syrian national. Alagöz was also the older brother of Abdurrahman Alagöz who carried out the attack against socialist youths in Suruç which killed 34 people three months before the Ankara massacre.

In 2013 some families in Adıyaman informed Turkish police that their children had joined ISIL. After that police took a number of people, including Alagöz brothers, under technical surveillance. In March of 2015, police recorded conversations of Alagöz brothers bidding farewell to each other. It was a signal that they were preparing for an attack. Also 22 days before the October 10 attack Turkish Security Directorate issued a report that warned against ISIS attacks. Recently, a new footage emerged how Alagöz and other attacker freely reached the spot where they carried out the attack.

It was claimed that, on the day of the bombing Ankara Governorate and Security Directorate did not take measures to guarantee security for the participants of the meeting. What happened after the bombing also validates the responsibility of Turkish officials.

The indictment concerning the attack was approved on July 13, 2016. The indictment stated that the attack order was given by ISIL representative to Turkey İlhami Balı. It was stated in the indictment that it was the same people who organized the Suruç attack, which killed 33 people. 14 suspects including Balı face from 5,083 to 7,820 years in prison on charges of “attempted murder for multiple times” and “attempting to annihilate constitutional order.”

Of the victim lawyers Zinet Özçelik said at the latest hearing held on September 25 that they examined the CPS reports that show the routes and movements of the ambulances following the explosion and that 11 ambulances didn’t receive any patient and nine others arrived at the scene half an hour later.

The first hearing of the trial was held at Ankara 4th High Criminal Court on November 7, 2016. Five hearings have been held so far. The sixth hearing of the trial in which 36 suspects 17 of whom are at large will be heard on November 22-23.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 256 journalists and media workers are in jails as of October 30, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 232 are arrested pending trial, only 24 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 133 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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