International observers from the International Press Institute (IPI) and the European Parliament today observed the trial of TV10 journalist Kemal Demir and cameraman Kemal Karagöz at Istanbul’s 28th High Criminal Court in Turkey.

TV10, a channel airing Alevi cultural and social programming, was shuttered by emergency decree in October 2016. Demir and Karagöz are accused of having supplied filming equipment to a newly established television broadcaster in Rojava, northern Syria, as well as of having connections to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The case was observed by IPI’s Turkey Advocacy Coordinator Caroline Stockford and MEP Rebecca Harms.

Karagöz told IPI prior to the start of proceedings: “This trial is highly unlawful. I was just a cameraman making social documentaries in the countryside. I covered Alevi festivals and celebrations and news about social and cultural events for TV10. They are saying that I supplied television equipment to a newly established channel in Rojava but I did nothing of the sort.”

His lawyer added: “My client did not help the new channel in a material way or offer any other form of support. All the evidence against him is his journalistic work as a documentary maker. Now, the prosecutor is trying to establish a link between my client and the PKK, but no such link exists. He was a cameraman working in the countryside for TV10 and that is all.”

Demir drew attention to the extremely long judicial process and the strict police control both defendants are under. “We are accused of supplying equipment to a new TV channel in northern Syria, in Rojava, and we can’t express ourselves or defend ourselves because this is only the second hearing in 3 years”, he told IPI.

Although this officially the pair’s second hearing, it was the first substantive one, Demir explained. “At the first hearing the judge asked for the dossier to be sent to Mersin where the alleged crime was committed”, he explained. “The Mersin court sent the file back and so there has been no proper judicial hearing of the case as yet, despite the fact that we have been under heavy police controls for so long.  For three years we’ve been signing on at the police station and we are forced to live with all this uncertainty. We can’t work and we are suffering economically and psychologically.”

Demir added that the station’s closure had significant consequences on information for Turkey’s Alevi minority. “Our channel was an Alevi lifestyle channel, airing social and cultural programs about country life, festivals and traditions. People can’t access this cultural programming now since TV10 was closed down by emergency decree,” he said.

“Every piece of news you make these days can potentially land you in court. There is a narrowing of the field of the media, and of the scope in which journalists and film makers can express themselves and the scope of programming and information that people are able to receive.”

Showing his yellow press card, he added: “This now is just a memento. I can’t work as a journalist. I have had to sign on at the police station four times a week for the last three years. They have confiscated my passport and I am not allowed to leave the country. We just don’t know when this process will end.”

The hearing, due to begin at 09.30, started at 11.45. However, the judge in the case then removed court observers from the room, claiming that some of them had wrongfully used their phones to type notes on a case held prior that morning.

When the hearing took place later in the day both defendants denied all charges.  Lawyers for the defence requested the lifting of police controls and the restoration of the passports of the defendants.  Both requests were denied, and the case was adjourned until September 10, 2019 with the defendants being exempted by the judge from attending.