Tunca İlker Öğreten
Tunca Öğreten, a former news editor for news portal Diken, was arrested along with five other journalists in early hours of December 25, 2016, reportedly in connection with publication of leaked e-mails of Energy Minister Berat Albayrak. Police searched his home for three hours before arresting Öğreten.
Pro-government Sabah newspaper reported that Öğreten and other journalists were arrested over their links with Redhack, a hacker group which claimed responsibility for leaking Albayrak’s e-mail messages. It said in addition to the six journalists, arrest warrants were issued for three more people, including Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yücel.
Öğreten and the five journalists were kept in police custody for a record 24 days, following which Öğreten, along with DİHA editor Ömer Çelik and BirGün employee Mahir Kanaat, was jailed pending trial on the charge of “terrorist group membership.” The remaining three journalists were released pending trial.
According to court documents, Öğreten was accused of membership of the banned Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army/Front (DHKP/C). Öğreten denied the accusation, said he never met a DHKP/C member in his life, and that the charges against him all stem from the fact that he was added to a Twitter messaging group, in which Albayrak’s e-mails were reportedly shared with members, without his knowledge.
On March 1, 2017, Öğreten married his girlfriend, Minez Bayülgen, in a short ceremony at Silivri Prison.
In July, an indictment was prepared into the six journalists. It accuses Öğreten of “preventing o disrupting an IT system, amending or destroying data” and “committing a crime on behalf of a terrorist organization while not being a member.”
The e-mails on which Öğreten reported were stolen and leaked by a hacker group affiliated with the “DHKP-C armed terrorist group,” the prosecution says. It also says that Öğreten formerly worked for the Taraf newspaper, which it describes as “a media organ of the FETÖ/PDY” terrorist organization. Based on these reasons, the prosecution says “the suspect has participated in the crime committed in line with the aims and ideologies of these organizations while not being member of either and has committed a crime on their behalf.”
The indictment into the six journalists can be read here (in Turkish).
The first hearing of the trial into the six journalists took place at the 29th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on October 24, 2017. The court ruled for Ömer Çelik’s release pending trial and the continuation of Öğreten and Kanaat’s detentions.
Öğreten was released pending the conclusion of the trial at the end of the second hearing, on December 6, when he gave his defense statement, rejecting the accusations against him. The court also released Kanaat pending the conclusion of the trial at that hearing, imposing judicial control measures on both journalists, including overseas travel bans.
The next hearing in the case was held on March 20, 2018, at the 29th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
Öğreten, Kanaat, Okatan and the defense lawyers were in attendance at the hearing, monitored by P24.
Announcing its interim decision at the end of the hearing, the court decided to keep an international travel ban on all six defendants in place, while lifting a judicial control measure under which Öğreten and Kanaat had been required to regularly report to a police station.
The trial was adjourned until 13 September 2018, awaiting an expert report on digital materials confiscated from the defendants.
Öğreten, Kanaat, Okatan and Sargın and their lawyers were in attendance at the hearing on 13 September, while Çelik and Yoksu did not attend.
Addressing the court during the hearing, Öğreten requested for his computer and his mobile phone that had been confiscated during the investigation to be returned. He also requested for his international travel ban to be lifted.
Defense lawyer Sevgi Kalan Güvercin, who is representing Öğreten and Kanaat, demanded that the judicial control measures imposed on the defendants be lifted.
The prosecutor said it was not clear in the case file whether forensic images from digital equipment have been taken or not, and demanded that the court reject those requests.
Issuing an interim ruling following a brief recess, the court rejected the defendants’ requests and ordered for Yoksu and Çelik to be brought before the court for the next hearing and adjourned the trial until 8 January 2019.
Öğreten, Okatan, Kanaat and their lawyers were in attendance at the 8 January hearing, during which Çelik and Yoksu addressed the court via SEGBİS.
