Seda Taşkın, a reporter for the Mezopotamya news agency, was taken into custody in the southeastern province of Muş on 20 December 2017, on grounds of “a significant tip-off.” Taşkın was in town to cover a news story.
Public access to her investigation file was restricted.
Following the completion of procedures at the Police Department on 23 December, Taşkın was referred to a court, which ruled to release the reporter from detention under judicial control measures.
The accusations levelled against Taşkın during her police interrogation alleged that she “conducted propaganda for the [Kurdish militia] YPG” on her social media accounts.
On December 27, the prosecutor objected to Taşkın’s release. On 22 January 2018, Taşkın was arrested again during a police raid on her home in Ankara.
She gave her statement a day later, on 23 January, to the Bitlis Criminal Judgeship of Peace via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS. The court ruled to place her in pretrial detention on the accusation of “membership in a terrorist group.”
The indictment into Taşkın, issued in March by the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in Muş, was accepted by the Muş 2nd High Criminal Court. The 47-page document accused Taşkın of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “membership in a terrorist organization.”
Phone conversations Taşkın had with her sources, her news stories and her social media posts were held as evidence against Taşkın in the indictment.
Taşkın appeared before the Muş 2nd High Criminal Court on 30 April for the first hearing of her trial. Giving her defense statement via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBIS from the Sincan Women’s Closed Prison in Ankara, Taşkın said that she had traveled to Muş to write a story about a cultural association in this town. She also said she was strip-searched after she had been arrested, that her access to lawyer was restricted and was beaten up.
The court rejected Taşkın’s and her lawyer’s requests for her release and adjourned the trial until 2 July 2018.
At the end of the second hearing on 2 July, the court once again ordered the continuation of Taşkın’s pretrial detention. The court rejected her lawyers’ request to identify the person who made the tip off against Taşkın and adjourned the trial until 12 September 2018.
At the third hearing on 12 September, the prosecutor submitted his final opinion, asking for Taşkın’s conviction on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and committing “continuous propaganda for a terrorist organization,” which carry a prison term of over 22 years. The court adjourned the trial until 10 October 2018 to allow time for defense to prepare their statements against the prosecutor’s conviction demand. The court also ordered Taşkın to remain in pretrial detention.
Announcing its verdict at the end of the final hearing, the court sentenced Taşkın to a total of 7.5 years in prison — 4 years and 2 months in prison for “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” and another 3 years and 4 months for “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization.” The decision is now to be taken to the appellate court.
On 17 January 2019, Taşkın was released from the Sincan Prison as per an interim ruling issued by the appellate court overseeing the appeal against the prison sentence she was given in October.
The Erzurum Regional Court of Justice, an appellate court, will hear Taşkın’s case on 20 March 2019.
The first appeal hearing of Taşkın’s case was held on 20 March at the 6th Criminal Chamber of the Erzurum Regional Court of Justice. Taşkın addressed the court from the 21st High Criminal Court of Ankara via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS.
Taşkın and her lawyers told the appellate court that despite lack of evidence for the accusations in the indictment, the trial court rendered its judgment in the case.
After hearing the defense statements, the prosecution submitted their final opinion, requesting the court to reject the appeal. Accepting the request for additional time for defense lawyers to prepare their statements in response to the prosecutor’s opinion, the court adjourned the trial until 15 May.
At the end of the second appeal hearing of Taşkın’s trial, held on 15 May 2019, the 6th Criminal Chamber of the Erzurum Regional Court of Justice acquitted the journalist of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” while giving her a prison sentence of 1 year, 11 months and 10 days on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.” The court deferred the sentence.
On 30 May 2019, the chief public prosecutor’s office objected to the appellate court’s ruling to acquit Taşkın of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member,” saying the acquittal was in violation of the law and procedural code. The prosecutor’s office claimed that Taşkın’s reporting activities were aimed at “boosting the morale and motivation of members of the terrorist group, help communication and share of information among the terrorist group members, help organize the segment of the public sympathetic to the organization and to increase the room for maneuver for the organization by, in particular, influencing the public opinion at national and international level.”