Turkish prosecutors ask 8 more years in prison for jailed journalist Merdan Yanardağ

In addition to terrorism charges, jailed journalist Merdan Yanardağ is facing accusations of “insulting” President Erdoğan in his columns published in the daily Birgün in 2022. In his final sentencing opinion, a prosecutor has asked for up to eight years in prison for the journalist in the relevant case.

Duvar English

A Turkish prosecutor has asked up to eight years and two months in prison for journalist Merdan Yanardağ, the editor-in-chief of the opposition TV channel TELE1, in a case concerning his opinion pieces released under the name of “Fascism and Islamist Fascism” in the daily Birgün.

Yanardağ is accused of “insulting the President” in the relevant opinion pieces published between April 10 – May 29, 2022, according to reporting by the online news outlet Diken. 

At the hearing of the case that took place at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on July 18, prosecutor Salih Varol released his final sentencing opinion (“mütalaa”) against Yanardağ. The prosecutor argued that Yanardağ’s columns accused President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of “manipulating the elections” and “seizing the nation’s will.”

Yanardağ’s lawyer asked for time to submit their defense, with the court adjourning the hearing to Nov. 14.

Yanardağ is also facing another lawsuit for which he was jailed last month on terrorism charges. Prosecutors are asking for up to 10 years and six months in prison for Yanardağ in this case, accusing him of “praising crime and criminal” and “undertaking terror organization’s propaganda.” This lawsuit concerns the journalist’s remarks about jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan. The journalist will appear before the Istanbul 30th Heavy Penal Court for the first time on Oct. 4 over the relevant terrorism charges.

What had happened?

During a live broadcast on TELE1 on Jun 20, Yanardağ said the contact ban and isolation imposed upon Öcalan should be lifted. “Abdullah Öcalan is over 70 years old, it has been a long time since he has been in jail, 25 years without interruption. He is the longest-serving political prisoner in Turkey. If normal execution laws apply, he should actually be released, in a house arrest etc. The isolation imposed upon Abdullah Öcalan has no place in law. It has to be lifted,” he said.

A week later on June 27, a court formally arrested Yanardağ after he was targeted by pro-government and nationalist opposition figures. The journalist stands imprisoned.