The prosecution requested the continuation of the judicial control measures imposed on the journalists. Addressing the court following the prosecutor, the journalists requested for their digital equipment confiscated during the investigation to be returned, their international travel ban to be lifted, and to be granted exemption from personal attendance in court.
In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court rejected the requests and adjourned the trial until 16 April 2019, awaiting an expert report concerning the digital equipment.
“Insulting the president” case
Öğreten is also a defendant — alongside writer Perihan Mağden and Yurt daily editors Mehmet Çağlar Tekin and Orhan Şahin — in a separate case, facing up to more than 4 years in prison for “insulting the president.”
The charges against the four defendants stem from a news report that included comments from Mağden, a former columnist for the shuttered Nokta magazine, about a police raid on the magazine in September 2015. The report first appeared on Diken and was re-printed by the Yurt daily.
The fifth hearing of this trial took place on 23 May 2017 at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.
At the end of the 13th hearing of the case, on 10 January 2019, the court convicted Öğreten and Mağden of “insulting the president” and fined each TL 7,000. The Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance did not defer the sentences imposed on Mağden and Öğreten. Journalists Şahin and Tekin were acquitted.
“RedHack trial” against 6 journalists adjourned until February
The “RedHack Trial,” where six journalists stand accused of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization,” “hindrance or destruction of a data processing system,” “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” and “terrorist group membership” for their coverage of the emails of Minister Berat Albayrak leaked by RedHack, resumed on 24 September 2019 at an Istanbul court.
This was the eighth hearing of journalists Derya Okatan, Tunca Öğreten, Mahir Kanaat, Eray Sargın, Metin Yoksu and Ömer Çelik. Defendants Tunca Öğreten, Mahir Kanaat and Eray Sargın were in attendance in the courtroom along with their lawyers. Minister Albayrak’s lawyer Ahmet Özel, who had submitted a letter of excuse, was not present. P24 and the Turkey representative of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) were among those who monitored the hearing.
Due to the presiding judge being on leave, judge Barış Öztürk was in charge instead, announcing the arrival of the long-awaited expert report confirming that all the devices confiscated from the defendants had been fully examined. Also informing that the two separate court panels of the 29th High Criminal Court of Istanbul had been merged, Öztürk said that judges from the other panel would now be serving on this trial’s panel.
The presiding judge then asked the defendants for their statements concerning the digital forensics report.
Addressing the court first, Tunca Öğreten recounted how he was arrested over the allegation of being a member of DHKP-C (the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front) but after no evidence to support this claim could be found, he was accused of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” and “disclosing state secrets” instead. Lastly Öğreten asked for the return of his digital devices and the lifting of his international travel ban.
Addressing the court next, Kanaat and Sargın also requested the return of their digital devices, the judicial control measures to be lifted and to be held exempt from appearing in court.
Lawyer Özcan Kılıç, representing Metin Yoksu and Ömer Çelik, told the court that his client Çelik could not attend the hearing because he had just received the news that his father had passed away. Kılıç requested the return of the digital devices, including the cellphone of Çelik’s father, which was confiscated during Çelik’s arrest.
Other defense lawyers also asked their clients to be held exempt from appearing in court, the return of the digital equipment and the lifting of the judicial control measures imposed on their clients.
Presiding judge Öztürk told those present that the court would be willing to grant temporary permission in case the defendants applied to attend the like of a seminar or a wedding abroad.
The panel then went into a five-minute for recess to deliberate on its interim ruling.
Issuing its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ordered the continuation of the international travel ban imposed on all six journalists and rejected the request for the defendants to be held exempt from appearing in court. The court also ordered for the confiscated digital equipment to be returned to the defendants and adjourned the trial until 6 February 2020 to allow time for the examination of the digital forensic report.
The Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance did not defer the sentences imposed on Mağden and Öğreten.
8 January 2019:
The prosecution requested the continuation of the judicial control measures imposed on the journalists. Addressing the court following the prosecutor, the journalists requested for their digital equipment confiscated during the investigation to be returned, their international travel ban to be lifted, and to be granted exemption from personal attendance in court. In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court rejected the requests and adjourned the trial until 16 April, awaiting an expert report concerning the digital equipment.
