LALE – Journalist in jail for revealing alleged coup plot plans

Journalist in jail for revealing alleged coup plot plansTurkish journalist Mehmet Baransu — who was declared a hero in 2010 when he disclosed what became known as the Balyoz (Sledgehammer)ase, in which military personnel were accused, and in some cases convicted, of planning a coup — was arrested early this week for leaking state security secrets — ie, a planned coup.His arrest, which comes almost five years after the coup plot allegations were disclosed, raises serious questions over whether he has been victimized as part of the de facto alliance the government has forged with the military to cover up the high-profile corruption and bribery scandal of December 2013 that implicated some Cabinet members as well as then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan and some of his family members.

In fact, it is unlikely to be a coincidence that the retrial of those found guilty in the Sledgehammer case — after the appeals court approved a local courtand#39s verdict in 2012 in which around 230 retired and active duty military officers received various jail sentences for plotting to unseat the government — was brought to the agenda by the government in early January of last year amid graft allegations.Moreover, it was only after the government gave the green light for a retrial that those convicted in the Sledgehammer trials applied to the Constitutional Court for the reversal of the earlier courtand#39s decision.

On the other hand, it is important to note that a retrial became necessary after mounting criticism from both inside and outside of Turkey that the suspectsand#39 right to a fair trial had been violated during the court hearings.Nevertheless, the Constitutional Court made a ruling last year paving the way for the retrial of 230 military officers after the top court found that the suspectsand#39 right to a fair trial had been violated.

The top court also unanimously decided that the digital and wiretap evidence against the accused was an insufficient basis for the guilty verdicts.Yet, isnand#39t it bizarre that while all the Sledgehammer suspects were released pending their retrials (which have begun), Baransu — a journalist for the local Taraf daily — is being put in jail for disclosing the thousands of documents revealing the alleged coup plot?An answer to this question can be traced to the governmentand#39s increased authoritarianism, which has resulted in it acting out of vengeance rather than within the rule of law.

Hence, Baransuand#39s arrest comes amid increased pressure exerted by the government on dissidents, including journalists.The key question is whether a journalist can be arrested for leaking confidential documents and, in Baransuand#39s case, ones that contain allegations of a planned coup.

Nina Ognianova, Europe and Central Asia program coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), gave an answer to this question in a statement released on March 4andquotA journalistand#39s job is to report on developments in the public interest, and it is absurd that a journalist should be prosecuted for obtaining documents — which in any case were shared with authorities.andquotBaransuand#39s lawyer, Sercan SakallI, also reiterated that the documents — the key evidence in the Balyoz investigation — had been submitted to the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutorand#39s Office by Baransu in 2010.

According to SakallI, the justification for Baransuand#39s arrest confirms the confidentiality of the documents under Article 327 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) and thus their authenticity. He also recalled that copies of these documents were seized from the Glcuk Navy Command in raids in 2011.

Baransuand#39s arrest therefore triggers more questions that need to be answered about the Sledgehammer case.For instance, why have the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) so far not been asked to confirm the authenticity of the documents, including those found at Glcuk Naval Command? Why is Baransu facing charges of leaking state secrets now when the alleged coup plot was made public in 2010? And why are government officials and a top commander, who made statements at the time confirming that the military officers in question were involved in a plot to unseat the government, quiet now?For instance, then-Prime Minister ErdoIan said in a televised interview that he was andquotshockedandquot to see military officers making andquotoutrageousandquot comments, from mocking citizens to drawing plans to foment chaos and hence topple the elected (i.

e, his) government. Similarly, then-Chief of General Staff retired Gen.

Hilmi zkk, said after the verdict was given in 2012 that it was impossible for him to join the critics of the Sledgehammer coup trial and say that the trial was unfair, adding that there was nothing to do but show respect for the courtand#39s decisions.Taking into consideration the bizarre circumstances surrounding the Sledgehammer case, Baransu appears to have been chosen as a scapegoat to bury the alleged coup plot in return for burying the graft probe.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman