Şehriban Abi, a reporter for the all-female news agency JinNews, was arrested in a police raid on her home in the eastern Van province on 6 October 2020. She was one of the journalists who reported on allegations that two locals were tortured and thrown out of a chopper by soldiers in Van.
During the raid, anti-terror police confiscated Abi’s notebooks and digital equipment. Abi was held in custody for three days. She was accused of “reporting on social incidents to antagonize the state.” During her interrogation on 9 October, Abi was asked about her notes on news, press releases, her sources and her phone calls with her colleagues. Abi said he works for JinNews as a freelancer. She denied the allegations against her. During the police interrogation, it was revealed that Abi’s mobile phone was tapped on 31 March 2020 as part of the investigation carried out by the Van Chief Public Prosecutor's Office. Abi was read the tapes of the interviews she made with her sources and was asked about "the purpose of her reporting.”
Abi and three other journalists arrested as part of the same investigation were taken to the courthouse the same day. The prosecutor asked Abi about her notes on her reports and her phone calls with her sources. The prosecutor who took Abi’s statement referred the journalist to the Van 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace, seeking her imprisonment pending trial on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization.”
The judgeship jailed Abi on the grounds that she “reported on social incidents to antagonize the state.” The judgeship wrote in their ruling that Abi was “not a journalist because she does not hold a press card issued by the Directorate of Communications.”
Abi was sent to the Van T Type Prison.
On 11 February 2021, the Van Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued an indictment against Abi and three other journalists who were all jailed pending trial along with her -- MA reporters Adnan Bilen and Cemil Uğur and journalist Nazan Sala -- in addition to MA reporter Zeynep Durgut, who was briefly arrested and later released pending trial as part of the same investigation.
The 14-page indictment charged the journalists with “membership in a terrorist organization” under TCK 314/2, citing their reports and conversations with their sources. The indictment also alleged that the news agencies and newspapers for which the journalists worked published “provocative content against the state.” The Van 5th High Criminal Court accepted the indictment.
The first hearing of the trial was held on 2 April 2020. At the end of the hearing, the court ruled to release Abi, Bilen, Uğur and Sala pending trial under judicial control measures, which include a monthly signature obligation and an international travel ban.
The second hearing of the trial was held on 2 July 2021. In an interim ruling, the court reduced the signature obligation imposed on Zeynep Durgut to once a month and ordered the continuation of the judicial control measures and the international travel ban imposed on her four co-defendants. The court adjourned the trial until 21 October 2021.
The third hearing of the case was held on 21 October 2021. Abi, Uğur, Durgut and Sala submitted letters of excuse. The court initially did not allow spectators in the courtroom. Following objections, the court decided to let two journalists in the courtroom to follow the hearing. The court lifted the judicial control measures imposed on all five journalists but denied the return of their equipment. The court set 6 January 2022 as the date for the fourth hearing.
The fourth and final hearing of the trial was held on 6 January 2022. The prosecutor presented their final opinion, requesting acquittal for all five journalists on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” but demanding that Nazan Sala be sentenced for “terrorism propaganda” for her social media posts. At the end of the hearing, the court acquitted all five journalists of “membership in a terrorist organization” charge but sentenced Sala to 1 year and 3 months in prison for “terrorism propaganda” for social media posts allegedly shared by the journalist.