Up to 15 years in prison sought for journalist Beritan Canözer
Beritan Canözer is one of four Kurdish media workers arrested at the end of April. This followed a nationwide operation against the Kurdish opposition and civil society, in the course of which around 200 people were taken into custody.
The trial of the Kurdish journalist Beritan Canözer began at the 10th Heavy Penal Court in Diyarbakır (ku. Amed) on Wednesday. The correspondent of the all-female news agency JinNews is accused of being a member of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party). Canözer is one of four Kurdish media workers arrested at the end of April. This followed a nationwide operation against the Kurdish opposition and civil society, in the course of which around 200 people were taken into custody, including politicians from the Green Left Party and the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), lawyers and activists from the arts and culture. More than sixty people were subsequently arrested for membership of or support for the PKK, taking them out of circulation just weeks before the parliamentary and presidential elections. The entire case is based on statements made by the key witness, Ümit Akbıyık, a former HDP member who incriminated around 800 opposition members in order to enjoy immunity from prosecution.
Beritan Canözer was in pre-trial detention for two months and was released in June. She attended the trial accompanied by her lawyer, Muharrem Erbey. The witness was included in the trial via the video conferencing system (SEGBIS). The trial was observed by the Association of Mesopotamian Journalists Association (MKG), Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG) and the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA).
The prosecution is demanding a prison sentence of between seven and a half and 15 years for Beritan Canözer. The defendant explained in court that she had not met the key witness personally and only knew about his involvement in the HDP Youth Council from the media. In the indictment, articles written by her were listed as evidence for the prosecution, the journalist said and continued: "These articles are reports with clear sources. I am known as a journalist, and I do not practise this profession in secret. I have been accused in the past because of my articles and acquitted. I mainly report on women and children. We are the voice of women and children who are murdered, raped and abused. I talk to women politicians about this, and I don't discriminate. Journalism and written articles are not a crime. I reject the allegations against me."
The witness, who was also unable to corroborate the allegations, argued that he had met the defendant in 2018 at the HDP headquarters in Amed when she wanted to do a report on a concert. He claimed that Canözer had reported on the HDP Youth Council and had been seen in Sur together with "members of the organisation". He alleged she had also taken young women from the HDP Youth Council to the Jineolojî Academy. "That's all I have to say," said the key witness.
The trial was adjourned until 8 December.