MLSA’s Legal Unit filed a Constitutional Court application on behalf of jailed journalist Uğur Yılmaz, requesting the release of their client who has been imprisoned for over 16 months, stating that Yılmaz’s detention is in violation of his “right to liberty and security” and “freedom of expression.”
Media and Law Studies Association’s (MLSA) Legal Unit applied to the Constitutional Court on behalf of jailed journalist Uğur Yılmaz on 10 January 2019. Yılmaz, who was taken into custody on 16 July 2017, and was put into detention pending trial on the following day, remains imprisoned in Elazığ Prison.
MLSA lawyer Zelal Pelin Doğan explained that her client’s “right to liberty and security” and “freedom of expression” were violated and that there was no “reasonable doubt” in Yılmaz’s case. She said, “Uğur was never physically brought before the panel of judges and he was forced to defend himself via the prison video link, SEGBİS. He was not physically present in the hearing where the witnesses were interrogated. This indicates that the evidence in the file were not sufficiently evaluated and Uğur was not granted the opportunity to submit a qualified defense statement.”
The application states that Yılmaz’s continuation of detention was due to his occupational activities and his detention had become an execution of punishment rather than serving as an interim measure.
Having worked for the Bitlis Municipality Press Unit as a reporter between June 2014 and December 2016, Yılmaz was sued for “terrorist propaganda” and “membership in a terrorist organization”.
Yılmaz’s lawyer Doğan noted that some witness statements; photos documenting press releases, demonstrations and funerals where Yılmaz was present, and his social media posts were presented as evidence against him. She added, “Uğur stated numerous times that he was present in those events due to his job as a reporter for the Bitlis Municipality Press Unit.”
MLSA lawyers also claimed that Yılmaz’s fundamental rights and liberties were restricted which constitutes a violation of Article 13 of the Turkish Constitution and Article 18 of the ECHR.
Yılmaz’s indictment was prepared on 11 July 2018, months after he was detained. The evidence presented against him includes his news stories and social media posts, along with some witness statements from people whom the defendant does not even know. The indictment also involves some news story titles that were published in Bitlis News Portal. In addition, there are some pictures that Yılmaz took which are considered as evidence for crime under the title of “The suspect’s social media posts with regard to terrorist propaganda charges”.
The indictment claims that the works of Yılmaz, whose job was to follow news in Bitlis as a Municipality Press Unit employee, had turned into “actions instructed by PKK/KCK which exceeds more than propaganda for a legal political party”. Uğur Yılmaz’s next hearing will be held on 12 February at Bitlis 2. High Criminal Court.