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Journalist charged for criticising handling of murder case

(BIANET/IFEX) - "Referans" newspaper writer Cengiz Çandar is facing a prison sentence of between one and three years on an allegation of "insulting a public servant in the commission of his duty". The charges are based on Çandar's criticism of the fact that a secret witness in the Hrant Dink murder case was not brought to the court in an 8 February 2010 hearing.

The trial concerns the assassination of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. The founder of the Armenian "Agos" newspaper was shot in front of his office in Istanbul on 19 January 2007. The latest hearing in the case was held on 12 July 2010.

Certain information about the "secret witness" was exhibited in the minutes from the 12th hearing in the case, which was held in February. Furthermore, the president of the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court, Judge Erkan Çandar, said that "the secret witness does not know Turkish very well." Thus, the safety of the witness's life was being discussed.

In an article entitled "Mocking Hrant and the justice system", published on 9 February, Çandar wrote, "Well, no justice is going to happen in that court room, it just cannot happen. The Hrant Dink murder case is being tried in such an informal manner, justice will not be served from being too free-and-easy, it cannot happen."

After it had become clear that the secret witness had not been summoned to the court, the court president said, "I received a note saying that 'the secret witness arrived' but s/he did not come. The secret witness is waiting for the police at home. The police are waiting here for the secret witness. What shall I do?"

Çandar expressed his criticism, writing, "Is a court president who announces his own helplessness by saying 'What shall I do?' in any situation going to give a just verdict?"

"The same Court President continuously polemicises the lawyers involved, turning to them with a sarcastic smile and opening his hands to both sides as if he is complaining about the situation. Instead of being a neutral judge who does his best to ensure that justice is served, he gives the impression of having a hidden closeness to the defence lawyers. (. . .)"

Çandar's trial at the Bakırköy (Istanbul) Criminal Court of First Instance will continue on 13 December. The case was postponed for five months because Judge Vasfi Uğurer, who presided over the case in the first hearing, took his annual leave.

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