Journalist Pelin Ünker Sentenced to Prison for Paradise Papers Stories

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  • January 8, 2019
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Journalist Pelin Ünker has been sentenced to 1 year, 1 month and 15 days in prison and fined 8,860 TRY (~1,615 USD) for “defamation and insult” for her stories that were published on the daily Cumhuriyet regarding the then Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım’s and his sons’ offshore companies in Malta. The companies were revealed in the Paradise Papers in 2017.

The second hearing of the case was held at the İstanbul 2nd Penal Court of First Instance in the Çağlayan Courthouse today (January 8).

Muhammed Gök, the attorney of Binali Yıldırım and his son Bülent Yıldırım, Pelin Ünker and her attorneys Abbas Yalçın, Tora Pekin, Halil Kocabaş attended the hearing. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Turkey Representative Erol Önderoğlu and journalists also watched the hearing.

Attorney Muhammed Gök spoke first and said that his clients’ personal rights were violated as they stated in their petition of complaint.

“Petition of complaint includes stories that do not belong to Ünker”

Ünker’s attorney Abbas Yalçın said that the petition of complaint includes news stories that were not written by his client and the statements in the series of articles that were mentioned in the complaint are not true.

Attorney Pekin, speaking after Yalçın, called for the acquittal of his client, stating that Ünker cannot be held responsible for stories she did not write:

“[Paradise Papers] were reported as news all across the world but the only one who is being tried for that is Pelin Ünker. In a democratic society, the press has an indispensable duty. It is obliged to reveal all the documents that interest the public. Pelin did this” the attorney said.

“They did not deny founding companies in tax haven”

“Founding a company in a tax haven… The story is all about this. They did not deny this in the petition of complaint. Anybody can found this type of companies anyway. It is not a crime. But can Prime Minister’s son do this? They cannot ethically. If they do, the people have the freedom to receive news on this. The people have the right to read the Paradise Papers.”

“I did my duty as a journalist”

Pelin Ünker stated that she repeats her previous defenses and what she did was an act of journalism.

“I did my duty as a journalist. The story was about public figures. I fulfilled my duty to announce the incident to the public. The right to reply was granted to himself. I don’t think the story I did constitutes a crime.”

Prison sentence and fine for Ünker

Pelin Ünker has been fined 8,660 Turkish Liras for “insulting a public officer”, considering “how the offense was committed, importance and value of the subject of the offense, weight of the result and intention of the defendant.” Ünker has been sentenced to 1 year, 1 month, 15 days in prison for “defamation.”

The court rejected to defer the announcement of the verdict on the ground that they could not reach a conclusion on whether Ünker will again commit an offense. Ünker and her attorneys will bring the case to the court of appeal.(HA/VK)