Turkish journalist to remain behind bars as court postpones trial

Baransu was arrested last March over documents that he submitted to prosecutors in 2010, prompting a major coup trial known as “Sledgehammer” (Balyoz) that implicated top military brass.

Baransu is accused of releasing a classified National Security Council (MGK) document dated 2004, purporting to show a call to fight against the Gulen movement signed by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). President Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly called Baransu a “traitor” during a campaign rally.

The trial was held at the İstanbul 10th High Criminal Court in Kartal. Baransu’s lawyer, Omer Kavili, asked the court to provide the MGK document in question. MGK lawyer Emel Bulak objected to the demand, saying the document is still classified. The court’s chief judge, Mahir Merdun, also rejected the demand. It was not clear how the document Baransu is accused of revealing would be presented during the trial.

Baransu is being held in Silivri Prison outside İstanbul. His wife, Nesibe, and other journalists were present during the hearing. A number of journalists showed up to the courtroom in solidarity. Sercan Sakallı, another lawyer of Baransu, said the probe against his client was launched four months after the document was released and thus demanded the court drop the charges. Turkish law requires that investigations into news reports can only be initiated within four months of their publication or broadcast. Judge Merdun also rejected this demand.

In addition, Kavili demanded the documents in Baransu’s file be registered with serial numbers, claiming that anyone could change or add documents his the file without any notification. The judge rejected this request, too.

When Baransu asked the court for a break before he presented his defense, as he had not eaten for a long time, the court responded by postponing until March 10, 2016.

In the meantime, the court will ask the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the Interior Ministry if there was a judicial or administrative investigation regarding the MGK document.

Baransu faces more than 70 charges, which, if found guilty, could result in up to 1,000 years in prison. In addition to the release of the Sledgehammer documents, he faces charges of releasing MİT documents showing the organization’s profiling of senior Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) officials and publishing reports about genetically modified rice in Taraf in 2013.