13 December 2018 18:18

Naming a prosecutor brings 'terrorism' charge to Evrensel reporter Cansu Pişkin

Terrrorism charge has been laid against our reporter Cansu Pişkin citing as grounds her report on the detaining of the Bosphorus University students.

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A further trial has been added to those brought against Evrensel for our news coverage. A charge has been laid against our reporter Cansu Pişkin citing as grounds her report on the detaining of the Bosphorus University students. A jail term of up to three years is sought in the indictment with the charge that Pişkin “made a public servant into a target for terrorist organisations.” The first hearing of the trial will be heard on 6 March 2019 at Istanbul Serious Crime Court No 36. Assessing the trial, Evrensel’s lawyer Devrim Avcı said that describing prosecutors as “persons who have assumed counterterrorism duties” was contrary to the 2005 European Guidelines on Ethics and Conduct for Public Prosecutors (“Budapest Guidelines”). Stressing that public prosecutors were not military people or police officers, Avcı said, “Talk of deeming prosecutors to be people who have assumed counterterrorism duties amounts in the first place to a breach of the principle of independence and impartiality.” Avcı stressed that defining the prosecutorial office as being a person who has assumed counterterrorism duties was also tantamount to the loss by prosecutors of their independence from the political rulership.

JOURNALISM NOT TARGETING

İstanbul Republic Chief Public Prosecution Press Crimes Office prosecutor Yavuz Şahin has drafted an indictment against our reporter Cansu Pişkin for the report titled “Special Prosecutor for the Bosphorus Students” published on 5 April 2018. It was alleged in the indictment that the prosecutor conducting the investigation was made into a target for terrorist organisations by naming him. The report at issue in the trial concerns the detaining of pro-peace Bosphorus students. A group of students were handing out Turkish delight at Bosphorus University on 19 March to mark the Afrin operation and pro-peace students who objected to this were arrested and detained on 22 March. The investigation file was remitted to reappointed Prosecutor Ergün Güçlü on the day the students were taken to the judicial complex. It was recalled in the report at issue that Güçlü had described the HDP as a “party that engages in politics under the guidance of a terrorist organization” in a past indictment he had drafted.

Pişkin, faced with an investigation following the publishing of the report, said the following in the statement she made to the prosecution, “The prosecutors’ names were especially included in the report. There had been press coverage of the description by Prosecutor Ergün Güçlü of the HDP, which obtained the votes of six million people, as a party that engages in politics under the guidance of a terrorist organization in an indictment he had previously drafted. I deemed the transferring of the file to this prosecutor immediately before the students were taken to the judicial complex to be newsworthy. This is why I used the name. I do not accept the charge of making into a target for terrorist organisations. I wrote this report mindful of public responsibility within a press activity context.”

ALSO NAMED IN SABAH, AKŞAM AND MİLLİYET

With Prosecutor Güçlü defined in the drafted indictment as a “person who has assumed counterterrorism duties,” it is asserted that “the prosecutor was made into a target” through Evrensel’s report.

What is more, this was not the first time that Prosecutor Güçlü’s name had appeared in a news report. Güçlü was also named in coverage of investigations that appeared on the websites of newspapers Sabah on 17 January 2017, Habertürk and Akşam on 22 January 2017, Takvim on 31 January 2017, Milliyet on 16 February 2017 and Türkiye on 29 July 2017.

LAWYER AVCI: BREACH OF PROSECUTORIAL IMPARTIALITY PRINCIPLE

Commenting on the pending trial, Evrensel’s lawyer Devrim Avcı made the following assessment: “Evrensel reporter Cansu Pişkin is being prosecuted on the charge of ‘making persons who have assumed counterterrorism duties into targets.’ This trial concerns a news report on the reappointing of the prosecutors involved in the arrest and detention processes at Bosphorus University. The point here that in my view demands attention is the description of a prosecutor as a ‘person who has assumed counterterrorism duties’ in the indictment. However, to conclude that a prosecutor, who conducts investigations on behalf of the public and also gathers all evidence favourable and detrimental to the suspect in such investigations, is a person who has assumed counterterrorism duties is in the first place contrary to the 2005 European Guidelines on Ethics and Conduct for Public Prosecutors (“Budapest Guidelines”).

Prosecutors are not law enforcement officials or military personnel. Talk of deeming prosecutors to be people who have assumed counterterrorism duties amounts in the first place to a breach of the principle of independence and impartiality, because, by virtue of the Budapest Guidelines, the prosecutorial office is duty bound to act with fairness, impartiality and objectivity and independently within the rules of law and to respect the presumption of innocence principle while performing its duties in the course of penal proceedings. Consequently, defining the prosecutorial office as being a person who has assumed counterterrorism duties is also tantamount to the loss by prosecutors of their independence from the political rulership, and this is an unacceptable position.” (İstanbul/EVRENSEL)