A Guide to Understand the OdaTV Trial – 1: What are the journalists accused of? What is the evidence?

The soL news portal published a series of articles concerning the background and the ongoings of the infamous OdaTV case. Signed Yiğit Günay, the articles investigate the trial’s judicial peculiarities as well as its political context and historical implications. Assuming the responsibility of providing English information on Turkey with a political perspective that is compatible with our stance, we decided to translate these articles for the English-speaking audience.

This first article of the series is freely translated from the Turkish original, titled “Odatv davasını anlama kılavuzu 1: Gazeteciler neyle suçlanıyor, kanıtlar neler?”, published on December 23rd, 2011.

The first hearing of the Odatv trial was cut short for the evaluation of the recusation demand; so, in a sense, the trial will start on the second hearing on December 26th.

The characteristic of such uncountable cases nowadays is that they have long indictment statements and thousands of pages of – mostly unnecessary and irrelevant – appendices so that there is a huge information pollution over the cases. So much so that even though the trial is followed closely by the public, everybody is confused about what are the indictments of the Odatv trial accusing 14 people, one passed away in prison.

While only days are to go for the defense statements, we start a comprehensive article series in soL about the indictment statement and its background.

In this first article, we will emphasize on the evidence in the indictment and the activities of the alleged organization that are considered crime.

To begin with, we would summarize the logic of the indictment. The prosecution states that 14 persons (most of which are journalists) are the media settlement of the Ergenekon1 organization, the very existence of which has not been proven. The charges in the indictment have the following patterns: They refer to digital documents all of which are said to be gathered from the computers in the Odatv office – determined to be highly suspicious by various expert reports. These documents contain general expressions on the struggle opposing the AKP2. Afterwards, several news items and books are exemplified, that are claimed to be directed by that content. Then, some phone calls are included as supportive elements. Thus, the charges are based on the digital documents, which were determined to be sent by virus activities.


Who are the accused?

Yalçın Küçük, Soner Yalçın, Barış Terkoğlu, Barış Pehlivan, Doğan Yurdakul, Müyesser Uğur, Coşkun Musluk, Sait Çakır, Ahmet Şık, Hanefi Avcı, Nedim Şener, Kaşif Kozinoğlu (lost his life in prison), Mümtaz İdil, İklim Bayraktar


Crimes charged in the indictment

Establishing and Administering an Armed Terrorist Organization, Being a Member of an Armed Terrorist Organization, Inciting Hatred and Animosity among the Public, Procuring Confidential Documents relating the security of the State’s, Procuring Confidential Documents Banned to be Made Public, Violation of the Right to Privacy, Keeping Database of People on an Illegal Basis, Attempting to Affect Judiciary



1- The activities aimed at inciting hatred and animosity among the public

The indictment claims that the journalists have undertaken activities aiming at inciting hatred and animosity. First, the document titled “Yalçın Hoca ile görüşüldü” (Met with Professor Yalçın), claimed to be collected in Odatv computers, is referred to. In summary, the document depicts the desire for making people to hold demonstrations against AKP. The indictment also states “In the news items published at ODATV website, it is understood that they on one hand made publications of the declarations of the leader of the terrorist organization PKK3 aiming to make the people pour out into the streets, and on the other hand created the perception as if there were a civil war in our country.” Fivenews items in Odatv are exemplified afterwards. One of them has the title “Öcalan Diyarbakır’daki Kürtlere, Mısır’daki Gibi Sokağa Çıkın Dedi” (Öcalan Told the Kurds in Diyarbakır to Go Out to the Streets as in Egypt) that published the declaration of Öcalan without comment, with reference to Fırat News Agency4. It is well known that lately such news items are reported in several media institutions, and mostly in the exact way referring to Fırat News Agency. Another news item has the title “Türkiye’de İç Savaş Mı Var” (Is There a Civil War in Turkey). This is in fact an article. It is written by İsmail İlkan, on a topic discussed by Barış Zeren in Odatv and Fatih Yaşlı in soL News Portal5. The topic does not refer to people fighting between each other, rather it is a theoretical discussion on how to name the ongoing struggle between AKP and its oppositions inside the state and in the power domains. Yet another news item has the title “Birileri İç Savaş Hazırlığı Mı Yapıyor” (Do Some Prepare for a Civil War?) and criticizes the new law authorizing the Security General Directorate and the National Intelligence Organization to buy heavy weapons. So it has nothing to do with encouraging the people to fight.

