The Bar Human Rights Committee has published a statement of concern calling on the Turkish authorities to protect the fair trial rights of five journalists from the newspaper Taraf.
Former Taraf editor Ahmet Altan, deputy editor Yasemin Çongar and journalists Mehmet Baransu. Yıldıray Oğur and Tuncay Opçin currently face unparticularised charges relating to terrorism and security. Their trial has been condemned as politically motivated by a number of international human rights organisations, including Article 19 and PEN International.
BHRC raises a number of urgent human rights concerns around the case, based on trial observations in August and November 2016 (a further hearing took place on 14th February 2017). These include:
- Serious concerns relating to the adequacy and clarity of the indictments, which give no detail about several of the charges listed, and appear to have been copied and pasted directly from a separate indictment against the editors of Cumhariyet newspaper.
- A failure by the Prosecution to provide their evidence to the Defence, breaching the defendants’ rights to a fair trial under the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As of February 2017, the defendants still do not know the nature of the accusations against them.
- The continued 23-month detention of Mehmet Baransu, of which 15 months were pre-charge. No reasons have been given by the Court for Mr Baransu’s continued detention. There is no evidence as to it its necessity.
- The failure to allow Mr. Baransu effective and private legal representation, by video recording and supervising his legal conferences (which are limted to 60 minutes a week) and refusing him access to a computer to prepare his defence.
- The dismissal of two of the three judges hearing the case, and the application by a number of former military officers to join the case as co-complainants, without notification being given to the Defence, further reducing the defendants’ chances of a timely or fair hearing.
BHRC Chairperson Kirsty Brimelow QC said:
“Having ratified both the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, Turkey is legally obliged to ensure fair trial and free speech rights for those under its jurisdiction, and to protect them against arbitrary arrest or detention.
BHRC calls on the Turkish authorities to immediately review the ongoing detention of Mehmet Baransu and for the court to provide reasons for his detention or release him from prison. It calls upon a review of the prosecution of the Taraf journalists, particularisation of the indictment, service of evidence and provision of free and private access to legal advice.
BHRC will continue to monitor the trial proceedings in this case.”