Turkish prosecutors seek up to 18 years in jail for eight journalists for report on intel officer's funeral

Turkish prosecutors are seeking up to 18 years in jail for eight journalists over a report covering the funeral of an intelligence agent killed in Libya. The journalists are accused of violating Turkey's intelligence laws, even although the intel agent's name had been previously made public by an opposition lawmaker.

Duvar English

Istanbul prosecutors are seeking from seven to 18 years in jail for each of the eight journalists indicted for covering the funeral of a member of Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MİT) killed in Libya.

Istanbul court orders continued arrest of OdaTV journalistsIstanbul court orders continued arrest of OdaTV journalists

The prosecutors are accusing the journalists of two separate charges: violating the Article 329 of the Turkish Penal Code on “Disclosure of Information Relating to the Security and Political Interests of the State” and violating the Article 27th of the Law on the Turkish National Intelligence Organization which says that “those who obtain documents and information concerning the MİT's duties and operations shall be sentenced.”

Hüseyin Ersöz, the lawyer of OdaTV journalists indicted in the case, said that it is “against the principle of universality” for a defendant to be accused of multiple charges for one action. “It is impossible for prosecutors not to know this as this is one of the lectures of Law 101,” Ersöz told OdaTV.

OdaTV journalists Barış Terkoğlu, Barış Pehlivan and Hülya Kılınç are three of the eight journalists standing charges. Along with the OdaTV journalists, Mehmet Ferhat Çelik and Aydın Keser from the pro-Kurdish newspaper Yeni Yaşam and Murat Ağırel from from the opposition daily Yeni Çağ were arrested in March over the same charges.

Two other people indicted in the case are Birgün columnist Erk Acarer, who is now living in exile in Germany, and an employee of the municipality of the district of Akhisar in the Manisa province, run by the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP).

OdaTV's editor-in-chief Barış Pehlivan arrested for report on intel officer's funeralOdaTV's editor-in-chief Barış Pehlivan arrested for report on intel officer's funeral

On March 3, OdaTV published a story that did not reveal the intelligence operative’s last name but revealed images from his funeral ceremony with the headline “OdaTV obtains footage from the quiet and non-ceremonious burial of Libya-martyr and MİT agent.”

The story showed the crowd at the burial that included local politicians, the unmarked burial site and flower arrangements, particularly one that read “Organization Head.”

Following the report, prosecutors launched an investigation into OdaTV even though İYİ (Good) Party lawmaker Ümit Özdağ had revealed the name of the operative at a press conference on Feb. 26 during which he criticized Ankara’s offshore military policy.

Opposition parties condemned the investigation as politically motivated and an attack on press freedom.

The arrested journalists are known to be critical of the government.