A lawsuit was filed against Nazlı Ilıcak on charges of espionage in January 2018. In the indictment drafted by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and sent to the 15. High Criminal Court of Ankara, the prosecutor cited Article 330/1 of the Turkish Penal Code to request life imprisonment for Nazlı Ilıcak for allegedly “disclosing confidential information about the security of the state for purposes of espionage” with her article entitled “Askerî İstihbarat ve Tahşiyeciler” (“Military Intelligence and the Tahşiyeciler sect”). The indictment was drafted by Ankara Public Prosecutor.
Ankara 15. High Criminal Court accepted the indictment but ruled for lack of jurisdiction, and sent the file to Istanbul High Criminal Court. In its decision, the Ankara court stated that the headquarters of Bugün newspaper was located in Istanbul and thus fell under the jurisdiction of Istanbul High Criminal Court.
The trial began on April 9, 2018 at the Istanbul 26. High Criminal Court.
Ilıcak presented her defense during the hearing, and indicated that she gave information about the Tahşiyeciler sect in an article she had written for Bugün newspaper, which was closed on January 2, 2015. She stated that this information was already available on social media and that the information in question was not confidential, and therefore not a matter of state security.
Ilıcak stated that the military prosecutor asked her questions on the matter and that she answered these questions. She indicated the following during her defense: “I told the military prosecutor twice that I got the information I shared on my column from a Twitter address, but I didn’t know whom this Twitter account belonged to or for what purpose it had been sent to me. The document that was sent to me stated that the Tahşiyeciler had links to al-Qaeda. I published this information about Tahşiyeciler on my column since Al Qaeda poses a danger for national security. I thought that publishing this information served the public interest.”
Ilıcak said “Being a journalist, I always received such documents. I don’t know for what purpose it was sent to me”, and demanded that the lawsuit be dropped for expiry of the statute of limitations.
The panel of judges decided to send the case file to the public prosecutor’s office for him to draft his opinion as to the accusations and adjourned the trial until May 23. At the hearing on that date, the prosecutor requested the court to accept the demand of the Ministry of National Defense to be involved in the trial, as well as the expansion of the investigation in order to determine whether Ilıcak shared the document in question on audiovisual media and social media.
Ilıcak, who connected to the courtroom via the judicial videoconferencing system SEGBIS, stated that the publication of the said article on social media or other media outlets did not concern her, and that the legal statute of limitations for the prosecutor to file a lawsuit against her had expired as per the Press Law. Ilıcak and her lawyers demanded indicated that the said period was 4 months and had already expired since the article was published in 2015: They demanded the case to be dropped.
At the end of the hearing, the court accepted the request of the prosecutor to expand the investigation and ordered that a letter be sent to RTÜK and Istanbul Police Department, Anti-Terror Branch to determine whether Ilıcak had made comments regarding the content of the article before and after the publication of the article. The court also accepted the request of the Ministry of Defense to become involved and adjourned the trial until September 6.
Ilıcak attended the third hearing held on September 6, 2018 via the SEGBİS system from the Bakırköy Prison where she was being held, and stated that she had not published the document in the question but had made comments regarding the content of the document.
Subsequently, the prosecutor submitted his opinion as to the accusations, and demanded that “Ilıcak be punished pursuant to Article 330 of the Turkish Penal Code, considering that although the document marked ‘secret’ had been destroyed, Ilıcak had gotten hold of it an published it, and that this crime had been committed through the media.”
Ilıcak took the floor after the prosecutor expressed his judicial opinion, asked this opinion to be sent to her and demanded additional time to prepare her defense. The court adjourned the trial until October 9, 2018.
Ilıcak attended that hearing via the SEGBİS system from the Bakırköy Prison and presented her defense against the prosecutor’s opinion as to the accusations. Ilıcak stated that only a photo of the document was published on her column, and that she had not shared the document. Ilıcak indicated that the document was sent from an open Twitter account, and that she would have retweeted it if her intention was to malevolently share the document with others.
While Ilıcak was presenting her defense, the Chairman of the Panel of Judges interrupted her and stated that they were only temporarily in charge of the case, and that there were lacunae in the case file. Seeing that the chairman pointed to the problems in the case file despite the fact that the judicial opinion had been submitted, Ilıcak requested to be acquitted.
Ilıcak’s lawyer Kemal Ertuğ Derin stated that the case had to be dropped due to the expiry of the 4-month statute of limitations stipulated in the Press Law. He argued that accusing Ilıcak of espionage was “contrary to the normal course of life” and demanded her acquittal.
The prosecutor reiterated his judicial opinion that he had already presented in the previous hearing, and requested life imprisonment for Ilıcak.
At the end of the hearing, the panel of judges announced their interim verdict and adjourned the trial until January 22, 2019 for the elimination of the lacunae in the case file.