Friday, June 12, 2009

The Truth on Trial?

Ogun Samast, the youngster accused of murdering Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, faces 20 years in prison if convicted. Nedim Sener, a journalist with the Turkish daily Milliyet, could face 28 years in jail for writing a book that details the the police negligence and intelligence failures that led to Dink's murder.

From Hurriyet:
Milliyet daily reporter Nedim Şener’s book "Dink Murder and Intelligence Lies" focused on the intelligence deficiencies by security agencies before and after Dink was shot dead, leading to a police officer and three senior Police Department intelligence chiefs filing complaints against him....

....After the book’s release in January of this year, Muhittin Zenit, a police officer working at the intelligence division at Trabzon at the time Dink was assassinated, filed a criminal complaint about Şener for "targeting personnel in service of fighting terrorism, obtaining secret documents, disclosing secret documents, violating the secrecy of communication and attempting to influence fair trial" through his book.

After the investigation’s end, Prosecutor Selim Berna Altay charged Şener with "making targets of the personnel in service of fighting terrorism, and obtaining and declaring secret information that is forbidden to be declared," asking for a prison term of 20 years. Since they do not fall under his authority, Altay sent the dossier on "violation of the secrecy of communication" and "attempting to influence fair trial" to theIstanbul Second Court. In the meantime, it was also claimed the book contained the offense of "insulting governmental institutions," and that too was added to the second investigation. Prosecutor İsmail Onaran handled this investigation and filed a second case against Şener asking for his imprisonment for three to eight years.

There is another case ongoing in a Trabzon court against eight personnel from the Trabzon Gendarmerie Command who are accused neglecting their duties regarding Dink’s death. The accused are facing up to two years in prison if found guilty.

"Some of the security personnel that sued me are under investigation for neglecting their duty for Dink’s murder. They want to punish the journalist writing about the responsibilities of those people," said Şener.
In his defense, Şener has noted that the information in his book was already in the public domain and easily found online. (Take a look at this Bianet article for a bit more on the case.)

Although Şener may not be convicted, the fact that a prosecutor decided to press ahead with the case is very troubling, the message of the prosecution appearing to be that even publishing the truth can be a punishable offense. The case also serves as another indication that, despite training programs for prosecutors and judges and efforts at reform, Turkey's judiciary main concern remains protecting the state and its institutions, rather than safeguarding the rights of individuals.

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