Imprisoned journalist Can Dündar stands trial for insulting Erdoğan’s son

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Can Dündar, the editor-in-Chief of daily Cumhuriyet who was recently imprisoned for publishing a story on Syria-bound intelligence trucks, stood trial for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son in two opinion pieces on the Dec. 17, 2013 graft probe, the largest corruption investigation in modern Turkish history, on Dec. 17. 

The defamation case was brought against the court by President Erdoğan and his son, Bilal Erdoğan, over two of Dündar’s opinion pieces, “Fezlekeleri okumak hakkımız” (We are entitled to read the summary of proceedings) dated July 18, 2014, and “Erdoğan’ın yumuşak karnı” (Erdoğan’s soft spot) published on July 1, 2014 which allegedly “stained the honor, pride and reputation of the plaintiffs.”

In a motion denied by the court, Dündar’s lawyer Akın Atalay asked for the plaintiff’s permission to prove Dündar’s articles, making a reference to the Turkish Penal Code that denies punishment in defamation cases where the accused is able to establish his claims were not defamatory but based on facts.

“We want to exercise our right to prove [the articles] hence we ask for the plaintiff’s consent,” Atalay told the court.

The plaintiff’s attorney, Hatice Özay, argued against the request, stating there was already a verdict of non-prosecution in the case against Bilal Erdoğan.

“Hence it is clear that the allegations are unfounded. There is no need for additional confirmation,” Özay said, claiming Atalay was attempting to stall the court.

While answering the judge’s question on where he attained the summary of proceedings, Dündar explained the necessary legal information was available on the Internet and demanded that the summary of proceedings be brought to court to establish this fact.

“We garnered the information through open source intelligence and wrote the publications based on these documents. It was not possible to access all the information. If the summary proceedings can be brought in, we will be able to demonstrate the extent of our interpretation,” he said to explain his demand, which was later denied by the court.

As part of his defense, Dündar also thanked the plaintiffs for their complaint and for making sure the case was heard on Dec. 17, the same day the graft probe was launched two years ago.

“I thank them for their complaint, which brought a very important case to become a topic of conversation once again,” Dündar said. “I am also thankful to whoever made sure this trial was heard on Dec.17. If this wasn’t a coincidence and was specifically arranged, it was the most helpful to me,” he added.

While the defamation case was postponed until Feb. 3, Dündar was acquitted on a second case for which he also stood trial on Dec. 17.

Before the court on his insult case, Dündar was acquitted in a case filed by Turkey’s Environment and Urban Planning Ministry on charges that he did not publish a refutation by the ministry.

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