The Bar Human Rights Committee of England & Wales has today published an interim Trial Observation Report, highlighting apparent breaches of international human rights law in the prosecution of several Turkish journalists from the daily newspaper Taraf.
BHRC’s report, written by barrister and international law expert Gráinne Mellon, provides analysis of a preliminary hearing in the trials of Taraf’s former editor, Ahmet Altan; its former deputy editor, Yasemin Çongar; two Taraf journalists, Mehmet Baransu and Yıldıray Oğur, and a fifth journalist, Tuncay Opçin.
BHRC’s report highlights a number of serious flaws and suspected violations of the defendants’ right to a fair trial, including:
- Judges and prosecutors failing to clarify the precise charges levelled against each defendant, or offer factual evidence against them linking them to clear charges, violating their rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.
- Defendants being charged with membership of a proscribed organisation, despite the fact that this was legal at the time of the alleged crimes (the group in question was not banned until May 2016).
- Large sections of the indictment appearing to have been copied and pasted from a completely different trial against a different Turkish newspaper, to the extent that defendants from that trial are named in this case.
- Unlawful use of pre-trial detention, including one defendant (Mehmet Baransu) who has been imprisoned awaiting trial since March 2015 and who has struggled to access a lawyer or prepare his defence, again in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.
Gráinne Mellon said:
“This interim report covers the first hearing of the Taraf trials. However, even at this early stage it is clear that the case raises serious questions over the defendants’ right to a fair trial, as well as broader issues over political and journalistic freedoms within Turkey.
BHRC calls on the Turkish government to urgently address the issues raised in this report. Turkey must ensure that the defendants are given clear details on the charges against them, as well as effective access to legal advice and the facilities necessary to properly prepare their defence.
Anything less than this would be a violation of Turkey’s international commitments”
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