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Adam Klasfeld entered the lives of many people in Turkey with the legal process of trial of Reza Zarrab, who is heard as a witness by the Manhattan Federal Court in New York. Courthouse News' experienced crime reporter Klasfeld, who described the thousands of people that starting to follow him from Turkey as "unexpected", answered our questions amid trial and Twitter traffic.
First of all have you been surprised by the massive attention from Turkey during the trial? You even have a fan account on social media. They tweeted this sentence “Adam is like his name” (Adam means ‘man’ in Turkish and is used as strong and honest in this context)
What you just shared with me is incredibly moving. I knew the literal Turkish translation of my name before, but not how Turkish people were using it.
To me, a better word than “surprised” would be to say that the response was “unexpected,” in that I would never have predicted it. But once it started happening, I quickly understood the reason: There is a thirst for information about a case of monumental importance for the Turkish nation and the Turkish people, and few channels of raw and unfiltered information about it. We have tried to provide that channel to the best of our abilities to build trust with our readers.
"There were even accused me of being 'played' by the CIA"
Is there any abuse towards you by social media or e-mail? Turkish reporters and citizens who write about the trial have been attacked by tweets.
But I want to be clear: The vast majority of Turkish people who have engaged with me on social media have been very kind, respectful, helpful, and inspiring in their sheer physical endurance. (As you know, trial usually ends well after midnight in Turkey).
I've seen tweets accusing me of being played by the CIA, which is ludicrous considering literally dozens of my articles before this trial investigated the agency's torture practices.
PS: Click here for Adam Klasfeld's reports and articles on CIA's methods
"Two presidents who are both hostile to the press"
What is the importance of this trial for US media?
My recent Facebook post touched upon this:
Whether in Washington or Ankara, New York City or Istanbul, citizens of every country around the world want to know what their government is up to. They want the news delivered to them quickly, accurately and without censorship or intimidation by the gatekeepers of that information.
As a U.S.-based journalist, I initially viewed the case of Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab through the prism of its significance here: Since his arrest for blowing a multibillion-dollar hole in sanctions against Iran, Zarrab has received help from President Donald Trump's former top allies and associates. They include my former mayor Rudy Giuliani, ex-Attorney General Michael Mukasey and according to multiple reports, ex-national security advisor Michael Flynn, who recently pleaded guilty to lying about his dealings — not only with a Russian diplomat — but also as a registered agent for Turkey.
Reporters Without Borders ranked Turkey in 155th place — down four places in the wake of a failed coup attempt last year — in the most recent press freedom index. The United States is now ranked 43rd, falling two spots after Trump’s election. The Paris-based group noted with alarm that Trump declared the news media the “enemy of the people.”
Since Zarrab finished testifying last week, more witnesses have come forward against the man on trial: a Turkish state-run bank minister named Mehmet Hakan Atilla, who is entitled to the presumption of innocence under the U.S. judicial system. None of what I am writing here should be construed as an opinion of the allegations against him, or a commentary on internal Turkish affairs. If I am commenting editorially on anything here, it is in support of transparency and press freedom here and abroad - as every journalist should.
As the information continues to trickle out, drip by drip, embarrassing two presidents who are both hostile to the press, I receive thousands of daily reminders about why I became a reporter.
"Journalism is a grouchy profession"
According to your observations what was the most exciting moment during the trial?
Two of the witnesses testified about brushes with death, banishment, imprisonment, and escape with their families across the globe, and both are in their early-to-mid 30s — and younger than I am. (He refers to Huseyin Korkmaz’s testimony)
“Exciting” is not exactly the word for that, but to hear about these experiences that people have lived through at such a young age inspires a sense of awe about the nature of life and survival.
In this trial have you seen any differences from other trials in the US in terms of procedure?
Not particularly. If I did, I’d be sure to note it on my Twitter feed.
You said “Transparency is important; so is the privacy of the accused.” Do you think this has been a transparent trial?
If any reporter ever says — “I believe [X] trial has been wonderfully transparent” — stop reading that reporter’s work. Journalism is a grouchy profession and reporters are constantly demanding access to more information. I certainly hope that more of the recordings played in court will become public than the ones available already, and I will keep pushing for their release. But I will say that the flood of information that I do have access to already has been demanding plenty of my time and attention.
It is speculated that Atilla will make a deal with prosecutors. What is your own opinion about that?
In the United States, there’s a saying, “Don’t read the tea leaves,” warning against making premature predictions. I wonder if there’s a similar saying in the Turkish context.
"Zarrab's testimony kept me busy"
What are your personal views on Reza Zarrab?
I usually refrain from sharing personal opinions about witnesses, as that might have people reconsider the objectivity of my reportage. In a professional context, my overarching view of Mr. Zarrab is this: His testimony kept me busy for roughly a week.
"We don't censor leaders, I hope all world leaders extend the same courtesy to journalists"
President Erdogan said "This trial is another coup attempt to his rule". What do you think about that?
I believe that comment is succinct, to the point, and eminently quotable, illustrating his point of view with concision. I will certainly include it in future coverage, of course, duly citing Bianet. I have no desire to censor President Erdogan's views, and I long for the day that all world leaders extend the same courtesy to journalists. (PT/TK)
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