Mezopotamya Agency editor Sedat Yılmaz was released from prison on Thursday in the first hearing of the case against several Kurdish journalists, the agency reported.
Yılmaz had been arrested in May over charges of both membership in a terrorist organisation and leading a terrorist organisation.
Evidence against the veteran journalist included a secret witness testimony that claimed Yılmaz’s current and past employers, Mezopotamya and Dicle news agencies, were affiliated with the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella organisation for elements of the Kurdish movement that Turkey designates as terrorist.
The secret witness accused Yılmaz of gathering intelligence in favour of KCK Executive Council Member Mustafa Karasu, based on a meeting with him during Turkey’s peace process with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) between 2013 and 2015.
Yılmaz conducted an interview with Karasu at the time, “as did many journalists”, defence lawyer Şule Recepoğlu said. Yılmaz himself denied ever having been in Hakurk (Xakurke) as the witness claimed.
“There is no evidence or explanation for a detention, let alone months of arrest,” another lawyer, Veysel Ok, said during the hearing. “Only three pages in the 43 page indictment mention Yılmaz. The prosecutor has done everything he could to obscure the evidence in the client’s favour.”
Yılmaz was called in for questioning in 2020 when the same secret witness testified against him, and an investigation was launched in 2021. In 2022, another secret witness testimony led to a new investigation. “But after either testimony, I was not detained. Something happened in the meantime, and I was arrested along with my wife in a midnight raid on my home in 2023, leaving our 13-year-old daughter alone in the apartment,” the journalist said.
“From a hundred rabbits you can’t make a horse, a hundred suspicions don’t make a proof,” Yılmaz said, quoting Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. “This case against me has ulterior motives and is based on conjecture. There is not a single piece of direct evidence.”
“I stand here today because I work for Kurdish media. I spent eight months behind bars with no evidence. But despite everything, I want to keep my faith that the court will uphold freedoms of press and expression,” Yılmaz said.