Documentary filmmaker Tekin acquitted

Documentary filmmaker Sibel Tekin has been acquitted of charges of membership in an armed terrorist organization. She was charged with filming a police van.

Documentary filmmaker Sibel Tekin has been acquitted in Turkey of charges of membership in an armed terrorist organization. A court in Ankara ruled on Tuesday that there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations. As the Association for Media and Law (MLSA) confirmed, the ban on travel and reporting requirements against Tekin has also been lifted.

Tekin was arrested in Ankara at the end of 2022 and was held in custody for around six weeks. The reason for the arrest was the recording of a police van that was filmed while the director was shooting an environmental documentary. During a search of her apartment, the police confiscated two computers, hard drives, a camera and several books.

During the public prosecutor's interrogation, the 46-year-old director was accused of being a member of an "armed terrorist organization" following a review of earlier recordings, including some from Dersim. Two weeks later, the indictment was presented to the court. It said that Tekin did not accidentally film the police van with her camera as claimed, but "willingly and knowingly filmed it for spying purposes at the direction of an illegal organization."

The 26th Criminal Chamber in Ankara, however, saw no evidence of this. The public prosecutor's office had demanded up to 15 years in prison for Tekin and even asked the Turkish Secret Service MIT whether the filmmaker was under surveillance. Until recently, the public prosecutor and the police were unable to agree about which “terrorist organization” Tekin allegedly worked for. Organizations from the film industry and civil society have described the proceedings as an absurd show trial of a “political justice system”.

Sibel Tekin was born in the central Anatolian province of Kırşehir in 1977 and is known as the “Archivist of Ankara”. She has documented numerous social events with her camera, such as the Gezi uprising in 2013, the tobacco workers' strike in 2009/2010 and the attack on 10 October 2015 in Ankara. From 2000 to 2007, Tekin worked for the state broadcaster TRT, among others.