The business news web site Bloomberg HT published a story on the depreciation of the TL and its effects in August 2018. The story was penned by Bloomberg Turkey reporter Fercan Yalınkılıç and their director of intelligence Kerim Karakaya. At the time, the US dollar had climbed from 4.70 TL to 7 TL in the Turkish markets in two weeks owing to the crisis between the USA and Turkey about the imprisonment of Pastor Andrew Brunson.
The Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency sent a notification to Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on August 14, 2018, four days after the publication of the news story. The resulting investigation was then merged with the cases of 36 other individuals for violating Capital Markets Law with their social media posts on the depreciation of TL, banks, and the Turkish economy.
At the end of the investigation, the prosecutor drafted an indictment against 38 individuals including Yalınkılıç and Karakaya, as well as Mustafa Sönmez, Merdan Yanardağ, Sedef Kabaş and Orhan Kalkan on charges of violating the Capital Markets Law.
In the indictment, the prosecutor accused 38 individuals including Kerim Karakaya and Fercan Yalınkılıç of Bloomberg news agency who penned the said news story, as well as journalists Mustafa Sönmez, Sedef Kabaş, Mervan Yanardağ and Orhan Kalkan of “attempting to stage an economic coup.”
The first section of the indictment covered the content of the news story published on August 8, 2018. According to the indictment, the news story claimed that Turkish banking system was faced with its severest FX crisis since 2001, two banks refused to sell FX on August 10, one bank refused a client’s demand to withdraw 5 thousand dollars, there was a huge increase in customer demands for withdrawing FX from accounts, and BRSA invited all senior bank executives to a meeting on August 11. The prosecutor, stated that these phrases “run contrary to the facts, and are designed to give the impression that our national banking and finance system is in tatters.”
The indictment also made references to official online announcements by BRSA and Association of Turkish Banks dated August 11 indicating that the news story did not represent the truth.
It was also stated that the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency filed a criminal complaint with Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on August 14, 2018.
The indictment indicated that during the investigation initiated upon this criminal complaint, it was observed that real persons had “launched attacks serving the same purpose on their social media accounts,” and therefore presented as evidence the social media posts of the defendants during August and September 2018.
Prosecutor, listed in the indictment the social media posts related to economic crisis by Karakaya, journalists and other defendants.
Prosecutor, then provided his general assessments, claiming that the defendants “targeted the economic order and stability of the Republic of Turkey.” According to the prosecutor, 38 people made “statements and declarations designed to create chaos, and cast a shadow on companies, institutions and organizations.” According to, their aim was to “damage market confidence.”
The prosecutor associated the said posts with the violation of the Capital Markets Law, accusing the defendants of “market manipulation” as per its Article 107, which reads as follows:
“Those who make purchases and sales, give orders, cancel orders, change orders or realize account activities with the purpose of creating a wrong or deceptive impression on the prices of capital market instruments, their price changes, their supplies and demands, shall be sentenced to imprisonment from two years up to five years and be punished with a judicial fine from five thousand days up to ten thousand days.”
Prosecutor is also requesting that the suspects be deprived of certain rights as stipulated by Turkish Penal Code, Article 53/1.
The indictment was accepted by the Istanbul Third Criminal Court of First Instance and a lawsuit was filed against the defendants. The first hearing of the case was scheduled for September 20, 2019. Journalists and their lawyers were present at the hearing. Following the identity check, the defendants presented their defenses.
The journalists argued that their news stories and posts fell within the framework of journalistic activities that served the public interest. The lawyers demanded the acquittal of the journalists.
After the defendants and defense lawyers, the lawyers for Capital Markets Board and BRSA took the floor. The CMB’s lawyer reiterated their request that the defendants be sentenced for the charges. BRSA demanded to be involved in the case on grounds that it suffered damages from the crime in question.
At the end of the hearing, the court rejected the defense lawyers’ demand for acquittal, and accepted BRSA’s request to be involved in the case due to alleged damages from the crime.
The second hearing of the trial was held on January 17, 2020. Requests for acquittal were rejected because the evidence was not examined. The trial will continue with the third hearing on 8 May 2020.
The 3th hearing of the case could not be held 8 May 2020, as planned. The trial, postponed to 23 October 2020 due to Coronavirus pandemic measures.
The trial was supposed to continue with the third hearing on May 8th, 2020; however, the hearing was postponed due to the measures against the coronavirus outbreak.
The fourth hearing of the trial took place on October 23rd, 2020. The president of the court had not changed. Journalists did not attend the hearing. The judge decided to consult an expert on the matter.
The court ruled that the expert would determine whether the charge leveled against the journalists and other defendants was based on concrete evidence. The court ordered the examination of the bank accounts of journalists by an expert so as to determine whether they made any financial gain from their social media posts or news stories.
The trial will continue with the fifth hearing on February 26th, 2021.
Press in Arrest is a database, monitoring, documentation and collective memory study of Press Research Association.
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