A Turkish court ruled on Thursday to release the two defendants charged with assaulting Sinan Aygül, a prominent journalist known for his investigations into corruption in the Kurdish-majority southeastern province of Bitlis.
Aygül, the president of the Bitlis Journalists’ Association, was brutally attacked in Tatvan (Tetwan), Bitlis, on 17 June. The attack was carried out by police officer Engin Kaplan and a security guard called Yücel Baysali, who were accompanying the incumbent Justice and Development Party (AKP) mayor of Tatvan, Emin Geylani. The attack on Aygül is believed to have been in response to his extensive reporting on corruption scandals and irregularities in the city.
The court based it’s decision on the nature of the charges, the time spent in custody and the existing evidence.
After the trial, Aygül made a statement in which he expressed that no one is safe anymore: “The safety of every member of the public out on the streets is at risk. That’s all I have to say.”
The detained defendants claimed that Aygül had insulted them and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and they also claimed that Aygül had initiated the attack.
After the incident, CCTV footage of the security guard’s assault showed Aygül being punched repeatedly while a bystander tried to intervene. The police officer aggressively blocked the intervention, allowing the assault to continue.
“I was hoping for some remorse, but instead I see two people smiling,” Aygül said during the trial, describing the events. He mentioned that he had been undergoing dental treatment for a long time before the incident. On the day in question, after leaving the dental clinic, he noticed the two people in a car. Despite their claims that they did not recognise him, Aygül pointed out that these individuals were regularly in the Mayor’s company, performing tasks such as carrying his belongings and providing him with refreshments during meetings. He stressed that it was implausible for them not to have recognised him.
Aygül refuted the accusation that he had used offensive language, explaining that he was unable to speak at the time due to the lingering effects of the anaesthetic and the dental gauze in his mouth. Aygül also recounted how, after the initial attack, police officer Kaplan choked him and made a threatening statement about anyone who reported on Mayor Geylani.
According to Aygül, the attack was carefully planned, driven by the mayor’s discomfort with his investigative journalism, and masterminded by the mayor himself.