Ünker will still pay compensation to former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and his sons for insult

An appellate court has overturned former Cumhuriyet daily reporter Pelin Ünker’s 13 months and 15 days prison sentence over her reporting on the “Paradise Papers” leaks in a lawsuit filed by former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and his two sons.

On 16 November 2017, Yıldırım’s sons Bülent and Erkam Yıldırım filed a complaint over Ülker’s reporting in Cumhuriyet newspaper on 6 November 2017 about the Yıldırım family’s offshore companies that were exposed through the “Paradise Papers” leaks. After this lawsuit accusing Ülker of “libel” and “insult” over the revelations had been filed, a separate lawsuit filed later by Binali Yıldırım accused the journalist of “insulting a public official.” Two separate cases were launched by the Anadolu 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance but after the court rendered that it had no jurisdiction over the cases, the cases were sent to the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul, where they were merged.

At the end of the lawsuit, the 2nd Istanbul Criminal Court of First Instance found Ünker guilty of both “libel” and “insult” on 8 January 2019. The court sentenced the journalist to 13 months and 15 days in prison. The court also found her guilty of “insulting a public official” in the case launched upon the complaint of Binali Yıldırım and fined the journalist TL 8,660 in non-pecuniary damages.

The appellate court noted in its ruling, dated 19 April 2019, that the news story in question was published on 6 November 2017; the investigation into Ünker upon the complaint of Bülent and Erkam Yıldırım was launched on 16 November; the indictment was submitted on 31 August 2018 and the trial process began after the indictment was accepted by the court on 3 September 2018.

The appellate court ruled for the conviction against Ünker in the case filed by Bülent and Erkam Yıldırım to be dropped on the grounds that the prosecution unlawfully proceeded with the case and Ünker was convicted even though the four-month statute of limitations for pressing charges as per Article 26/1 of Turkey’s press law had expired.

The appellate court upheld the legal fine Ünker was given on the charge of “insulting a public official.” However, it ruled that the compensation Ünker was ordered to pay should be TL 7,080 instead of TL 8,660.

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