Ayşegül Parıldak was a journalist for the Zaman Newspaper, which has since been closed. She began her journalism career with the Taraf Newspaper, which was closed in 2011. She was in her last year at the Ankara University Faculty of Law when she was detained. Her education was disrupted because of arrest. Parıldak was sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison for FETÖ membership. The decision was approved by both the Court of Appeal and Cassation. Parıldak, who was 26 years old when she was arrested, has been in prison since August 2016.
On Aug. 4, 2016, she was detained in front of her friends at the Ankara University Faculty of Law, where she was senior student. The arrest warrant was based on a report against her. The day before her detention, the Ankara Police Department received an anonymous tip, saying, “Ayşenur Parıldak, who informed the social media account Fuat Avni and who was personally followed by Fuat Avni, packed her belongings in Ankara University Faculty of Law and will flee after her exams.” At that time, the Twitter account, Fuat Avni was sharing groundbreaking information about the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the government. Those who allegedly used that account were later charged with FETÖ membership and jailed.
Parıldak remained in detention for 8 days in the Counter-Terror Division of Ankara Police Force. Parıldak explained what she experienced during her detention in a letter to the Cumhuriyet newspaper:
“I was battered, sexually assaulted. I was interrogated for 8 days, day and night. They questioned me after consuming alcohol, and they were not afraid of articulating this. Then the court process and here I am. I stayed in a ward for a month. Then, 20 of us were taken from the wards and placed in the cells. Isolation … I fear I will be forgotten here.”
Parıldak was jailed on Aug. 11, 2016 on charges of “being a member of an armed terrorist organization” by the Ankara 1st Criminal Court of Peace. She was sent to the Sincan Women’s Prison.
The indictment against Parıldak was completed on Nov. 28, 2016 by the Ankara Public Prosecutor İdris Ünal. Parıldak’s social media posts were included in the indictment. According to the indictment, following the 15th of July coup attempt, she wrote, “after last night, the monopoly of the violence was taken away from the state and given to the public, what frightens me the most is the environment of anarchy.”
Her being followed by Fuat Avni on Twitter was also used as an accusation.
Furthermore, the photograph which Parıldak shared from the Constitutional Court’s Hall on April 25, 2014 was used in the indictment as evidence against her. Parıldak shared the photograph with the caption as follows: “The Constitutional Court’s Hall. Look at this photograph closely, who knows with what purpose we’ll be here again.” According to the Turkish legislation, the Constitutional Court could prosecute the presidents of Turkey via Supreme Court.
Parıldak’s articles that were published in the Zaman newspaper were also presented as a crime. In the indictment, the prosecutor claimed, “FETÖ members made subjective news by following the investigations and prosecutions in the courthouses.”
In the indictment, Parıldak’s financial transactions were also included. The indictment was accepted by the Ankara 14th Criminal Court. The prosecutor sought 7.5 years to 15 years in prison for Parıldak for “being a member of an armed terrorist organization.”
Parıldak’s trial began on Feb. 9, 2017. She said the social media posts did not belong to her and she had no connections with FETÖ. She said that she followed the Twitter account of Fuat Avni because she was working as a courthouse reporter. She said the account was followed by 3.5 million people. She also added that the Fuat Avni account followed her and all the other courthouse reporters.
She also said that one of the bank transactions, used as an accusation, was of a car purchase and the other involved a friend paying back her debt. She stated that the alleged bank transfer to an American organization was not true.
Parıldak said that the allegation that she was a user of Bylock [ByLock is a communication application regarded as evidence of FETÖ membership by the Turkish courts] was not on her file at first, but was added later. She also defended herself by saying that the phone number and the IMEI code of that phone did not belong to her.
The second hearing was on May 2, 2017. During this hearing, Parıldak was released. The court asked the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA) to identify the owner of the phone number that was alleged to be Parıldak’s.
When her release became news in pro-government media outlets, the ICTA sent a very quick response, claiming the phone number in question belonged to Parıldak. Reacting to this response, the prosecutor Mustafa Mang, appealed to the higher court against her release.
In the meantime, Parıldak was packing her belongings in her ward and was waiting to be released. However, the order of release was not executed. The Chief Prosecutor’s Office warned the prison administration, saying “we objected to the decision, wait.”
The Ankara 14th Criminal Court accepted the objection of the prosecution and ordered Parıldak’s arrest. Judge İsmail Ademoğlu, who ordered Parıldak’s release, was dismissed after this decision and was appointed as a member of the Ankara Regional Court.
The fourth hearing was on July 18, 2017. The president of the court was Fahrettin Yıldız.
Parıldak said that the phone number, which was allegedly a registered ByLock number, was installed on the mobile internet device given to her by the Zaman newspaper.
The fifth hearing was on Oct. 10, 2017. Parıldak’s allegation, which was that the phone number, registered as a ByLock user, belonged to a mobile internet device, was verified by Turkcell. However, Parıldak was remanded in prison by the court.
The sixth hearing was on Nov. 9, 2017. The prosecutor, Mustafa Manga, disclosed his legal opinion on the merits. Manga claimed that Parıldak “shared tweets in favor of the terrorist organization, FETÖ.” Parıldak was alleged to be a Bylock user. This was shown as evidence for membership of a terrorist organization. The prosecutor demanded Parıldak be punished on charges of being a member of an armed terrorist organization.
The final hearing was on Nov. 21, 2017. Parıldak denied all the accusations of the merits of the case and said “I demand my acquittal and release. I’m so tired of this incident.” But the court sentenced Parıldak to 7 years and 6 months in prison on charges of being a member of an armed terrorist organization. In the reasoned decision of the court, it was stated that Parıldak was a Bylock user, the defendant’s ByLock subscription ID number was 60231, and the username is “paril.” Also, the court claimed this profile was added by other Bylock users and she also added other users. Therefore, she was “involved in FETÖ’s hierarchy.” The social media posts, of which Parıldak denied ownership, were used as reasoning for the decision.
Parıldak objected to the decision at the Appeal Court. The Ankara Regional Court of the 19th Criminal Chamber rejected the appeal on June 7, 2018.
Appeal court decision included the evaluations regarding accusations that she was using Bylock in 2 of her phones. Court, determined that a decision was taken before a report on having bylock in one of her phones was prepared. However the court ruled that having bylock content in one of her phones was sufficient evident as to usage of bylock. Decision, ruled that her pre-trial detention was to remain.
The Court of Cassation
Parıldak objected to the appeal court’s decision at the Court of Cassation. 16th Criminal Chambers of the Court of Cassation unanimously approved the 7 years 6 months imprisonment penalty given to Parıldak. Decision evaluated that the trial process of Parıldak was lawful. There was no unlawfulness in the collection of the evidences, and it was said that “actions were characterised correctly and they fit the offence type, foreseen by the law”.