Rahmi Yıldırım graduated from the Turkish Military Academy in 1978. He was expelled from the Turkish Armed Forces and placed in custody in 1982 on charges of “embracing illegal views”. Yıldırım was tried in custody for approximately three years. He was acquitted at the end of the trial process that was carried out by the martial law court.
Following his acquittal, Yıldırım graduated from the Department of Communications at Ankara University. He worked as a correspondent for ANKA News Agency between 1986 and 1998. After he left ANKA News Agency, he worked as a reporter and commentator for the German public radio WDR Köln, the Dutch public radio NPS, the Swedish public radio SR and the French public radio RFI.
Yıldırım served as the chairperson, secretary general and the president of the honorary board of Progressive Journalists Association. He currently lectures on journalism at the Uğur Mumcu Investigative Journalism Foundation.
Yıldırım was tried in 2005 due to allegations of “defamation of the military forces” on the grounds of his article under the headline “İş Bilenin Kılıç Kuşananın [Jobs for Those Who Can Do Them, Swords for Those Who Can Bear Them] published on the internet website “sansursuz.com” and in soL magazine. At the end of the trial process, which commenced with the complaint of the Chief of Staff of the time, Yıldırım was acquitted.
Yıldırım was charged with “defamation” of then Chief of Staff Hulusi Akar over his article published on his personal blog with the headline “I Feel So Sorry for the Chief of Staff” on 3 February 2017. The prosecution demanded Yıldırım to be sentenced to imprisonment of between fourteen months and two years and four months.
Yıldırım was acquitted at the end of the trial process on 25 December 2019.
Attorneys of Minister of Defence Hulusi Akar, then Chief of Staff, launched an appeal against the acquittal of Yıldırım at the court of appeals. The court of appeals’ examination concerning the ruling is underway.
Journalist Rahmi Yıldırım published an article with the headline, “I Feel So Sad for the Chief of Staff” on his personal blog on 3 February 2017.
In his article, Yıldırım criticised Hulusi Akar, then Chief of Staff, over the message he shared following the death of Hasan Karakaya, executive editor of Yeni Akit newspaper, which said “There is now a void in Turkish journalism that can never be filled”.
Yıldırım stated in his article that Karakaya had once expressed his opinion of Akar by saying: “This is a country where people who shouldn’t even be corporals become generals”. Yıldırım also criticised Hulusi Akar’s “visit to Nuri Pakdil, who is one of the pro-political Islam writers”.
Yıldırım also stated in his article that Hulusi Akar was the Chief of Staff during the military coup attempt on 15 July 2016 and said, “Half of the generals in the military commanded by Hulusi Pasha attempted to stage a coup”.
Following the publication of the article, the Communications Electronics Branch Office of the Ankara Directorate of Security received an anonymous complaint on 27 February 2017. The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Gölbaşı Ankara launched an investigation concerning Rahmi Yıldırım over the complaint. Yıldırım was charged with “defamation of a public official”.
Yıldırım was not detained as part of the investigation. In his defensive statement at the prosecutor’s office, Yıldırım stated that he had written the article to draw attention to the Chief of Staff’s troubles arising from his duty and position. Yıldırım stated that he had expressed his sadness for Hulusi Akar as a “colleague” in the article.
The indictment concerning Yıldırım was completed on 11 April 2019 at the end of the investigation.
The indictment concerning journalist Yıldırım was completed by the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Gölbaşı Ankara on 11 April 2019.
Two pages of the three-page indictment included the article published on Yıldırım’s personal blog that formed the basis of the accusations.
The indictment stated that Yıldırım “was very well-aware of military discipline” as former military personnel. The indictment asserted that the article on his personal blog “exceeded limits of the press’s freedom to report on the news and to criticise”. It was asserted that the statements in Yıldırım’s article were of a character “which harms honour, reputation and dignity” in accordance with Article 125 of the Turkish Penal Code.
The indictment charged Yıldırım with “defamation of a public official” in accordance with Article 125/2 and 125/3 (a) of the Turkish Penal Code. The prosecution demanded that Yıldırım be sentenced to imprisonment of between one year and two years. However, it was asserted that the “defamation was carried out publicly”. The prosecution then demanded that the sentence be increased by one-sixth in accordance with Article 125/4 of the Turkish Penal Code.
The prosecution demanded that Yıldırım be sentenced to imprisonment of between fourteen months and two years and four months on the charge of “public defamation of a public official”.
It was also demanded that Yıldırım “be deprived of the enjoyment of certain rights” in accordance with Article 53 of the Turkish Penal Code.
The indictment was accepted by the 3rd Criminal Court of First Instance of Gölbaşı Ankara.
The trial of journalist Rahmi Yıldırım commenced with the first hearing at the 3rd Criminal Court of First Instance of Gölbaşı, Ankara on 2 October 2019.
In his defensive statement at the first hearing, Yıldırım stated that there were no defamatory statements in his article, which was cited as evidence for the accusations, and he had ironically criticised Akar. He added that he “was genuinely sorry for Akar”.
Yıldırım stated that the filing of the case had exceeded the four-month limit on commencing prosecution as per Article 26 of the Press Law and demanded that the case be dropped.
Yıldırım’s attorney Mehmet Kayagil stated that Akar, who was the Chief of Staff at the time the article was published, had since taken an oath before the General Assembly of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey and become the Minister of Defence. Stating that Akar had sworn a pledge of allegiance to Atatürk’s principles and reforms, Kayagil then said Akar “had paid a visit to political Islamist writer Nuri Pakdil”, and asked “Mr Akar, do you remember the oath you took”.
