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30 May

Jailed DİHA reporter: I am proud of my reporting

Shuttered DİHA reporter İdris Sayılğan submitted a written defense to the court, pointing out irregularities in the prosecution

İdris Sayılğan, a reporter for the shuttered pro-Kurdish news agency DİHA, submitted a written defense to the court last week in which he pointed irregularities in the prosecution and ongoing trial. A court in the eastern city of Muş ruled on 23 May 2018 to continue Sayılğan, who has already spent 20 months in detention pending trial. The reporter was unable to attend the hearing due to a technical failure in the judicial tele-conferencing system that would ensure the connection to the prison facility in the Black Sea province of Trabzon, where he remains under custody. Sayılğan faces between 7.5 and 15 years in prison on charges of membership in a terrorist organization.
In his 10-page defense, Sayılğan answered in details allegations levelled against him in the indictment, while expressing his commitment to his job. “I am proud of my reporting. The news reports are hard-earned bread,” Sayılğan said in his written defense statements.
Sayılğan said an important part of his defense statements to the court were not transcribed and not included in the court records. “Parts that are transcribed are mostly wrong, incomplete and recorded with sentences that are difficult to understand or incorrect,” Sayılğan said. “This is the reason why I felt the need to present a written defense statement. This defense statement shall be my main defense statement,” he said. 
‘’Arrested for being a Kurdish journalist’’
Sayılğan described the case against him as a “political trial”, arguing that the prosecutor’s indictment reflected hostility. “I am under arrest because I am a Kurdish journalist opposing the government,” he said. Sayılğan also said he had been subject to physical and verbal violence in front of his family when he was arrested by the police during a raid in his home back on 17 October 2016. He was hit on his head while he was being arrested, he said, adding doctors refused to treat the injury by fear of the police after he was brought to the hospital.
Sayılğan was first sent to a prison in his hometown of Muş, but moved to the remote Black Sea province of Trabzon to week after his pre-trial detention without any explanation. He denounced torture and strip searches after being moved to the Trabzon Prison and said being held under solitary confinement conditions. “Such inhuman practices can only have a place under the ‘enemy criminal law’. What I have been through is enough to prove that political emotions are behind my detention,” Sayılğan said: “The main goal is to create a society without any will, any personality and any identity. They want us to surrender to the government. Justice is used as a tool to realize the government’s unseemly goals.”
No element of crime in wiretapping
Wiretapping recordings shown as evidence in the indictment showed that his conversations were tapped “arbitrarily,” Sayılğan said. He also pointed out that the prosecutor in Muş who took his testimony at the time of his arrest told him that there was “no element of crime in the recordings.” “How is it possible that 57 pages out of a 67-page long indictment consist of conversations I had with my sources and some journalist colleagues, which are shown as evidence for membership in a terrorist organization? Especially despite the prosecutor personally said ‘there was no element of crime’?” he asked. 
Sayılğan also responded to accusations regarding his news reports. He claimed that reports were used in the indictment to bloat the files and produce evidence. “I have never used the expression ‘forces of invasion’ in any of my reporting,” Sayılğan said in response to one of the accusations. He also rejected the claim that he had received orders from terrorists. “This allegation should have been proved,” he said.
Future ‘’filled with light’’
In his conclusive remarks, Sayılğan expressed indignation over being jailed for 20 months as a result of an indictment he claimed was written with “feelings of hate.” Referring to a famous song to the iconic Kurdish singer Ahmet Kaya, Sayılğan said he was put in jail for being a “Kurd and an opposition journalist.”
“As journalists representing the free media, we might be in jail, but our world, our future is bright, filled with light. Free media cannot be silenced. We will always write,” he said.  
During the third hearing of the case held on 23 May, the 2nd High Criminal Court of Muş ruled to keep Sayılğan in detention, setting 5 October 2018 as the date of the next hearing. Should he still be in prison by then, October will mark two years in detention for Sayılğan.


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