In January I visited Baris Ince managing editor of the daily BirGün at his newspaper office in Istanbul on behalf of the European Federation of Journalists. He was facing charges of insulting President Erdoğan which if proved could result in a heavy prison sentence. Yesterday his case came up in court and the outcome reported in today’s edition of Zaman:
‘The trial of managing editor for the BirGün daily, Barış İnce, who has been charged with insulting the president, was adjourned until October 22 at Tuesday’s hearing.
İnce wrote an article entitled “They lined their pockets twice,” in reference to a scandal about alleged corruption that involved President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his inner circle. He based the story on records from the Foundation of Youth and Education in Turkey (TÜRGEV), a charitable organization which lists Erdoğan’s son, Bilal Erdoğan, and his daughter, Esra Albayrak, as executive board members and which was implicated in corruption. İnce was charged with violation of privacy and insulting the president for the article.
During his defence in one of three cases brought against him for articles related to the corruption scandal, he called Erdoğan a thief in court and in a subsequent column “Thief Tayyip” was spelled out with the first letter of each paragraph, a piece widely shared on social media.
İnce now faces five-and-a-half years in jail on insult charges.
Several other journalists, civil society organizations and supporters attended the hearing on Tuesday morning, so many that they could not all fit into the court room.
“I did not insult [anyone], I made a political criticism. I do not think that my piece was a crime. I am trying to defend my [initial] defence. It looks like I will be defending my defense this time [again],” explained İnce during Tuesday’s hearing.
İnce’s lawyer, Tolgay Güvercin, defended his client during the hearing saying, “Barış İnce is being tried for news articles he has written. A journalist should be spit upon, not for writing about corruption, but for not writing about corruption. If we are not going to practice [law] according to the standards of the ECtHR [European Court of Human Rights], then let’s all give up this profession, and we can close this court.”
Ali Deniz Ceylan, lawyer for the BirGün daily, added, “Barış İnce did not write the piece with the intent to insult anyone, but rather to defend himself. The criticism [the comment about the president] is harsh, but the suspicions about the plaintiff [President Erdoğan] have not yet been cleared.”
“We, as opposition media, are facing hundreds of investigations. But it is the job of the press to inquire on behalf of the public,” added Ceylan, and explained how Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) — which makes it a crime to insult the Turkish identity and state institutions — is being used to silence opposition.
The supposed insults against Erdoğan were made in reference to allegations of corruption against him and others close to him made public on Dec. 17 and 25 of 2013.
Erodğan’s lawyer also spoke during Tuesday’s trial declaring, “My client is the victim,” to which the courtroom responded with laughter. “The case is one of defamation,” he added.
In a written statement published on Tuesday, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) İstanbul deputy Umut Oran wrote that İnce is not alone in his fight and called on others to support İnce, too. Oran also attended İnce’s first hearing last October.’
Source Today’s Zaman 3 June 2015.