Reporters Without Borders said it is deeply shocked by the seizure and destruction of all known copies of the last unpublished draft copy of a book by Ahmet Sik. This work, which explores the relationship between the police and the influential Islamic “Gülen Movement,” is said to contain revelations about the “Ergenekon” antiterrorist trial, which has tainted Turkish political life for yearsm the organization said.
“Not content with preventing its publication and throwing the author into jail, the Turkish judicial authorities searched the three locations where it was thought the draft copy might be found and ordered anyone who might still be in possession of it to hand it over to the authorities or face criminal charges,” said Reporters Without Borders.
According to Reporters Without Borders, by making it illegal simply to possess a computer file the legal authorities have gone to unparalleled lengths to harass investigative journalists close to the “Ergenekon” affair and have set an extremely dangerous precedent. By propagating the idea that an email received by a journalist could send him behind bars the authorities have put a deplorable and unacceptable level of pressure on media professionals.
Istanbul police last Thursday searched the offices of the publishing house Ithaki, the left wing newspaper Radikal and Sik’s lawyer Fikret Ilkiz. In each case, police officers searched computers and copied the file containing the draft copy of the book before deleting all traces of it. According to sources close to the case, Sik’s manuscript “The Army of the Imam,” had been sent to Ithaki for consultation and the printer had not yet taken the decision to publish it. In the offices of Radikal, the computer belonging to journalist Ertugrul Mavioglu, who is close to Sik and who, moreover, has been summoned for questioning next week for interviewing a leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), was searched, said Reporters Without Borders.
Police investigators also informed the journalist’s friends, colleagues and lawyers that they should hand over any copy of the manuscript or face charges of aiding and abetting the alleged terrorist conspiracy known as “Ergenekon”. The warrant, issued by an Istanbul court at the request of prosecutor Zekerya Öz, says the book contains “criminal elements” and is “propaganda for a terrorist organization”.
Reached by telephone, the lawyer and general secretary of the Turkish Press Council, Oktay Huduti, told Reporters Without Borders that “the warrant was based not on an examination of the draft copy itself, but on a 49-page police report about it.”
It is very doubtful that such measures are legally sound, and they certainly violate all of Ankara’s international engagements in terms of freedom of expression. At a joint press conference last Thursday, three Turkish press organizations denounced an “interference in the right to write freely” in violation of article 29 of the Turkish constitution. Reporters Without Borders said it once again condemns the use of the “fight against terrorism” to justify a major draconian measure, and the perverse effects of Anti-Terrorist Law No. 3713, a legacy of darker times.
Hunduti said, “Turkish law allows for the search and seizure of documents, but in no case their destruction. What is more, the person who is searched should in normal circumstances receive a copy of the document seized, which was not the case here. It is difficult to understand the legal basis for these operations, since we are not in this case even talking about a book, but an unpublished draft copy.”