Turkish journalist Pelin Ünker sentenced to prison over 'Paradise Papers' reporting
An Istanbul court has sentenced journalist Pelin Ünker to one year, one month and 15 days in jail over a series of articles named “Paradise Papers” published on Cumhuriyet newspaper about offshore companies that allegedly belonged to former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım’s sons on the tax-haven island of Malta.
Ünker’s sentence was not postponed. She said she would appeal the local court’s ruling with a higher court.
“I fulfilled my journalism job. They were articles about public figures. I fulfilled my job to inform the public. A right of reply had emerged [for Yıldırım]. I do not think that the news I did consists a crime,” said Ünker during the final hearing of the trial on Jan. 8 at the Istanbul Çağlayan Courthouse.
“This news has been covered all over the world, but it is only Pelin Ünker who is on trial in the world. The press has an irreplaceable job in a democratic society. It has a duty to release all documents that concern the public, and this is what Pelin has also done,” said Ünker’s lawyer, Tora Pekin, at the hearing, requesting her client’s acquittal.
But the Istanbul 2nd Penal Court of Instance sentenced Ünker on charges of “defamation and insult” and “slandering a public official.” The court also demanded the journalist pays a fine of 8,860 Turkish Liras (around $1,610).
The Paradise Papers are leaked confidential documents unveiling off-shore accounts of politicians, businessmen, royal family members and multinational companies, who were allegedly avoiding tax.
Ünker had claimed in her news series that the sons of Yıldırım, former prime minister and current parliamentary speaker who is now running for mayor of Istanbul from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), owned five off-shore companies based on Malta.
Critics have accused Yıldırım of breaching the Turkish constitution for running for mayor while speaker of parliament. They say the constitution requires the parliament speaker to be “impartial.”