Experts' Opinions

Necati Abay,
Turkey

 

The 8 year long Judicial Process Of Newsman Necati Abay

 
I was working as a writer-editor in Atilim newspaper. On the 4 February  2003, I was taken into custody with other workers of Atilim newspaper and later released. While in custody, one of the police officers threatened me: “You'll be in trouble if you publish news about bombings in Atilim newspaper again. We can have you arrested any time.  It's us who decide the time of the arrest.”

It was also a kind of censorship imposition. I replied: “We stand for freedom of the press and we will publish any news that are worthy, and we will do it like any other newspaper”.

Two months later, on the 13 April 2003, I was detained and my computer was taken away. They weren’t able to find any crime element after a house search. I was taken to the  anti-terror department of Istanbul Police Headquarters in Vatan, and charged as a "coordinator of bombing acts in Istanbul”. I rejected the charge. I said that it was false and a conspiracy.

After the 4 day long detention, I was handed over to the Public Prosecutor's Office. The Prosecutor's Office sent me to the Court of Inquiry (a military institution). It seems that they did not take the charges against me seriously, so I was released.

However, after a few hours, I was arrested again because of a Prosecutor’s appeal that was issued. For a long time neither me nor my lawyer could see the case records.

The indictment were shown on the 27 March, 2003. What the indictment basically stated was that I was included in the outlawed organization operation.

This was an already seen scheme by the state politicians. They targeted journalists, writers and intellectuals who were then said to be included in the outlawed organization operations. Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener were also arrested under the charges of being 'members of Ergenekon terrorist organization'. Similarly, I was accused of being the person in charge for 3 terrorist cells  that performed  bombing acts.

The threat made by a policeman on the 4 February 2003 became reality: “ If you make bombing news, we will have you arrested Necati Abay”.

The person who blamed me for the conspiracy was a man I had never met nor seen before. I later found out he was taken into custody 4 nights before me, and after being tortured he was forced to sign a document, prepared and written by the police.

Later, during the trial and in a petition he wrote to the Prosecutor, this man stated that he didn’t know who Necati Abay was. He also said it was impossible to make a claim about a person he never met and that he was forced to sign the statement given to him during torture.

In his appeal sent to State Security Court on the 17 April, 2003, Ali Gul Alkaya said: “While I was in the police department, I was given some pills and then forced to sign the statement”.

In the forged document, it can be seen that the police added 4 sentences about me under the name of Ali Gul Alkaya. All of their indictments were based solely on this.

The part written about me in the 21 page long indictment:

“4-NECATI ABAY:

As can be understood from the statement given by defendant Ali Gul Alkaya on the 12 April 2004 in the police department, until the arrest of this person, there were 3 terrorist cell houses of MLKP organization in Istanbul; in the First Cell house he, Hatice Duman and Ali Riza Kaplan, in the Second Cell house Tahir Lacin, Gulizar Erman with Zeynep code name, and Sami Ozbil with Uzun code name, in the Third cell house Erkan Ozdemir and Ahmet Dogan were performing some activities. The responsible for the existence of these 3 cell houses in Istanbul is the defendant Necati Abay, who was providing communication among these 3 cell houses. Using the code name 'Emre' in order to keep his secrecy in the MLKP terrorist organization, the defendant Necati Abay was comitting crime by attempting to amend, change or abolish the whole, or a part of the Turkish Republic Constitution,”

The part of the indictment about me was interjected by the very same police who created that statement, and it is based on the forged document that Ali Gul Alkaya signed by force during his torture.

We cannot say that Ali Gul Alkaya revealed my secret by accusing me, because I don't know him and he doesn't know me. This document is proof of a police-based conspiracy, and the entire indictment against me was based on a forged document.

Six months after my arrest, on the 3 October 2003, my court hearing was held in the State Security Court. I pleaded to be released and the court released me with the condition of a pending trial. I was very happy.

In spite of the fact that I was on trial and could have been sentenced for life in solitary confinement, the judges didn't believe the claims of 'being the coordinator of bombing acts'. My pending trial continued for the next 8 years.

I'd like to mention that because the press unions who are against the system didn't do anything about my situation at the time, we founded the Platform for Solidarity with Imprisoned Journalists (TGDP). Since then I have been the spokesman of TGDP.

During the 8 years of my pending trial, no evidence was found against me. I was charged with groundless claims, so it is logical that non-existing evidence cannot be found.

After 8 years, on the 4 May, 2011, in a hearing held at the 12  Criminal Court, I was sentenced to 18 years and 9 months in prison. I was surprised by the verdict, since I had been expecting an acquittal.

In the Court’s decision, this is written about me: “Even with the opinion that Necati Abay is the member of a terrorist group and commanded in the outlawed MLKP organization; it is understood that the direct relation and participation of the defendant to the  crimes within the context of dossier cannot be ascertained, the defendant is within the meaning of 765 numbered, 168/1 Article of the Turkish Criminal Code...instead of life sentence, he is to be sentences to 18 years 9 months...”

As can be seen in the Court’s decision, there isn’t any evidence about me in this case, so my sentence is based on the belief.

There is no evidence, just belief. This is why I think the decision of the special authorized High Criminal Court is not judicial, but political. This is one of the typical examples of lawlessness in High Criminal Court. After the verdict of the Court, I said that this decision would be discussed a lot, and it is.

In  many newspapers, journals and TV programs, this particular Court decision has been  discussed. Osman Can talked about it in his column in Star newspaper, Prof. Dr Dogu Ergil in his column in Bugun newspaper, Ferai Tinc in her column in Hurriyet, and Aydin Engin in T24 web page; they all reported about it.

In Cumhuriyet newspaper, it became the second headline on the front page. I was invited to the editorial office program of Rusen Cakir in NTV, and we discussed the decision. It was also talked about in the press freedom program of Ertugrul Mavioglu in IMC TV, in which I also participated.

Because of my sentence, Human Rights Association awarded me with the Prize of Aysenur Zarakolu Freedom of Thought. On 9 June 2011, I was invited to the Swedish Parliament to give a speech about the freedom of thought and expression in Turkey. Furthermore, a petition drive has been started with the Ankara Thought Freedom Initiative, which includes 42 intellectuals.

We tried to dispute with the decision, and appealed to the supreme court. I'd like to underline that even though the court sentenced my verdict, it didn't ask for my arrest. I hope the decision given by the 12th High Criminal Court will be annulled by the Supreme Court.

I think this decision is a sentence against the freedom of thought and expression, people's right to receive the news, press freedom, the Atilim newspaper I was working in that time, and the Platform for Solidarity with the Imprisoned Journalists. In our country, freedom of thought and expression and freedom of press are under double pressure. 

The first pressure is by the anti-terror law (TMY) which is called anti-society law by social dissidents. Until we oppose to TMY, and ask for the removal of TMY, we won't be able to defend the freedom of expression and thought. The latter one, as seen in my situation, is the lawlessness of High Criminal Courts.

Necati Abay

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The Platform for Solidarity with the Imprisoned Journalists