The then-Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım filed a lawsuit against Cumhuriyet newspaper’s former finance editor and correspondent Pelin Ünker, for publishing the Paradise Papers, and claimed 500 thousand TL for damages. Binali Yıldırım also filed a criminal lawsuit against Ünker for “insulting a public official”. About five months later, a separate indictment was drafted, featuring Binali Yıldırım’s children Bülent Yıldırım and Erkam Yıldırım as complainants. In this second indictment, Ünker was charged with “insult and slander”. The second indictment was later merged with the case filed on charges “insulting a public official”.
Against the request of Ünker’s lawyer to merge all the files, Yıldırım’s lawyer argued that the subject matter of the files were different. As a result, the files were not merged. During the action for damages held on September 6, 2018, Yıldırım’s lawyer indicated that they had filed a criminal case, and in response the judge adjourned the hearings for the action for damages indefinitely, pending the conclusion of the criminal case.
The first hearing of the trial was held on December 27, 2018. The first hearing was marked by the interventions of the Yıldırım family’s lawyer and his influence over the judge.
When Yıldırım family’s lawyer Muhammed Gök stated “I think the defendant can present her defense now”, the judge asked Ünker to present her defense as to the accusations. Ünker remarked that she had sent questions to Yıldırım family’s lawyer regarding her news stories, and that her questions had not been answered. Yıldırım family’s lawyer Gök claimed that Ünker did not contact him.
Ünker’s lawyer Abbas Yalçın indicated that the news story titled “Hükümetin başı vergiden kaçıyor” (The prime minister evades tax) was not penned by Ünker.
The chairman of the panel of judges, in his interim verdict, accepted the complainant Binali Yıldırım’s and his sons’ demand to participate in the trial, and gave Ünker time to prepare her defense as to the accusations.
At the final hearing, Ünker was sentenced to 8 thousand 660 TL. She was also sentenced to 1 year, 1 month, 15 days of imprisonment for “slander”, without deferment of verdict. An appeal was subsequently filed against the verdict. The court of appeal decided to overturn the prison sentence and reduce the judiciary fine to 7 thousand 500 TL.