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Journalists' trial moves forward

Journalists gather outside the Caglayan Justice Palace in Istanbul on 22 November for the start of a hearing in the Oda TV case.
Journalists gather outside the Caglayan Justice Palace in Istanbul on 22 November for the start of a hearing in the Oda TV case.

Photo: IPI/Pavol Mudry

(IPI/IFEX) - Vienna, 27 Dec. 2011 - International Press Institute (IPI) World Press Freedom Hero Nedim Sener and nine other Turkish journalists accused in the Oda TV case of aiding a coup plot remained in custody yesterday as their trial moved forward.

Lawyers for the defendants said they expected no ruling on requests for their clients' release during trial until at least Friday, as the court began reading aloud the 134-page indictment against them, a process expected to last into today.

Sener and the other defendants stand charged with various crimes related to the government's claim that they and nationalist news website Oda TV served as the media wing of the alleged "Ergenekon" plot. Accusers say their role was to use their positions to discredit a probe into the alleged plot by secularists and ultra-nationalists to use terrorism to overthrow the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)-led government.

IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said: "Every day that Nedim Sener spends in prison - and it's just short of 300 right now - is an outrageous injustice. The charge that he plotted to use his position to derail investigations into the so-called 'deep state' within elements of the government and security services, the same deep state on which his reporting has shed light, is absurd. IPI and its subsidiary the South and East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) urge prosecutors and the Turkish government to drop these charges and to release him immediately."

Yesterday's hearing at the Çaglayan Justice Palace, which followed a 22 November hearing in which the defendants sought the recusal of presiding Judge Resul Çakir for bias, went forward without Çakir. The judge - who previously sued Oda TV News Director Baris Terkoglu, one of Sener 's co-defendants, over a picture posted online suggesting Çakir had a cosy relationship with prosecutors and police officers - was elected last week to an appeals court.

The hearing was also attended by Parliament members from the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). IPI last month joined a delegation from various media freedom groups that travelled to Ankara. There they met with lawmakers from all parties represented in Parliament and pressed them to send observers to hearings in the Oda TV case.

The atmosphere inside the courthouse yesterday was more orderly than at the November hearing, as guards appeared more prepared for the crowd of would-be observers seeking one of the approximately 100 seats available in the courtroom gallery.

Prior to the hearing, an attorney for accused ringleader and Oda TV executive Soner Yalçin provided copies of a report supporting his client's argument that documents implicating the defendants, reportedly found on a computer in a February raid of Oda TV's office, were placed there by hackers. The report said that a forensic examiner based in the United States found that the computer became infected with a virus following email attacks, and that it therefore could not conclusively be established that any documents on the computer were placed there by an Oda TV user.

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