Van – Second hearing of the trial where journalist İdris Yılmaz, whom Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) represents in court, faces “membership in an armed terrorist organization” was held at Van 5th High Criminal Court today. Yılmaz is tried whilst in detention and has been imprisoned since January 2018. The court refused to release Yılmaz once again and adjourned the trial until 18 October.
Van-based journalist İdris Yılmaz had previously been convicted for “membership in an armed terrorist organization” charges and was sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison. An appellate court had overturned this decision on March 6, 2019 and the case was reopened and merged with another file where Yılmaz faced the same charge.
Although his lawyers have requested Yılmaz to be physically brought to court for this hearing, this request was ignored by the court. İdris Yılmaz attended the hearing via SEGBİS video-conference system from Elazığ Closed Prison while his relatives and lawyers were present in the courtroom in Van. Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS), MLSA, and Press in Arrest were among those who monitored the hearing in solidarity with Yılmaz.
“My transparent reporting is somehow linked to the organization”
Witness Fecri Demir took the floor first and stated that he has not seen Yılmaz before. Demir claimed that he has only relayed what other members of the organization have told him. “Individuals from the region and those who know him have told me that some operatives were being run with him. I have heard that he informs media outlets of the organization about the operations against the Turkish military,” said Demir.
İdris Yılmaz took the floor after the witness testimony and stated that he repeats his previous defense statements and rejected the witness testimony against him. Yılmaz went on: “The defense I presented via SEGBİS during the last hearing was not reflected accurately on the minutes of the hearing. I requested to be brought before the court physically for this hearing but my request was rejected once again. I am a journalist. I have a duty to report the truth. I’ve exposed many dirty truths such as corruption and child abuse. This caused some people rage and uncomfort. This fictional case is fueled by this hate. There are many discrepancies in this file. The organization gets their information from many news agencies including İHA and AA. I have never provided information or reported to the organization directly or indirectly. Does my transparent and truthful reporting mean that I aid a terrorist organization or am a member of them?” Reminding the court that police raids to his and his brothers’ home have aimed to find evidence against him, Yılmaz stated that no piece of evidence was found during these raids and added that all statements against him are baseless attempts of slander. Yılmaz stated that he will present his defense statement to the court in writing as well and demanded his release and acquittal.
“The case-file is prepared with the preconceived opinion of a conviction”
After Yılmaz completed his statement in response to the witness testimony, the public prosecutor took the floor and demanded Yılmaz to be punished per “membership in an armed terrorist organization” charges and requested his pre-trial detention to remain in effect. Lawyer Savaş Avcı took the floor next and stated that he repeats his previous statements and added, “The newly merged case-file is based on three sentences of the witness. Pages and pages are written with the preconceived opinion of conviction, solely based on those three sentences. We don’t accept this witness testimony as legitimate. We demand the release of my client, who has been behind bars for almost 21 months now.”
Following the lawyers’ statements, the court announced its interim verdict. The court ruled for the continuation of İdris Yılmaz’s pre-trial detention and adjourned the trial until October 18th.
“Journalism is on trial here”
Lawyer Zelal Doğan noted that the case file consists many discrepancies. Doğan said, “The pre-trial detention being dragged like this in the absence of any reasonable doubt is unlawful. İdris Yılmaz is a local journalist who has done outstanding work in Van and he stands trial for his journalistic activities.”
About İdris Yılmaz
İdris Yılmaz is the co-founder of Gazete Yaşam, a local newspaper in Van’s Erciş province, and was a reporter for Dicle Haber Ajansı (DİHA), which was shut down by the government. He was detained and arrested in January 2018 on account of sharing his criticism of the military operation in Afrin on social media. In February 2018, another investigation on Yılmaz was launched on charges of “membership to a terrorist organization.” Arrested following the end of his detention period for the first investigation, Yılmaz was sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison on 3 January 2019.