Mehmet Baransu, Taraf
Medium:Print
Charge:Anti-State
Imprisoned:March 1, 2015

Police detained Baransu, a former columnist and correspondent for the daily Taraf, on March 1, 2015, from his home in Istanbul, according to his lawyer and news reports. A court on March 2 arraigned the journalist and jailed him pending trial on charges of obtaining secret documents. Authorities subsequently added new charges, but if convicted on the obtaining secret documents charge alone, he could face up to eight years in prison.

His lawyer, Sercan Sakalli, told CPJ that a court order has ruled that the investigation is secret, limiting his access to the evidence against his client.

He added that authorities have focused on a document titled "The Sovereign Action Plan" that was part of a packet of documents Baransu shared with prosecutors in 2010. That document, the lawyer said, was never made public, and authorities did not previously question the reporter's possession of a classified document.

In 2010 Baransu broke the news of an alleged military coup plan that came to be known as Sledgehammer. Written by Baransu and other then-editors of Taraf as a series, the Sledgehammer story was based on what were said to be military documents leaked to Baransu by an anonymous source. "The Sovereign Action Plan" was among these documents, but it was not reported on because it was not related to the alleged coup plan, according to local reports. In court testimony, Baransu said he delivered the documents he had received from the anonymous source to prosecutors in 2010, after Taraf published its series. The documents were then used by Turkish prosecutors to start an investigation in which hundreds of suspects, including journalists, were tried on anti-state charges.

On June 30, 2015, the Anadolu Second Court of the First Instance sentenced Baransu to 10 months in prison on additional charges of insulting president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a series of tweets and retweets about allegations of government corruption in December 2013, Sakalli told CPJ at the time. Sakalli then said some of the tweets had been issued from accounts impersonating the journalist.

Sakalli also told CPJ that several other cases are pending in Turkish courts against Baransu that stem from his critical reporting in 2013 on issues such as the alleged genetic modification of food products in Turkey and government wrongdoing. In these cases, Baransu is accused of being a member of the alleged Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization-a charge that carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, the lawyer said.

A new set of charges were added to Baransu's list of alleged crimes in 2016, according to press reports.

As of late 2016, Baransu and four other former Taraf journalists and an author faced another trial in connection the alleged "Sledgehammer" conspiracy, according to press reports. Istanbul's 13th Court for Serious Crimes was considering new charges of "founding and leading an armed terrorist organization," "making propaganda for [a terrorist] organization," "exposing information that is to be kept secret for the safety and political benefit of the state," "obtaining secret documents concerning the safety of the state," and "damaging, using outside of its purpose, [and] obtaining [or] stealing ... documents concerning the safety of the state," according to the indictment, which CPJ reviewed. The new charges collectively carry a maximum sentence of 75 years in prison, according to a report by the media monitoring organization P24.

As of late 2016, Baransu was jailed in Silivri Prison in Istanbul.

Nesibe Baransu, the journalist's wife, told CPJ in late 2016 that her husband was deliberately kept hungry, held in filthy conditions, verbally abused, and mistreated while being transferred from prison to various courts for his hearings.

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