Rudaw TV reporter Rawin Sterk Yıldız was arrested in Edirne for alleged “border breach” while covering the refugee crisis on the Turkish border with Greece on 29 February 2020.
Following his arrest, the Edirne Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office asked the Prosecutor’s Offices of Adana, Ankara and Istanbul on 29 February to ask whether or not they intended to take legal action against Yıldız, who was already under investigation on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization.” Yıldız, whose period of detention was extended during this process, was transferred to Ankara on 3 March and a confidentiality order was imposed on his file.
After being held at the Anti-Terror Branch of the Ankara Police Department for three days, Yıldız was brought to the Ankara Courthouse on 6 March.He was referred to the Ankara 7th Criminal Judgeship of Peace, which ruled to jail Yıldız pending trial on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” as per the prosecutor’s request and citing “substantial evidence to suggest a strong suspicion of crime.” The judgeship rejected the prosecutor’s request to also charge Yıldız with “membership of a terrorist organization.” Yıldız was sent to the Sincan Prison.
Not finding substantial evidence against Yıldız in the investigation file from 2008, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office sent Yıldız’s file to Istanbul in July 2020 for lack of jurisdiction.
Following the case file’s arrival in Istanbul, the Anti-Terror Branch of the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued an indictment on 24 July requesting Yıldız to be charged with “membership of a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda.” Drafted by prosecutor Edip Şahiner, the three-page indictment listed Yıldız’s social media posts and journalistic work as evidence against him. Prosecutor Şahiner claimed that Yıldız’s former employers Roj TV and Dicle News Agency (DİHA) broadcasted for the purposes of the PKK/KCK.
The prosecutor interpreted the file in which Yıldız was tried and acquitted by the 5th High Criminal Court of Adana as evidence for “membership of a terrorist organization.” On 9 December 2019, the 5th High Criminal Court of Adana had ruled for Yıldız’s acquittal for lack of sufficient, clear and convincing evidence against the journalist.
The indictment drafted by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office was accepted by the 34th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
First hearing and release
Delivering his defense statement during the first hearing on 2 September 2020, Yıldız said that the indictment gave the false impression that he had faced an arrest warrant or a criminal investigation before being arrested.
The prosecution requested Yıldız’s file to be merged with the “KCK Press trial” overseen by the 3rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul and the continuation of Yıldız’s pre-trial detention.
The court ruled for Yıldız’s release under an international travel ban and to send Yıldız’s file to the 3rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul to be merged with the ongoing “KCK Press trial.”
KCK Press trial
Yıldız was arrested for alleged “terrorist organization membership” on 20 December 2011 in connection with an investigation carried out by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office into the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK). After being kept in custody for the maximum period, Yıldız was jailed pending trial on 24 December 2011.
The 800-page indictment accused 44 media workers in the case, out of whom 36, including Yıldız, were jailed pending trial, of “membership of a terrorist organization.” Issued in May 2012, the indictment cited the organizations for which Yıldız worked for as evidence against him, by claiming that they were “linked to the PKK/KCK terrorist organization.” Accepting the indictment, the 3rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul set 10 September 2012 as the date of the first hearing.
After spending 14 months in pre-trial detention as part of the case, Yıldız was freed at the end of the hearing that took place on 8 February 2013 under an international travel ban.