Etkin News Agency (ETHA) reporter Pınar Gayıp was arrested at around 2 a.m. on 13 April 2018 during an early morning police raid on her home in Istanbul.
Gayıp was placed in pre-trial detention by a court alongside ETHA editor Semiha Şahin, Ferhat Harun Pehlivan, a former intern for ETHA and a member of the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations (SGDF), and Gülsen İmre. After waiting for 10 hours for a judgeship to take their statements, a prosecutor referred the defendants to a Criminal Judgeship of Peace, requesting their detention on the charges of “membership in a terrorist group” and “conducting propaganda for a terrorist group.”
Pınar Gayıp appeared before the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul for her first courtroom hearing along with the three other defendants in the case on 10 September 2018 after spending five months in pre-trial detention.
Gayıp addressed the court for her defense statement during the hearing and said the police didn’t call her to testify before arresting her. “I have lived in the same house since I came to Istanbul, worked at the same agency and came to the courthouse to follow trials almost every day,” she said. “I have never been called to testify even once. Instead, my house was raided at dawn by police wearing balaclavas and holding long barrelled weapons,” Gayıp said. “I’m sure that I will be acquitted if the court abides by the law,” Gayıp told the court, demanding her release.
The lawyers representing Gayıp and Şahin criticized that rallies or commemorations both journalists attended 3 or 4 years ago as journalists were presented as evidence in the case.
Gayıp’s lawyer Kader Tonç said documents certifying that ETHA is a legal news agency and her client was legally working for them had been submitted to the court. “Could you imagine a terrorist organization having official documents attesting that a certain person is their employee?” Tonç asked the court.
Following the completion of defense statements, the prosecutor demanded the continuation of the detention of all four defendants including Gayıp, arguing that there were “elements missing” in the case. Following a short break, the court ruled that all four defendants should remain in detention pending trial, setting 5 December 2018 as the date for the next hearing.
Journalists were asked to leave the courtroom during the panel’s deliberation of the demands and were not allowed in the courtroom following the recess. as a result, the journalists could not observe the announcement of the court’s decision. Journalists who followed the hearing protested the presiding judge’s attitude, saying this was a “lack of transparency.”
On 5 December 2018, the second hearing of Gayıp’s trial was held at the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
Addressing the court for her defense statement, Gayıp rejected the accusations and said that this case was an attempt at criminalizing journalism.
Gayıp’s lawyer Tonç told the court that the grounds for the accusations against Gayıp were only six social media posts shared by the journalist, and that all of them were dispatches by ETHA. The lawyer said that her client’s pretrial detention on account of news posts that are held as evidence for the “membership in a terrorist organization” charge was unlawful and requested Gayıp’s release.
The prosecution then requested that all jailed defendants in the case be remanded in detention.
In its interim ruling following a brief recess, the court released Gayıp’s co-defendants Pehlivan and İmre under judicial control measures while keeping Gayıp and Şahin behind bars. The court also ruled to hand over the case file to the prosecutor for the drafting of the final opinion and adjourned the trial until 30 January 2019.
The third hearing of Gayıp’s trial was held on 30 January 2019 at the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
Early in the hearing, the prosecution submitted their final opinion of the case, seeking prison terms for both Gayıp and Şahin on the charges of “membership in a terrorist group” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group.” The prosecution also demanded that both journalists be remanded in prison.
Gayıp told the court that her social media posts and her news coverage were held as evidence against her and that journalism was being put on trial in this court case. Gayıp requested to be released pending trial.
In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to keep Gayıp and Şahin behind bars and adjourned the trial until 27 March 2019 for the final defense statements in response to the prosecution’s final opinion to be prepared.
Gayıp appeared before the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 27 March for the fourth hearing of her trial on terrorism-related charges.
Gayıp’s lawyer Tonç requested further inquiry as to when the investigation into the journalists was launched. The lawyer requested that the court inquire of law enforcement officials and the prosecutor about how and why social media posts from highly varied time frames by the two journalists were brought together in the same investigation file as evidence.
Tonç also added that they suspected that the social media posts held as evidence against the journalists were not obtained through an open source search, in which case evidence would be obtained illegally. Tonç added that no new incriminating evidence was added to Gayıp’s case file throughout the time she has been in pre-trial detention and requested her client’s release pending trial.
Gayıp also addressed the court and requested to be released.
The prosecution said they reiterated their final opinion of the case, submitted to the court during the previous hearing, and requested the continuation of both journalists’ detention.
In its interim ruling, the court ruled in line with the prosecutor’s requests and ordered the continuation of Gayıp and Şahin’s detention on remand, as well as rejecting the lawyers’ requests to expand the investigation. The trial was adjourned until 13 June 2019.
Gayıp remains behind bars at the Bakırköy Women’s Prison in İstanbul.