Tolga Şardan, a journalist with the T24 news website who was detained earlier on Wednesday following a search of his residence over an article that revealed the existence of a report by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) on corruption within the judiciary, was arrested by a court on Wednesday evening, Turkish Minute reported.
In his article, Şardan said the MİT report was submitted to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and had revealed various irregularities and corrupt practices.
The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office initiated an investigation into Şardan, accusing him of “publicly disseminating misleading information.”
The investigation was specifically launched due to Şardan’s article about the MİT report, which he said had been submitted to President Erdoğan and focused on corruption allegations within the judiciary.
According to the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, Şardan is accused of violating Article 217/A of the Turkish Penal Code, which deals with “disseminating misleading information.” The charges were announced in a statement by the prosecutor’s office, which also confirmed that Şardan had been taken into custody as part of the ongoing investigation.
Şardan’s arrest comes at a time when Turkey is grappling with allegations of corruption within its judicial system.
Before Şardan’s article, İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor İsmail Uçar came forward with a letter sent to the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) exposing corruption in the country’s judicial system.
In the letter sent to the office of the HSK’s secretary-general on Oct. 6, Uçar detailed allegations of bribery, nepotism and other irregularities within the judicial system. The letter also included accusations against Bekir Altun, president of the İstanbul Judicial Commission.
Şardan’s article had discussed a report by MİT that was submitted to President Erdoğan, which predated Uçar’s letter by six weeks.
The report focused on judges and prosecutors who had made questionable decisions, particularly in İstanbul and Ankara and had identified corrupt practices such as bribery and nepotism.
Turkey’s judiciary was already criticized by international bodies and rights groups for taking orders from the executive branch prior to the allegations of corruption.
Turkey disbarred more than 4,000 judges and prosecutors immediately after an abortive military coup in July 2016 over alleged ties to the faith-based Gülen movement, which it accused of orchestrating the attempted putsch. The movement denies any involvement.
The mass disbarment of members of the judiciary is believed by many to have had a chilling effect on the entire justice system, intimidating the remaining judges and prosecutors into doing the government’s bidding by launching politically motivated investigations into critics.