The case of journalist Parıldak: Guilty until proven innocent

A 26-year-old journalist, Ayşenur Parıldak, who was arrested on August 11, 2016, has finally appeared in the court for the first hearing last Thursday. Parıldak’s case seems to be one of the worsening examples of using arbitrary arrest as punishment under Turkey’s state of emergency. The court has ruled for the continuation of imprisonment despite prosecutor’s all claims in the indictment have been falsified. The court is expected to ask the authorities again if the evidence could be confirmed or not until the next court hearing as journalist Parıldak will be kept behind the bars.

Since almost all critical media outlets have already been shut down and not a single media company has reported from the courtroom, people have learned what had happened during the trial from a Facebook post of Ercan İpekçi, the former President of the Journalist’ Union.

The prosecutor has listed a photograph of journalist Parıldak while she was posing in the Constitutional Court as a criminal evidence in his indictment. Ayşenur Parıldak has testified that she was taken a photo in the Constitutional Court and she shared it on Instagram and Twitter, but she has denied the copy which has been presented by the prosecutor as evidence of crime. She said that a fabricated screenshot with a message she had never written was put into circulation on social media after her detention.

The ordinary banking activities of the journalist were also presented as criminal activities in the indictment. A transfer of money in a volume of TL 25,000 (approximately $6,800) to the journalist’s account by Ahmet Baltacı on May 25, 2016 was presented as a suspicious activity. Parıldak’s lawyer has presented documents proving that the transaction was about a payment for car sale made by the journalist. The indictment itself has listed Baltacı as a man who has sold 47 cars so far.

Previously, Cumhuriyet daily’s columnist Aydın Engin had experienced the similar charge. He was accused of transferring TL 250,000 ($67,500) to Faik İnsel, an alleged member of the outlawed PKK. Whereas, the original transaction was only TL 250 ($67,5) and it was transferred to another well-known columnist, Ahmet İnsel.

Another claim in the indictment was that Parıldak’s father sent an amount of TL 1933 ($540) to private Amity School in Brooklyn, New York. During the court hearing Parıldak has said that “The alleged transaction has no banking detail. I had asked my father about this transaction and he told me he had not transferred any money to the mentioned school. Even if he did so, what is it got to do with my proceeding?” The court has ruled for asking more information about this alleged bank transaction appeared in a report sent by the Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK). The alleged transfer is in fact not a violation of any law in Turkey. More importantly, the prosecution has not even been able to confirm its presence yet.

Another charge brought against journalist Parıldak was that her twitter account has been followed by a Twitter phenomenon, Fuat Avni. Whereas, Fuat Avni has followed her twitter account as he/she has followed all Turkish reporters following judicial issues in Turkey. Even if being followed by anybody who may be a potential criminal is not a crime in Turkish penal code.

Journalists Aysenur Parıldak has also denied allegations that she had used ByLock, a smart phone messaging application believed to be a communication tool between members of the Gulen movement. “The telephone and IMEI number which were appeared in the indictment do not belong to me,” said young journalist.

The same smartphone application has become an issue of crisis between the United Nations and Turkish government recently. An Ankara court has arrested Aydın Sefa Akay, who is a judge at the International Criminal Tribunal, over his alleged use of ByLock on September 2016. On January 31, 2017, the United Nations’ Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals has strongly ordered Turkey to cease all legal proceedings against Judge Akay and to release him before February 14, 2017.

As in all countries under the supremacy of law, according to the criminal proceedings in Turkey any doubtful evidence is assessed in favor of the suspect. Ayşenur Parıldak’s family and her friends had expected her release after first hearing in the court in line with this universal legal propensity. However, the court ruled against this expectation basing on this universal norm.

Journalist Ayşenur Parıldak’s next hearing is going to be held on May 2, 2017.

Feb. 12, 2017 

 

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