Social services specialist Bilal Yıldız has been working for the Istanbul Representative Office of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) since 2015. He offers consultancy services of treatment, rehabilitation, and well-being to torture victims and their close ones. He has co-signed many reports by the Foundation including the Treatment and Rehabilitation Centers Report (2021). Specializing in the field of immigrant and refugee rights, Yıldız also worked for the Migration Monitoring Association (GÖÇİZDER) in 2016.
He was taken into custody during a raid on this home on the morning of June 3rd, 2022, along with 22 others including members and directors of the Migration Monitoring Association, and Ali Koçyiğit - one of the directors of the Istanbul Office of the Human Rights Association (İHD).
According to forensic reports, Bilal Yıldız received kicks to his torso during the raid and suffered verbal abuse during his detention. During his eight-day-long detention, he was subjected to constant noise and light, not given enough food, and his outcry towards his brutal circumstances was ignored. He was kept from meeting his lawyer during his initial 24 hours at the Istanbul Police Headquarters and a confidentiality order was issued on his investigation file.
During the investigations of both the law enforcement officers and the prosecution, Yıldız was asked about the workshops, reports, and financial resources of GÖÇİZDER. Additionally, Yıldız’s private phone calls and bank transactions were called into question. On June 11th, 2022, 16 people including Bilal Yıldız were arrested on the allegation of “membership of an armed terrorist organization” by the Istanbul 4th and 8th Criminal Courts of Peace at midnight, just after their detention period had ended. The evidence against these rights defenders is unknown due to the confidentiality order issued on their file. The pro-government media has claimed that the rights defenders have been facilitating finances to PKK by manipulating funds from the European Union and the United Nations.
Regarding Bilal Yıldız’s arrest, The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey has stated that “the fact that this allegation is based on the activities of GÖÇİZDER and Yıldız’s rightful human rights work reveals the arbitrary nature of this investigation and that Bilal Yıldız’s legitimate defense of rights is under attack. There can be no link between Bilal Yıldız and the criminal activities in question.”
Currently held at Silivri Prison, Yıldız is kept in an overcrowded ward under immense psychological pressure from the guards. He tried to enter a written plea about this issue but his letter was confiscated. He was threatened with a disciplinary investigation. His lawyers contested his imprisonment on June 17th.
The indictment submitted by the Istanbul Public Prosecutor's Office on September 1, 2022, was accepted by the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court on September 16, 2022. In the indictment, Bilal Yıldız's human rights advocacy activities as a whole were cited as evidence.
The first hearing began on December 13, 2022, at the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court in Çağlayan. The presiding judge announced that, taking into account the number of lawyers and the audience, they decided that the second and third sessions of the hearing would be held in the large courtrooms in the Silivri Prison Campus.
İlk duruşmanın ara kararında, Bilal Yıldız ve tutuklu bulunan diğer 12 kişinin tutukluluk halinin devamına karar verildi. Mahkeme, avukatların reddi hakim talebini de reddederek, bir sonraki duruşmayı 4-5 Ocak 2023 tarihlerine erteledi. Bu duruşmalar da Silivri Kapalı Cezaevi Kampüsü’nde bulunan mahkeme salonlarında görülecek.
The first hearing of the trial in which 23 rights defenders, 17 of whom are imprisoned, including Bilal Yıldız, are tried on charges of "membership in a terrorist organization" (Article 314/2 of the TCK) was held on 13 December 2022 at the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court. In the decision of the first hearing, it was decided to continue the detention of Bilal Yıldız and 12 other detainees.
The second hearing of the case was held on 4-5 January 2023 in two sessions, in the Silivri Prison Campus. In his defense, Bilal Yıldız stated that he is on the executive board of the HRFT (TİHV) and is in contact with many associations and institutions. Stating that his house was raided and he was detained under torture, Yıldız said, “I am on trial only because I am a human rights defender. The existence of human rights defenders is a guarantee for society. All our efforts are for the operation of the justice mechanism and the end of human rights violations.”
Stating that he is also a social worker, Yıldız said that they stand with the disadvantaged groups and that he is accused of fulfilling the requirements of his profession. In addition, Yıldız shared that his participation in Newroz was also the subject of accusation, and that his meeting with a lawyer about refugees in Van was also included in the indictment, and stated that his work in his field of expertise was also the subject of accusation.
Pointing out that the money transfers he made to his sister, brother and girlfriend were the subject of accusation in the indictment, Yıldız said that the treatment of the patients they treated was also left unfinished. Yildiz filed for release.
The court ruled that all detained defendants be released with judicial control measures.