14 November 2019 12:38

Evrensel newspaper Editor-in-Chief Fatih Polat acquitted of “insulting President”

Evrensel newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief Fatih Polat has been acquitted in the trial in which he was charged for his article in which he included claims about relations between the Erdoğan family and Azeri businessman Mansimov.

Photograph: Evrensel

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Evrensel newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief Fatih Polat has been acquitted in the trial in which he was charged with “insulting the President.”

Bakırköy Penal Court of First Instance No 31 was the venue for the fourth hearing of the trial in which Polat was charged with “insulting the President” for his column titled, “What do those involved say to these allegations about the Erdoğan family?” published on 28 May 2017.

The hearing, attended by Fatih Polat, his lawyers Devrim Avcı and Mustafa Söğütlü along with the Journalists Union of Turkey, started with the admission of observers to the courtroom.

ERDOĞAN'S LAWYER SOUGHT PUNISHMENT

The hearing started late due to the delayed arrival of President Erdoğan's lawyer. At the hearing, Erdoğan's lawyers presented a submission to the court containing their statements regarding the expert opinion compiled by the Journalists Union of Turkey and Turkish Journalists' Association. Subsequently asked for their opinion, Erdoğan's lawyers sought Fatih Polat’s punishment.

“FALLS WITHIN THE SCOPE OF FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION”

Addressing the court in opposition to the application, attorney Devrim Avcı said, “The report in question had been published by a British newspaper. This journalist received awards abroad but, instead of getting an award, a trial has been brought to punish us for publishing the same writer’s article. Moreover, the article is not my client’s and the only sentence he himself uttered was, “Let’s see what those involved will say about these claims.” This very point alone is aimed at hampering freedom of expression. Everyone abroad reads this letter but in Turkey we run up against punishment.”

Referring to Constitutional Court and European Court of Human Rights’ rulings in this matter, attorney Devrim Avcı said, “Harsh criticism may be directed towards people from within the realm of politics. The Court of Cassation says in this regard, ‘Politicians must forbear harsh criticism aimed at them as much as applause.’ As President and AKP General Chair, he is not immune to such criticism. The report in question falls within the scope of freedom of expression and accords with the law. I ask for my client to be acquitted.”

POLAT: IF YOU STOP ASKING QUESTIONS, NOTHING REMAINS OF JOURNALISM

Subsequently, Fatih Polat addressed the court. Indicating that he reiterated his previous defences, Polat recalled, “There was a very important meeting between President Erdoğan and Trump in the USA yesterday. With Turkish journalists only asking questions of Trump, Trump asked, ‘Are you really journalists or are you working for the government?’”

With Erdoğan's lawyer asking, “Of what relevance is this to the hearing?” the presiding judge overruled the lawyer saying, “There is a right to defence.”

Polat continued as follows: “With in this way journalists who ask questions being prosecuted and those who do not being admitted to the plane and taken on trips, you end up with this tragic state of affairs. Everywhere in the world, if you stop asking questions, nothing remains of journalism. We will thus continue to ask questions.”

COURT ORDERS ACQUITTAL SPEAKING OF THE EXERCISING OF THE RIGHT OF FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Announcing their judgment following Polat’s testimony, the court bench ordered his acquittal.

Stated among the reasons for the acquittal order was, “The statements contained in the report fall within the ambit of freedom of expression of the press, which functions for the purpose of informing the public, by virtue of the freedom to report the news in articles 28 et seq. of the Constitution, and the opinion was reached that the bounds of the exercising of this right were not exceeded pursuant to Article 26/1 of the Turkish Penal Code for the reason that it accorded with the law.”

WHAT HAPPENED?

Evrensel’s Editor-in-Chief Fatih Polat published verbatim in his column dated 28 May 2017 the report published on Journalist Craig Shaw’s The Black Sea website on 26 May 2017 titled, “President Erdoğan's family in secret offshore ship deal” in which it was stated that the Malta files had uncovered a million dollar tanker partnership between President Erdoğan's family and Sıtkı Ayan together with Azeri businessman Mübariz Mansimov, and asked, “What do those involved say to these allegations about the Erdoğan family?”

Polat’s article was later blocked by court order and a trial was subsequently brought against Polat. (EVRENSEL DAILY)

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