The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s office has ordered the arrest of Erk Acarer, a columnist of the leftist daily Birgün, over a report covering the funeral of a member of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) killed in Libya, Turkish media outlets reported on May 1. The arrest warrant was also confirmed by Birgün.
Acarer is one of the eight journalists standing trial in the case. Prosecutors last week filed their indictment, demanding from seven to 18 years in jail for each of the eight 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.”
OdaTV journalists Barış Terkoğlu, Barış Pehlivan and Hülya Kılınç, pro-Kurdish newspaper Yeni Yaşam journalists Mehmet Ferhat Çelik and Aydın Keser, and the opposition daily Yeni Çağ journalist Murat Ağırel are all standing trial behind bars.
Two other people indicted in the case are 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).
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 journalists standing trial in the case are known to be critical of the government.