Why do I tell these so long? Here’s why: All along the indictment, many news items – many absurd examples of which will be mentioned later – are recorded as “evidence” just due to the connotations of their titles, although they contain nothing that can be considered ‘crime’. Apparently the police officers set to search the words such as “Öcalan” and “civil war”, and listed all the results down. It is clear that this nonsensical method of charging can be used in the archives of any newspaper and that therefore any news item can be counted as crime.

Following these news items, some phone calls are quoted. One of those phone calls of the journalists to “incite hatred and animosity” is as follows:

Person X: The Internet connection is still cut in Egypt, I talked to Osama this morning. He says this revolution will be for the good and that this man should have gone long time ago.

Ayhan Bozkurt: Civil rebellions are good things. If it were to happen in Turkey too… Were there be a civil war, dear, yes, a revolution… The socialists seizing the power in Turkey…

Person X: It takes a long time, long time…

If these words of Bozkurt are listed as crime, then it is a crime to ask for the people to demand its rights and to ask for a revolution – even in personal conversations. As a matter of fact, this is indeed the mentality behind the preparation of the indictment.

That’s all for the evidence…


2- The activities aimed at provoking the Turkish Armed Forces to launch a coup

Another crime attributed to the journalists in the indictment is military coup provocation. In this section, after pointing out four digital documents with titles “Ulusal Medya 2010” (National Media 2010), “Bilinçlendirme” (Awareness Raising), “teRTEmiz” (Spotlessly Clean6) and “darbe.doc” (Coup.doc), several news items are mentioned.

Let us examine one of them. The document “darbe.doc” found in Odatv computers, contrary to other referred documents, does not consist of some directions; as far as understood, it is a draft of a news item. It signifies that after the searches conductedat the houses of high ranking military officers, there is a rumor on military intervention. The indictment points out that, just after the day the document is created, Odatv published a news item titled “’Darbe olacak’ söylentilerinin ardında ne yatıyor?” (What lies beneath the rumors about a military coup?”) and that the content is parallel to that document. We read the mentioned news item in Odatv website. We really see that the same sentences appear both in the website and in darbe.doc. But Odatv editors added two more paragraphs at the end of the news item. Here are those two paragraphs:

“Besides all these, military authorities think that such a ‘coup’ is not possible and that these rumors are spread to create public opinion.

As Odatv.com, we do not regard such speculations possible and that Turkey will pass the democracy test with success. However difficult the process is, we trust in the superiority of law.”

Unless one forces one’s self to read into intentions, this news item was supposed to provide evidence that Odatv not only did not aim at a military coup provocation but the exact opposite.

In this section again some headlines and phone calls are quoted. One of these phone calls is between Soner Yalçın and Oray Eğin. From this call it is understood that Oray Eğin decided upon his article for the next day with advice from Soner Yalçın.


3- The activities to support the PKK terrorist organization that is controlled by the armed terrorist organization Ergenekon

Here is another charge: In this section, there are long citations to the – not proven yet – indictment of the Ergenekon trial. Then, the ancient history “evidences” that prove nothing for Yalçın Küçük ruling the PKK are brought forward: Some photos of Öcalan and Küçük taken in the beginnings of 90s, and some assertions of a secret witness comprising the 90s only. The obviously weak claims are strengthened by the digital document titled “Hocadan Notlar” (Notes from the Professor). In the document, Odatv is advised to make news favouring Öcalan and the PKK.

And once again, examples from news items… For instance, the one titled “Öcalan’dan özür dile Başbakan” (Prime Minister, Apologize to Öcalan!). Apparently the police officers saw this title and put it immediately to list of “evidence”. We click the link, and see that it is an article of Özdemir İnce published in Hürriyet7 newspaper. Should we say Odatv people caught it in the neck because of Özdemir İnce, or should we say “What a ridiculous indictment!” ?

In this heading – after quoting some phone calls that are completely irrelevant to the accused crime – there is yet another evidence. An advice note providing displays of Yalçın Küçük. The person who wrote the advice note and also claims to be an old TGB8 sympathizer, has told the prosecutor that “Yalçın Küçük publicly made PKK propaganda in a conference organized by TGB in Gebze”. The police officers watched the video. And, from the full length conference video, they came up with this single sentence to support the claim: “The Gülen movement9 digs a pit for the PKK and the others both in Mosul and in Diyarbakır; it gets them into hot water.”

