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Two journalists face imprisonment following publication of books about the Ergenekon organisation

(BIANET/IFEX) - The first hearing in the case against journalists Ahmet Sik and Ertugrul Mavioglu, co-authors of two books entitled "Understanding the counter guerrilla and Ergenekon" and "Who is who in Ergenekon", was held before the Kadikoy (Istanbul) 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 8 October 2010. Both journalists are facing prison sentences of up to four and a half years on charges of "violating the secrecy of an investigation".

The trial was observed by a huge audience, among them human rights advocate Judith Chomsky, sister-in-law of intellectual Noam Chomsky, and director Cayan Demirel. Human rights activist and linguist Noam Chomsky missed the hearing because his flight was delayed. He scheduled a visit to Istanbul for the Meeting for Freedom of Thought.

The books deal with the clandestine ultra-national Ergenekon organisation nestled within the state apparatus and the military. The organization is said to have planned to overthrow the government and to create chaos in the country with murders and attacks.

Mavioglu gave a statement to journalists before the court session. "The outcome of this trial is not important, the issue is that this trial has been opened at all. We are spending our time with this. They are trying to intimidate the people," he said.

Both of the defendants, who are not being held in detention, attended the hearing. They have been indicted under Article 285 of the Turkish Criminal Law (TCK) on a charge of "violation of communications". They were defended by communications lawyers Fikret Ilkiz, Can Atalay and Omer Kavili.

The public prosecutor requested a decision of lack of jurisdiction at the beginning of the hearing. The defence lawyers objected and, after a short intermission, the court decreed that the Kadikoy Court was the competent court since the books were published in Kadikoy.

In his defence, Mavioglu said, "We expected the indictment to clarify where a violation actually occurred, but the probe into the books was launched just by looking at the covers. The book is based on court documents that could be reviewed by everybody. No state official of the 'deep' or 'not deep' state let any documents fall into our lap. I do not know how to respond to the accusations without being informed about any violation."

When it was Sik's turn, the journalist said, "We think that evidence has been concealed in the Ergenekon investigation. We wrote the book as a guide for a fair trial. Different names were involved at different times in the dirty and bloody organization that is owned by the state. We want the real perpetrators to be prosecuted for the crimes they actually committed."

Lawyer Ilkiz pointed out that the decision of confidentiality referred to in the indictment was lifted. Thus he concluded that his clients could not be charged on that basis and requested their acquittal.

The court decided to query the Bakirköy Public Prosecutor's Office in order to determine the date the books were printed and the case was postponed to 21 January 2011.

The Kadikoy Public Prosecutor's Office launched a probe into the two volumes published by Ithaki Publications on 14 April 2010, the day the book was introduced to the market. The indictment was prepared on 1 June, and put forward that the journalists had breached a publication ban decreed by the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court on 30 July 2008.

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