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.
Pelin Ünker - Paradise Papers Hakaret Davası (İddianame)
A criminal complaint was filed in 2017 against Pelin Ünker, for her Paradise Papers-related news stories published in Cumhuriyet newspaper, by the then-Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Berat Albayrak -who is also the son-in-law of President Tayyip Erdoğan-, Albayrak’s elder brother Serhat Albayrak and Berat Albayrak’s former colleague Çalık Holding Chairman Ahmet Çalık, on allegations of “insult” and “slander”.
The court ordered an access ban to the online version of the news story in question published on the website of Cumhuriyet newspaper. In her first defense, Ünker stated that she aimed to inform the public by examining the documents known as Paradise Papers. She said that her news story did not contain any criminal element and requested a verdict of non-prosecution.
In line with her request, the court ruled for non-prosecution on January 3, 2018. In its ruling, the court stated that “There was no instance of insult, and the article falls completely within the limits of the freeodm of expression”. As for the slander allegations, the court indicated that “Apart from reporting purposes, there was no action tantamount to slander, which would require the public authority to bring legal sanction or initiate an investigation, there was no illicit action corresponding to the crime of slander”.
However the complainants appealed against this ruling, and the appeal was accepted.
A new indictment was accepted on February 22, 2018, which accused Ünker not of insult but “slander via the media” and requested her to be sentenced.
Pelin Ünker - Paradise Papers İftira Davası (İddianame)
İstanbul Prosecutor’s Office began an investigation across social media accounts to identify the names of those who participated in the funerals of Marxist Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) militants killed in action in Syria.
Under this investigation, Etkin News Agency (ETHA) report Pınar Gayıp and editor Semiha Şahin were detained on April 13, 2018 for “membership of the terrorist organization MLKP” and spreading propaganda for the said organization. The indictment against them was based on these claims.
The first hearing of the case was held on September 10, 2018 at Istanbul 23. High Criminal Court. Pınar Gayıp and Semiha Şahin were released at the 5th hearing of the case on June 13, 2019 on condition of house arrest, and ban on going abroad.
At that hearing, it was decided that the judicial control of the journalists would control.
Next hearing was held at December 11th, 2019. In the hearing it was ruled that the ban on leaving the country against the journalists was to continue, other judicial control measures were to be lifted. Next hearing was set to February 27th, 2020.
Pınar Gayıp, Semiha Şahin - ETHA Davası Download