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Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Baransu, +others
Defendants: Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Baransu, Yasemin Çongar, Yıldıray Oğur, Tuncay Opçin
Media Outlet and Position: Taraf Newspaper, Aktüel – Journalists, Executives
Status: Imprisoned (names in bold)
Facility: Silivri Prison, İstanbul
Accusations: Founding and leading an armed terrorist organization; Making propaganda for a terrorist organization; Revealing information that is to be kept secret for the security and political benefit of the state; Obtaining secret documents concerning national security.
Possible sentence: various, up to 75 years
Court: İstanbul 13. High Criminal Court
Four journalists for the now-closed Taraf newspaper and a former reporter of Aktüel, Tuncay Opçin, have been detained on several charges in relation to an alleged 2010 military coup plan named the “Balyoz Operation”. The journalists are accused of “revealing state secrets” through their reporting and a document called “Sovereign Operation Plan” at the time of those generals’ trials who allegedly planned the Balyoz Operation. While the generals were acquitted of the charges, the journalists’ trial continues.
Mehmet Baransu and Ahmet Altan are the only two defendants out of five that remain in detention. Another defendant, Tuncay Opçin, remains at large.
Baransu was arrested on March 2, 2015, on charges of “revealing information that is to be kept secret for the security and political benefit of the state”. Baransu was also given a 10-month prison sentence in June 2015 on separate charges of insulting President Erdoğan in a series of tweets.
Novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan is also a defendant in another case. He was arrested on September 10, 2016, and is accused of using his position in the media to further the aims of the religious movement led by Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gülen. The Turkish government accuses Gülen of having established a “parallel state structure” and for being behind the failed coup attempt in 2016.
During the hearing on November 1-2, 2018, the court ruled to continue Baransu’s detention, bringing his time in detention to three years and eight months.
Baransu was unable to attend his next hearing on February 4, 2019, due to health problems.
At the hearing on March 22, 2019, Baransu repeatedly denied the charges brought against him, stating that while he had handed over thousands of documents relating to the Balyoz Operation, he had never seen the one he is being charged with revealing. He similarly denied claims of membership with the Gülen movement.
At the 18th hearing on July 11, Baransu gave his defense statement, which he could not complete in the previous hearing. The prosecutor claimed that his statement insulted a public officer, and therefore demanded it to be sent to the Chief Prosecutor’s Office. The court ruled the continuation of his detention and to hear new witnesses during the next hearing, which will be held between August 27-29, 2019.
During the hearing in August, the court ruled to bring witnesses forcibly to the courtroom for the next hearing in its interim decision and ruled to the continuation of detention of Mehmet Baransu, the only jailed defendant of this case. Next hearing is to be held between December 10-12, 2019.
During the hearing in December, the court ruled for the continuation of Baransu’s detention and sent the case file to the prosecutor for a final opinion to be prepared. Next hearing will take place between April 8 and 10, 2020.
Due to suspension of all judicial proceedings in March and April because of COVID-19 pandemic, the April 8 hearing is postponed to June 3.
Due to suspension of all judicial proceedings in June because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the June 3 hearing is postponed to August 11-13.
During the hearing between August 11 and 13, Baransu attended the hearing via the judicial video-conference system SEGBİS from his prison cell in Silivri, Istanbul. Reminding the court of his 87-page request submitted in June for expansion of the investigation for further or new evidence to be examined, Baransu requested the hearing to be postponed due to his lawyer’s absence and to attend the next hearing also via SEGBİS as a COVID-19 measure.
The trial was adjourned to be held between October 12 and 14.
During the most recent hearing in October, the court ruled for the continuation of Baransu’s detention. The defense lawyers’ request to dismiss some of the evidence in the file, alleging that they were unlawfully obtained, was rejected.
The hearing on December 9, 2020 did not take place due to the head judge being on leave.
During the hearing on March 4, Baransu submitted his defense via SEGBIS. It was observed that the presiding judge of the court panel was changed.
Baransu’s lawyers criticized this development and stated that the members of the court panel have changed 24 times during the five-year course of the trial and this situation violates the defendants’ right to a fair trial. Lawyers of Altan and Çongar, also stressed the change made in the judge panel as a violation of the right to a fair trial.
Baransu, next, requested of the court to identify the police officers who searched his home and to be heard as witness at the next hearing. He also requested the footage recorded during the search be added to the case file.
The prosecutor rejected Baransu’s requests and requested the continuation of Baransu’s detention due to flight risk and altering the evidence.
Baransu’s lawyer stated that Baransu was already under arrest due to another criminal case and there was no flight risk, therefore requested his release.
During the June 2 hearing, Baransu, the only detained defendant in the case, attended the hearing from his prison cell via SEGBİS. The prosecutor stated the final opinion on the case was completed, ready for submittal. Baransu objected that there were missing documents in the file and his lawyers requested to speak yet the presiding judge rejected their requests.
The prosecutor reminded the developments in another criminal case where Baransu was also a co-defendant that the allegations regarding Baransu’s alleged link to the outlawed FETÖ movement remains valid. The prosecutor also claimed that defendants Baransu and Opçin formed the press branch of FETÖ and requested that Opçin’s file be separated since his arrest warrant was not yet executed and he was deemed fugitive. The prosecutor read his final opinion about the other defendants and requested various prison sentences for the defendants.
Baransu was requested to be sentenced to a total of 52 years in prison with a request of increase as the accused crime was constituted under the Anti-Terror Law. The prosecutor also requested the continuation of Baransu’s detention.
Three other defendants Altan, Çongar and Oğur was requested for sentences for “revealing of confidential information” facing up to 17.5 years in prison As in Baransu, the prosecutor requested the sentencing to be increased within the scope of the Anti-Terror Law.
In its interim decision, the court ruled for the continuation of Baransu’s detention.The next hearing will be held on 18 and 19 October in two sessions.
During the hearing on October 18, the court decided the continuation of Baransu’s detention and cancelled the hearing on October 19.
The next hearing will be held on November 12.