This is not all that there is in terms of evidence. From an email between Barış Pehlivan and Soner Yalçın “it is understood that Soner Yalçın himself did not give permission to the publication of a news item related to the sexual experiences of female PKK members who were mistreated and aggrieved”. Here is another evidence that Odatv people are administrators of the Ergenekon organization that controls the PKK! It makes no difference if the editor could not verify the news and did not trust the source. It is itself a crime for people not to publish a news item, for we all see a variety of claims published with no verification whatsoever in the partisan media!

And we’re not done yet, there is another email “proving” the support for the PKK. The subject of the email sent to Barış Pehlivan is “firat haber ajansi” (firat news agency). And its content is as follows: “Hello Mr. Barış. In the last weeks, you have been publishing several news on Öcalan without referring to our agency. We would be pleased if you could give citation. Fırat News Agency”

It is a bit unclear whether the prosecutors charge Odatv for stealing news from Fırat News Agency. If so, should we deduce that the prosecutors also support the PKK?


4- The activities to direct the politics

Another charge is trying to shape legal politics. Here the activities are split into two, to the ones towards AKP and the ones towards CHP10:

a) The activities towards AKP

This section starts by referring to the two documents “teRTEmiz” and “Hocadan Notlar”, and then some news items are cited.

This part of the indictment is crucially important; since it demonstrates that any news criticizing the AKP is considered as crime. Indeed, all kinds of AKP criticisms (including frauds) are listed as evidence. Here is the reasoning: In the mentioned two digital documents, common AKP criticisms of all opposition movements are given. Therefore, as they are once declared as “organizational instructions”, all the news items become criminal activities.

For instance, in the document titled “teRTEmiz”, there is a line about “explaining AKP’s practices and stating how horrible the situation has become”. The prosecutor then listed some headlines. One is as follows: “Nothing will remain the same with the Bag Law”. We click on the link. The news consists of the declarations of United Public Laborers’ Confederation and the CHP parliamentarian Tayfur Süner. It is now a crime to make news about declarations of labor unions and representatives, even without comments.

b) The activities towards CHP

This is the only section of the indictment that makes one think there is an organized activity. It seems that both Yalçın Küçük and Soner Yalçın support a certain wing in CHP. This is mainly based on phone calls.

It is known that Küçük and Yalçın both became hopeful with Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu11 for a time. In this period, as is well known that different wings tried to seize the power of the party, they both worked for exerting their influence into CHP.

But is there any founding to show that these were done due to directions from a “terrorist organization”? No… Let us put this aside.


The rest of the indictment

In the rest of the indictment statement, the following four activities are listed: Activities related to Halk Tv12 as part of the media settlement, the activities aimed at influencing the Ergenekon investigation and the lawsuit process, procurement of information and documents related to state security, illegally recording personal data and the violating the right to privacy.

We will treat these headings in the further articles where we deal with the accusations towards the suspects.


The essence of the matter: The digital evidence

To summarize, the crimes mentioned in the indictment are solely based on the digital documents that are claimed to be found in the computers in the Odatv office. These are the only concrete evidence.

In our next article; we will deal with the issues of whether these digital documents are transferred to the computer via virus activities, how the expert reports are obtained, what the police has done to prevent the expert reports, and how the partisan media elaborated on the subject.


1 We try to give brief information on the names of the organizations mentioned in the text. Since there is no sound evidence for the existence Ergenekon, we only refer to the Wikipedia article.
2 AKP: Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi – Justice and Development Party. Led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the party is in government since 2002.
3 PKK: Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan – Kurdistan Workers’ Party. An armed Kurdish organization established in 1978 that fights for an autonomous Kurdistan and greater cultural and political rights for the Kurdish population in Turkey. It is listed as a terrorist organization by several states including Turkey.
4 Firat News Agency: Founded in 2005, the agency focuses on the Kurdish issue. Although it is not officially stated, the agency is commonly associated to the PKK.
5 soL News Portal: The online news portal closely linked to the Turkish Communist Party.
6 The letters “RTE” in the title are in capital letters. RTE is also a common abbreviation in the media for the prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
7 Hürriyet: A mainstream newspaper.
8 TGB: Türkiye Gençlik Birliği – Turkey’s Youth Union. Founded in 2006, it is a legal youth organization that has a nationalist political agenda. It defines itself to be neutral to left-right worldviews.
9 Gülen movement: A transnational illegal Islamic organization lead by Fethullah Gülen.
10 CHP: Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi – Republican People’s Party. The main opposition party in the Grand National Assembly.
11 The leader of CHP since May 2010. His leadership emphasized the left-wing views in CHP.
12 Halk Tv: People Tv. A television channel belonging to CHP.

Ege M. Diren

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