Yıldırım’s other attorneys Hüseyin Özcan, Ozan Yılmaz, Meliha Selvi and Ercan İpekçi stated that the Constitutional Court’s and the Court of Cassation’s body of judicial opinion on the freedom of thought and speech. The attorneys demanded Yıldırım’s acquittal on the grounds that the article did not possess defamatory statements.
The second hearing of the trial took place on 25 December 2019. Rahmi Yıldırım presented his defensive statement in writing at the hearing.
Samet Can Olgaç, the attorney of Hulusi Akar, who was then Chief of Staff and is the current Minister of Defence, stated that Yıldırım’s article “was written in a defamatory tone, exceeded the limits of criticism, and was of a character which violates personal rights”.
Yıldırım demanded the identification of the person who wrote the anonymous complaint that led to the investigation concerning him. Stating that he did not commit the crime of defamation, Yıldırım stated that he did not use defamatory or humiliating statements against Hulusi Akar in his article.
The judge announced that the trial was finalised and asked Rahmi Yıldırım for his final say. Rahmi Yıldırım stated the following in his final say:
“I did not even press charges against my torturers during the 12 September [military coup] period. The allegation that a person who does not hold a grudge or animosity even against his torturer holds a grudge or animosity against Hulusi Akar is invalid and unfounded.”
“In this country, one mafia leader said that he would be shedding the blood of the Barış Akademisyenleri [Academics for Peace] and he was acquitted. I would be deeply saddened if my article is considered a crime.
The judge ruled Rahmi Yıldırım’s acquittal on the grounds that “the basis for the alleged crime was not formed”.
The Appeals Process
Attorneys of Minister of Defence Hulusi Akar launched an appeal against the acquittal of journalist Yıldırım at the court of appeals. The court of appeals’ examination concerning the ruling is underway.
Gazeteci Rahmi Yıldırım Ankara Gölbaşı 3. Asliye Ceza Mahkemesi’ndeki yargılamasının ikinci duruşmasında, savunmasını yazılı olarak sundu.
Dönemin Genelkurmay Başkanı olan, Milli Savunma Bakanı Hulusi Akar’ın avukatı Samet Can Olgaç, Rahmi Yıldırım’ın yazısının aşağılayıcı bir üslupla kaleme alındığını, eleştiri sınırlarının aşıldığını, kişilik haklarına saldırı niteliğinde olduğunu iddia etti.
Yıldırım ise, hakkında soruşturma açılmasına neden olan isimsiz ve imzasız ihbar mektubunu kimin yazdığının belirlenmesini istedi. Hakaret suçu işlemediğini belirten Yıldırım, yazısında Hulusi Akar’ı aşağılayıcı, küçültücü herhangi bir ifade veya ibarenin yer almadığını söyledi.
Yıldırım’ın avukatı Hüseyin Özcan ise Yıldırım’ın yazısının eleştiri sınırları içinde olduğunu dile getirdi. Avukat Özcan, “Yargıtay kararları çerçevesinde toplum önünde bulunan siyasilerin eleştirilere katlanma yükümlülüğünün olduğu açıktır. Yazıda, tek bir sözcük hakaret yok. Onca gücü elinde bulunduran insanlar, kusura bakmasınlar bu kadar eleştiriye de katlansınlar” dedi.
Hakim, yargılamanın tamamlandığını söyledi ve Rahmi Yıldırım’a son sözlerini sordu.
Rahmi Yıldırım son sözlerinde şunları söyledi:
“Ben 12 Eylül dönemindeki işkencecilerimden bile davacı olmadım. İşkencecisine bile kin ve husumet beslenmeyen bir kişinin bugün Hulusi Akar’a karşı kin ve husumet beslediği iddiası boş ve asılsızdır.
Bu ülkede bir mafya lideri barış imzacıları için oluk oluk kan akıtacağız dedi, beraat etti. Benim yazımın suç sayılmasından gerçekten üzüntü duyarım.”
Hakim “iddia edilen suçun unsurlarının oluşmadığı” gerekçesiyle Rahmi Yıldırım’ın beraatine karar verdi.
Ankara Gölbaşı Adliyesi’ne, X-ray cihazından kemerler ve çantalar ayrı ayrı olmak üzere yoğun bir güvenlik aramasından geçilerek girildi. Duruşma planlandığı gibi 15.00’da başladı.
Mahkeme Salonu Koşulları
Duruşma salonu küçüktü. İzleyiciler için yeterli sıra yoktu, izleyicilere 5-6 kişilik bir oturma alanı ayrılmıştı. Yaklaşık 50 katılımcı, yargılamayı ayakta izledi. Salona sığmayan katılımcılar, yargılamayı; duruşma salonunun açık kapısından dinledi.
Duruşmaya Rahmi Yıldırım, avukatları Hüseyin Özcan ve Ercan Sadık İpekçi katıldı. Yıldırım’ın gazeteci arkadaşları, Türkiye Gazeteciler Sendikası (TGS) Ankara Şubesi başkanı Esra Koçak Mayda da katılanlar arasındaydı.
Duruşma sırasında herhangi bir olumsuzluk yaşanmadı. Duruşma yaklaşık 45 dakika sürdü.
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