Sedat Yılmaz, an editor for the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency, was detained by police alongside fellow journalist Dicle Müftüoğlu in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakır in late April 2023 on terrorism charges.
The 4th Diyarbakır Court of Serious Crimes released Yılmaz pending trial at the hearing on December 12, 2023. CPJ monitored the trial, and the journalist, who was brought to the hearing from the prison in Ankara, told the court the evidence brought against him in the indictment was based on his journalistic activities and daily life.
The two secret witnesses who testified against the journalist were heard by the court via teleconference. Both witnesses repeated the claims they made in the indictment but struggled to answer the questions of the judge regarding the inconsistencies in their testimonies.
Mezopotamya News Agency focuses on regional news from eastern Turkey, Kurdish issues, and politics. The news agency has faced retaliatory action from Turkish authorities several times in the past for its reporting, including arresting, charging, and sentencing several journalists in connection to their work.
Police detained Yılmaz and Müftüoğlu on April 29, 2023 as part of a large crackdown against Kurdish politicians, activists, and other journalists due to their alleged ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey considers a terrorist organization.
Yılmaz and Müftüoğlu were charged with being both a member and a leader of a terrorist organization, according to the journalists’ lawyer, Resul Temur. The lawyer told CPJ that the charges are conflicting in a legal sense, and he expects the court to drop one.
CPJ’s review of the 44-page indictment presented by the chief public prosecutor’s office on September 6, 2023, revealed a document that primarily focused on the structure of the PKK and a case dependent on four state witnesses, three of whom were anonymous. Outside of the first page, the indictment did not mention the journalist again until page 41, where it listed Yılmaz’s travel, financial transactions, and logs of phone calls with other journalists, politicians, and human rights activities as evidence.
Temur told CPJ that the evidence against Müftüoğlu and Yılmaz was “not solid” and included “unfounded claims” that their media outlets were “terrorism tools.”
The journalists face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty under Turkey’s anti-terrorism laws.
Yılmaz is being held in Ankara and was allegedly beaten in custody and filed a criminal complaint about the incident, Temur told CPJ.
CPJ’s email to the Turkish Ministry of Justice on November 1, 2023, did not receive any reply.