An investigation was launched into cumhuriyet.com.tr’s Editor-in-Chief, Oğuz Güven, for the crimes of ‘making propaganda for a terrorist organisation’ and ‘defaming a person’s memory’ in connection with his tweeted announcement that was soon changed regarding a report into the death of Denizli Republic Chief Prosecutor Mustafa Alper, who lost his life in an accident he suffered on 10 May. Güven was arrested at his home on the morning of Friday 12 May and then his arrest period was extended to seven days.
Our newspaper’s website cumhuriyet.com.tr announced Chief Prosecutor Alper’s tragic death with the Tweet: ‘A lorry mowed down Chief Prosecutor Mustafa Alper, who drafted the first Fethullah Gülen Terrorism Organisation (FETO) indictment.’ The Tweet was soon deleted but Sabah newspaper nevertheless vented its ire at the portal. Journalist Nedim Şener, posting the deleted Tweet on Twitter, also wrote, ‘Venerable Orhan Erinç, do not keep the animal who wrote this headline under Cumhuriyet’s roof.’
Arrest lasted four days
Having spent four days under arrest, Güven was taken today to the Istanbul Judicial Complex in Çağlayan to give his statement to the prosecution. Following the statement procedure, Press Crimes Investigation Office prosecutor Celal Sarıdere remitted Güven to Istanbul Penal Judgeship of the Peace No 2 seeking his pre-trial detention on the charge of making organisational propaganda. CHP MPs Barış Yarkadaş and Sezgin Tanrıkulu, Turkish Journalists Association Chair Turgay Olcayto, Turkish Journalists Association General Secretary Sibel Güneş and a large number of journalists came to Istanbul Judicial Complex in Çağlayan to support Güven. Güven said the following in the statement he made to prosecutor Sarıdere:
Deleted 55 seconds later
‘An error of this nature happened entirely by mistake in the endeavour to report the news immediately in view of the competition and speed factors the internet has brought about. It was most certainly not wished to post a Tweet in the form, ‘A lorry mowed down the chief prosecutor.’ The Tweet in question was removed 55 seconds later and amended to, ‘Chief Prosecutor Mustafa Alper, who drafted the first Fethullah Gülen Terrorism Organisation indictment, tragically lost his life in a lorry accident.’ This is an indicator that the first Tweet was posted in error. Examination of the Tweet in question along with the content of the relevant report will reveal that no incitement to violence or praise, serving the ends or encouragement of a terrorist organisation was involved. It will be apparent that I had no criminal intent in this incident.’
I expressed my sadness
‘I conveyed my feelings in the content of the report by expressing the sadness I felt at the chief prosecutor’s demise and also my thoughts in opposition to the FETO formation. Immediately after this, I posted a Tweet reading, ‘Disgrace to humanity.’ I also posted on our website the report taking the form, ‘Scandalous words from FETOist Emre Uslu about the chief prosecutor who died in an accident’ to show the unease I felt over comments by fugitive FETO/PDY defendants such as Emre Uslu and Tuncay Opçin, and in the contents we harshly criticised those who were taking pleasure at the chief prosecutor’s demise. A more correct conclusion about our attitude to the news report on which the charges are based can be arrived at through assessment in conjunction with this content. It will thus be ascertained when the Tweets I posted are assessed in their entirety and in conjunction with the content of the news reports that were carried that the crimes of which I am charged were not intended. If you simply place the deleted Tweet in the file and do not take the report itself and the reports that we subsequently made there may be a misunderstanding.’
A term in frequent use
‘In reports about traffic accidents, the expression, ‘Articulated lorry mows down’ or ‘lorry mows down’ is in frequent use. There is no ill intent in this. It must also be borne in mind that the number of Tweets we post every day is in the region of two to three hundred. It must be taken into account that errors of this kind can happen among such a large number of Tweets and in the rush engendered by competition in the internet media. With the deceased chief prosecutor being the chief prosecutor who drafted the first FETO indictment, this caused us to make even greater haste. We had no criminal intent. Examination of all the reports will reveal that we harboured not the slightest ill intent towards the deceased chief prosecutor.’
The record is untruthful
Our paper’s lawyer Tora Pekin, who conducted Güven’s defence during his interrogation at Istanbul Penal Judgeship of the Peace No 2, recalled that the record underlying the launching of the investigation had been made by Press Crimes Investigation Office prosecutor Yasemin Baba. Pekin, stating that the Tweet about which the record was made had been live for less than one minute, said, ‘A record cannot be made in such a short time. For a record made about an internet post to be valid, the post on which the charges are based must be attached as an exhibit to the record. There is no such exhibit in the record made by Yasemin Baba. The most important point testifying to the record’s untruthfulness is the impossibility for a printout to be obtained of one of the specified exhibits. Lawyer Pekin, pointing out that there was no such statement in the news report, said, ‘A screen shot of the Tweet was obtained by certain people and was able to enter the file. It is impossible for the report to enter the file. There is no report of this nature. Prosecutor Yasemin Baba has made a record as if she had seen a report which she did not at all see and launched an investigation.’
Judge Akın Gürlek, alleging in his decision that, ‘By means of the said Tweet, it was indicated that this would be the fate of prosecutors assigned to FETO investigation files,’ asserted that reference was made to the end that these prosecutors would meet. Gürlek, noting that the expression ‘mowed down’ could be used from a journalistic point of view to add colour to a report, asserted that this expression had been particularly selected in the tweet on which the charges are based so as to create the perception in society as to what might subsequently befall those who draft indictments into FETO rather than for emphasis. Gürlek, claiming that pre-trial release condition provisions would be inadequate for the crime of organisational propaganda for which custodial sentences of between one and a half and seven and a half years are envisaged in the possible event of conviction, noted that, since investigation into comments made beneath the Tweet in question was continuing, the evidence was being gathered.
‘There is nothing that can be done in the face of this depravity.’
Our paper’s detained website Editor-in-Chief commented after the decision, ‘There is nothing that can be done in the face of this depravity.’ Oğuz Güven was taken to Metris Prison.
They have mowed down the law