The Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court acquitted Taraf newspaper reporter Mehmet Baransu. Public Prosecutor Mustafa Çavuşoğlu had pleaded for prison sentence because Baransu had published allegedly "confidential" documents regarding the Aktütün raid.
17 soldiers were killed in the raid on the Aktütün police station by the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) on 3 October 2008.
Baransu was facing imprisonment of up to ten years according to the final speech of Public Prosecutor Çavuşoğlu. The court is going to pronounce the reasoned decision in the coming weeks.
The journalist was prosecuted under article 329/1 of the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK) on "Disclosure of information relating to the security and political interests of the State" on the grounds of publishing "classified" documents.
Baransu: I will sue Başbuğ and İğsız
Baransu released a statement after the hearing. "This decision will be a precedent for my colleagues in the future. We are journalists doing our job. I brought violations carried out by the General Staff to the agenda concerning an incident that left 17 people dead. Even if only one soldier dies or a thousand, I will write the same for a thousand times", Baransu said.
He announced that on Thursday (7 October) his lawyer was going to file a criminal complaint on his behalf about Generals İlker Başbuğ and Hasan Iğsız, then Chief and Deputy Chief of General Staff respectively, in regard to the raid.
Lawyers: The publications were of public benefit
Baransu's lawyers Yelda Bilal and Veysel Ok had demanded their client's acquittal. They had claimed that he fulfilled his duty of informing the public and did was he was supposed to do as a professional journalist.
Lawyer Ok referred to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Freedom of Expression) and to domestic law. He stated that the publications were of public benefit since they revealed violations committed by the Turkish Armed Forces. Moreover, Ok reminded that the Turkish Criminal Code included the provision that "a person seizing his/her right shall not be punished".
Ok presented a case formerly tried at the Military Court as a precedent. The decision read, "The specification of confidentiality is not sufficient for accepting a document as classified. A classified document should concern danger for the state's security, the existence of the nation, its integrity, the constitutional order or benefits for domestic or foreign policy".
Lawyer Bilal indicated that the indictment mentioned the concept of state secret in a very general manner, "Whereas this concept should be used in a very clear and limited sense. Thus, the published documents did not carry potential danger for the safety of the state", he said.
The bone of content
The case against journalist Baransu was initially launched by Public Prosecutor Ercan Şafak. Baransu stood accused of publishing immediate data from reports of the General Staff Presidency in his articles entitled "The Aktütün Secrets" and "What was experienced to the minute at the General Staff" published on 13 April 2009. It was claimed that the articles contain "documents with a classified status related to national security".
Article 329/1 of the TCK on "Disclosure of information relating to the security and political interests of the State" stiuplates that a person who discloses information whose nature requires it to be kept secret for reasons relating to the security, or internal or external political interests of the State shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of five to ten years". (EÖ/VK)