A lawsuit has been brought against journalist Sinan Aygül over “openly disseminating information misleading the public (Article 217/A of Turkish Penal Code).” The prosecutor requested Aygül’s imprisonment for up to three years.
Sinan Aygül, the Chair of the Turkish Journalists Association in Bitlis was taken into police custody on 13 December 2022 shortly after sharing allegations of a 14 year old child being sexually assaulted. Aygül was subsequently arrested over the suspicion of “openly disseminating information misleading the public.” Aygül spent eight days in prison and was released on December 22nd.
On 24 January 2023, the Tatvan Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office filed the indictment against journalist Aygül. In the one-page indictment, the prosecutor claimed that “after investigating the matter, it was determined that no sexual assault reported to the prosecutor’s office that day.” The prosecutor stated that “a criminal investigation was launched after an unsubstantiated news report was shared about sexual abuse of a child which is one of the sensitive issues in the country.”
‘He should be sentenced by the maximum limit’
Summarizing the statements Aygül had given at the police and the prosecutor’s office, the prosecutor claims that Aygül admitted to his guilt. In order to support his claim, the prosecutor cited Aygül’s tweet in which he shared that the governor looked into the issue and assured him that there was no law enforcement officer involved with alleged sexual assault and in which he concluded that he will continue to investigate the allegations. The prosecutor also referred to Aygül’s statement in which the journalist stated: “I reported on this issue which I learned from my sources in order to assure that it would not be covered up and so that with the public support the pressure upon the law enforcement and the judiciary can be removed.”
The prosecutor argued that by sharing such allegations Aygül “portrayed the members of the law enforcements as suspects.” Arguing that Aygül shared these allegations as the Chair of the Turkish Journalists Association in Bitlis which helped them reach a wider audience, the prosecutor requested the journalist to be sentenced by the maximum limit.
The trial will begin on February 28th
The Tatvan 1st Criminal Court of First Instance accepted the indictment and held the preliminary proceedings on 26 January 2023. The court decided to begin hearing the case on 28 February 2023. The court decided to continue the international travel ban imposed upon Aygül on the grounds that “the evidence has not been collected yet.” The court also decided to issue a writ to the law enforcement agencies so that the journalist’s socio-economic conditions can be investigated.
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