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16 February

Court rejects officers’ request to join trial in Taraf case

The next hearing of the Egemen Operation Plan case, where former executives and columnists of Taraf newspaper stand trial, was adjourned to May 10

The third hearing of a court case against former executives and columnists of the Taraf newspaper, launched in relation to the publication of military documents several years ago, was held on Wednesday at the İstanbul 13th Assize Court.
 
Retired military officers Bilgin Balanlı, Halil İbrahim Fırtına, Ahmet Yavuz, Ahmet Türkmen, Ayhan Taş, Nejat Bek, Erdem Caner Bener, colonels Osman Fevzi Güneş, Yüksel Gamsız, Ali Cengiz Şirin, Erdal Akyazan, Recai Elmas, Erdoğan Koçoğlu, Hasan Nurgören and Behçet Alper Güney have asked the court to be co-plaintiffs in the case, based on “possible damage caused by the offence.” The court rejected that request in Wednesday’s hearing, saying they have not been “directly harmed by the offence.”
 
Similar requests by retired General Çetin Doğan and retired Colonel Nedim Ulusan were accepted during the first hearing of the trial on Sept. 2, 2016, allowing their lawyer, Hüseyin Ersöz, to attend all hearings of the case since then.
 
The documents in question, titled the Egemen Operation Plan -- although more commonly known by the public to be concerning documents about the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup plan, were published by Taraf in 2010.
 
Journalists and former Taraf executives Yasemin Çongar, Ahmet Altan and Yıldıray Oğur face a possible jail term of 52 years and six months on charges of “destroying documents pertaining to the security of state, using them beyond their purpose, stealing them by deception, acquiring documents relating to the security of the state and exposing documents that is to be kept confidential for reasons relating to the security and political interests of the state.” Journalists Mehmet Baransu and Tuncay Opçin, also defendants in the same case, face the additional charges of “leading a terrorist organization” and a possible imprisonment of up to 75 years. Baransu is a former reporter for Taraf while Opçin, who remains at large, is not linked to the newspaper, which was closed down in 2016 under the state of emergency.
 
Altan, Çongar and Oğur testified during the first hearing of the trial, which was held on Sept. 2. The court then decided to exempt them from future hearings.
 
 
 
Baransu could not be brought to court
 
Baransu, who was imprisoned pending trial in March 2015 at the start of the investigation, could not be brought to the hearing because he was in Mersin, a province in southern Turkey, to present his defense in a separate court case.
 
Baransu is now expected to present his defense in the next hearing of the trial. On Wednesday, the court decided to adjourn the trial to May 10. The judges also decided that Baransu’s incarceration continue. 
 

Lawyers say requests to join trial should be rejected

 
Lawyer for the defendant Oğur, Gülçin Avşar, maintained that the requests to join the trial should be turned down. She said those who sought to be become co-plaintiffs have not been harmed, adding that they could only have demanded the newspaper to publish a retraction. Veysel Ok, the lawyer for Altan and Çongar, agreed, saying that the charges directed at the defendants have not caused the applicants any damage. “It is the legal system that has caused them harm and court proceedings concerning that are already continuing. We ask for the requests to become co-plaintiffs to be rejected,” he said.
 
 

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