Journalist Aziz Oruç remains in prison

The second day of hearing in the main trial against Kurdish journalist Aziz Oruç took place in Ağrı. The court ordered an extension of his detention pending trial.

The second day of the trial against Aziz Oruç took place in Ağrı province on Monday. The 36-year-old journalist, who worked for the RojNews news agency in Sulaymaniyah, Southern Kurdistan (Northern Iraq) until his arrest at border last year, is accused of "membership in a terrorist organization" and "spreading terror propaganda”. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.

Aziz Oruç was arrested in Doğubayazıt district of Ağrı in December. Before his imprisonment in Turkey, the former correspondent of the DIHA news agency, which was banned by emergency decree, had tried to reach Europe from Iran via Armenia to apply for political asylum. He was arrested and tortured at the Armenian-Iranian border. An application for asylum that was made out of necessity was not even forwarded to the responsible authorities. Instead, the father of two was handed over to Iranian security forces. After another arrest on the Iranian side of the border, renewed torture and a fine, Oruç was finally abandoned barefoot and dressed only in underwear in the Turkish border area on the night of December 11, 2019.

Abdullah Ekelek, the co-chair of the HDP Doğubayazıt district association, and local politician Muhammet İkram Müftüoğlu saved him from freezing to death. After Oruç was first treated for several injuries he sustained at the border fence, the three men made their way to Amed (Diyarbakir), the family of the journalist. Shortly after the departure, the police staged a crackdown on the group. After a week in police custody, an arrest warrant was issued against him on December 18. Ekelek and Müftüoğlu were also arrested for "supporting a terrorist organization". In their case, the court ordered the cancellation of the arrest warrants against reporting requirements at the start of the trial on July 21.

The Chief Public Prosecutor's Office in Ağrı bases its charges against Oruç, among other things, on "illegal border crossing into the country of which he is a citizen”. The evidence also includes telephone surveillance protocols, investigation files that have already been closed against the journalist, as well as indictments from ongoing trials, posts on online networks and the fact that he did not report to the security authorities after entering the state territory. The charges are also supported by "like" marks on the Facebook pages of RojNews and IMC TV and an interview conducted by Oruç with hunger strike activist Nasir Yağız. Another case against the journalist, also for alleged terrorist propaganda, is pending in Amed.

Only a few people were allowed to attend today's hearing because of the pandemic restrictions, while media representatives were not allowed at all. Oruç rejected the accusations against him and repeated his previous statement that he was not a member of an "organization". He also drew the court's attention to the increased risk of coronavirus in the prisons and demanded his release. While the judge in charge ordered the extension of the pre-trial detention, the reporting requirements against Ekelek and Müftüoğlu were lifted. The trial will continue on November 9, 2020.