An investigation was launched against journalist Meryem Yıldırım for her two social media posts in 2017. Yıldırım went to the police and gave her statement on March 20, 2019. During the interrogation Yıldırım was asked about her post dated March 30, 2017, which read “It has been 2 years… 24-year-old law student Şafak put his life at stake demanding justice for #BerkinElvan …#ŞafakYayla” and her post dated May 6, 2017 which read “Presenting an 18-year-old youth who went on hunger strike for #BerkinElvan as the top leader of DHKPC and legitimizing her murder… #SılaAbalay”.
In her interrogation under the investigation, Yıldırım stated that she did not remember the purpose of her posts as two years had passed by, and indicated that they were probably for journalistic purposes as she is a reporter. She also said that she did not know whether Şafak Yayla and Sıla Abalay were members of a terrorist organization or not.
The 3-page indictment completed on March 27, 2019 charged Yıldırım with “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization”.
The indictment cited as evidence Yıldırım’s social media post dated March 30, 2017, which read “It has been 2 years… 24-year-old law student Şafak put his life at stake demanding justice for #BerkinElvan …#ŞafakYayla” and her post dated May 6, 2017 which read “Presenting an 18-year-old youth who went on hunger strike for #BerkinElvan as the top leader of DHKPC and legitimizing her murder… #SılaAbalay”.
Prosecutor, indicated in the indictment that Şafak Yayla and Sıla Abalay mentioned in these posts were members of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party - Front (DHKP-C).
Şafak Yayla was killed during an armed clash when on March 31, 2015 İstanbul Courthouse’s Chief Public Prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz was taken hostage in his office and then killed. Sıla Abalay was killed during a clash with the police in Istanbul on December 7, 2016.
The indictment was accepted by 37. High Criminal Court. The first hearing of the trial was scheduled for June 20, 2019. Yıldırım and her lawyer Şerif Özgür Urfa were in attendance. After the reading of the indictment, journalist Meryem Yıldırım stated the following in her defense:
“Two years have passed since I shared these posts. I don’t even remember posting them. They do not constitute a crime. They fall under the scope of the freedom of press and expression. I demand to be acquitted. If I am to be sentenced, I request a deferment of the announcement of the verdict.”
Şerif Özgür Urfa, Yıldırım’s lawyer, presented a written defense to the court. Urfa supported his client’s statements, and indicated that the said posts cannot be considered as propaganda.
The prosecutor, presenting his opinion as to accusations at the hearing, stated that the said posts did not fall within the scope of the freedom of thought and expression, since they served to legitimize the actions of DHKP-C and spread continuous propaganda. Prosecutor requested that Meryem Yıldıırm be sentenced.
After the prosecutor’s opinion as to accusations, Yıldırım said her final words: “I demand my acquittal. I have never approved of violent acts, and will never do so.”
The panel of judges announced their verdict, sentencing Meryem Yıldırım to 1 year, 3 months in prison for “spreading propaganda for DHKP-C”. In addition, since the crime was committed through the press, the sentence was aggravated by half, to 1 year, 10 months. The court further increased the sentence to 1 year, 16 months, 3 days since the crime was committed more than once. There were no reductions in the sentence.
Yıldırım’s lawyers applied to the appeal court against the prison sentence. The appeal process is still under way.
Press in Arrest is a database, monitoring, documentation and collective memory study of Press Research Association.
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