13 September 2018:
On January 17, 2017, an Istanbul court charged Öğreten with “blocking, disrupting [a] computing system,” “destroying or changing data” and “committing a crime on behalf of an armed terrorist organization while not being a member.”
The charges relate to allegations that Berat Albayrak, Turkey's energy minister and the president's son-in-law, had dealings with oil fields controlled by the militant group Islamic State, according to reports. The allegations emerged when Wikileaks published emails allegedly obtained by a socialist hacking group known as Redhack, according to news reports.
Prosecutors claimed that Öğreten supported Redhack by reporting on the emails at Diken and cited as further evidence his work for the shuttered daily Taraf, which the indictment tied to the alleged terrorist organization led by exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, which the government calls FETÖ.
According to his testimony, Öğreten was informed of the emails via a messaging group on Twitter to which his name was added without his consent. The Twitter messaging group is considered evidence for the defendants' alleged links with various outlawed organizations.
At the first hearing on October 24, 2017, an Istanbul court ordered Öğreten and his co-accused-- Mahir Kaynak, the former accountant for the daily Birgün--to remain in custody for the duration of the trial, the independent news site Bianet reported. Some other co-accused, including Ömer Çelik, a former news editor at the shuttered pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), was released pending the outcome of the trial.
The court accepted a plea from the energy minister, Albayrak, that he be included in the trial as an injured party. The next hearing was scheduled for December 6, 2017.
Öğreten was being held in Silivri Prison, Istanbul.*
18 January 2017:
An Istanbul court last night arrested two journalists and a newspaper employee for allegedly "being members of a [terrorist] organization," Bianet reported. Tunca Öğreten, a freelance journalist and former editor of the news website Dikenin Istanbul; Ömer Çelik, news editor of Dihaber in Diyarbakır; and Mahir Kanaat, the accounting director for the daily Birgün, have been detained since December 25, as part of an investigation into leaked emails of Turkey's Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, who is also the president's son-in-law, according to reports. Three journalists detained alongside them--Metin Yoksu, a reporter for Dihaber; Derya Okatan, from the Etkin News Agency (ETHA) in Ankara; and Eray Sargın, a news editor for Yolculuk in Istanbul--were released under judicial control, reports said.
The journalists were questioned about different groups recognized as terrorists by Turkey, according to analysis in the daily Evrensel by chief editor Fatih Polat, who followed the case and interviewed defense lawyers. Öğreten's terror allegation was linked to him working for the shuttered daily Taraf before he was at Diken, which prosecutors saidwas a "media organ of the FETÖ." FETÖ, or the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization is the name Turkish authorities gave to the Hizmet Movement, an international organization led by exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen. The prosecutor also accused the journalist of being a member of the extreme leftist group the Revolutionary People's Salvation Party/Front (DHKP/C). Another report in Evrensel said the others were accused of having ties to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Marxist Leninist Communist Party (MLKP). The report did not specify which accusations related to which defendant. The journalists denied the charges.
Atilla Bahçıvan, a lawyer for Kanaat, told Polat that the evidence was either weak or not criminal under Turkish law. Bahçıvan said, "The case is there just because of the name Berat Albayrak. Nothing would come out [of this case] if it was about something else."
30 December 2016:
The detention periods for six journalists detained on December 25 were extended to 30 days, independent news outlet Bianet reported. Ömer Çelik, Metin Yoksu, Derya Okatan, Eray Saygın, Mahir Kanaat, and Tunca Öğreten were arrested for alleged connections to Redhack, a group claiming to be behind the leaked emails of a Turkish minister. The journalists had reportedly been denied access to a lawyer for five days. Lawyer Özcan Kılıç told Bianet that he was finally given access to Çelik, Okatan, and Yoksu today, adding that Okatan is on a hunger strike in protest of the charges.
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