Turkish columnist faces trial for questioning former PM’s family fortune

A lawsuit has been filed against columnist Mehmet Y. Yılmaz after he wrote articles questioning the increase in the family fortune of Turkey’s former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and his children, reported Turkish news site T24. 

Mehmet Y. Yılmaz is facing up to four years and one month in prison on charges of insulting a public officer using the media. The first hearing will be held on January 14.

Public prosecutor Tuncay Karcıoğlu prepared the indictment against Yılmaz upon Binali Yıldırım’s complaint.

One of the four articles subject to the complaint, titled “Mr. Binali give up your secret, win my vote” was censored by a Turkish court order in June 2019, and is currently inaccessible worldwide.

Yılmaz’s articles had no insults in them, T24 wrote, but included questions posed by the author on how the former prime minister and his children, who have maritime transportation businesses, grew their fortune.

Yılmaz had stated in his articles that Yıldırım was required to declare his wealth to the public as per the anti-corruption law Act No.3628 due to the offices he held throughout his career in public service.
According to the indictment, in the censored article, Yılmaz had written:

“Mr. Yıldırım’s children have 17 companies, 28 ships and two super-yachts today … He worked in the public sector until the day he was elected to the parliament. He served as the general director of İDO [Istanbul Fast Ferries Co.], a municipal company. Then he was a MP, a minister, and a PM. So, no matter how you slice it, he did not work at a job that would accumulate capital. But he must have known something that nobody else did, and he taught it to his children. Today the children have 17 companies, 28 ships and two super-yachts. Mr. Binali, what is the secret to this? I don’t want 28 ships, but if you could impart the secret just enough for me to buy a ‘bonsai boat’, that would do me good … What interest-free banking operations did you carry out as you grew your small savings to something that can buy a ship? Is there a future in the interest-free bonds market?”

In his deposition, Yılmaz said as a journalist he posed questions for Binali Yıldırım that the public was interested in after Yıldırım, then running for mayor of Istanbul from Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), said anybody can look into his family’s wealth.

The indictment argued that Yılmaz’s articles insinuated corruption and illegitimate accumulation of wealth.