At least nine journalists in four provinces arrested while covering protests against government-appointed trustees; writer Ayşegül Tözeren released after 3 days in custody; local journalist assaulted in Mersin
Custody period for 5 journalists under arrest in Mardin extended
Six journalists were arrested on 20 August 2019 in Mardin and Diyarbakır as they were covering demonstrations in protest of the government’s recent removal of the mayors of Mardin, Diyarbakır and Van from office.
Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporters Ahmet Kanbal and Mehmet Şah Oruç, JinNews reporter Rojda Aydın and journalists Nurcan Yalçın and Halime Parlak were arrested in Mardin while reporter Yelda Özbek was arrested in Diyarbakır. Özbek was released from custody on 21 August.
On 23 August, the detention period of the five journalists under arrest in Mardin was extended for four more days. Mezopotamya news agency reported that the prosecutor extended the investigation against the five journalists and launched an inquiry into their past journalistic activities.
Writer Ayşegül Tözeren released after 3 days in custody
Ayşegül Tözeren, a medical doctor, writer, literary critic and a columnist for Evrensel daily, was taken into custody on 20 August 2019 during a midnight police raid on her Istanbul home. The raid was conducted on the grounds of an anonymous “tip-off.” Tözeren was barred from seeing her lawyer during the first 24-hour period of her detention.
After having been held in custody for three days, Tözeren was brought to the Istanbul Courthouse on 23 August, where the prosecutor investigating her file referred her to court for release under judicial control measures, without taking her statement. The 4th Istanbul Criminal Judgeship of Peace ruled to release Tözeren under an international travel ban. The court minutes showed that Tözeren is a suspect in an ongoing investigation where the allegation is “membership in a terrorist organization.”
Two journalists arrested in Istanbul released by court
Two journalists were arrested on 22 August in Istanbul. Taylan Özgür Öztaş, a reporter for Özgür Gelecek newspaper, was arrested in a midnight police raid on his house, based on the claim that he took part in a demonstration on 20 August in Kadıköy in protest of the government-appointed trustees of Diyarbakır, Mardin and Van.
Tunahan Turhan, a reporter for the Etkin news agency (ETHA), was detained following a criminal record check by the police in Kadıköy, as he was preparing to cover a demonstration by the HDP’s local branch in protest of the government-appointed trustees.
Both Öztaş and Turhan were brought to the Kartal Courthouse on 23 August. There, they first gave their statements to a prosecutor, who referred both journalists to a court for release. The court released both journalists under judicial control measures.
Local journalist Sami Harunlar assaulted in Mersin
Mersin-based journalist Sami Harunlar, the owner of the local newspaper Barış, was attacked by armed assailants on 23 August 2019 near his home in the Tarsus district. The 58-year-old journalist was injured in the assault carried out by two unidentified men. Harunlar was hospitalized following the incident. Police has launched an investigation into the attack.
Video activist Oktay İnce briefly detained
Oktay İnce, a member of the video activist collective Seyri Sokak, was taken into custody on 22 August in Izmir along with 26 lawyers from the Izmir Bar Association as he was covering the lawyers’ press statement protesting the removal of Mardin, Diyarbakır and Van mayors from office. İnce was taken to the Izmir Police Department. He was released the same day after giving his giving his statement at the police department.
Court issues arrest warrant for musician Ferhat Tunç
The 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul issued an arrest warrant for musician Ferhat Tunç as part of a newly-launched criminal case against the musician. Tunç is charged with “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” in the new file. The accusation stems from Tunç’s Twitter posts between 2016 and 2018. Tunç said the arrest warrant was unlawful as the case was filed without the completion of the investigation and without a prosecutor hearing his statement.
Four journalists arrested in Diyarbakır
Four journalists were taken into custody on 19 August 2019 in Diyarbakır as part of sweeping operations across several cities. The operations followed immediately on the heels of the removal of Diyarbakır, Mardin and Van mayors from office late on 18 August by the government, which appointed trustees to run the three cities.
Ziyan Karahan, an editor for Mezopotamya news agency’s Kurdish edition, was arrested during a raid on her home in Diyarbakır as part of the operations. The news agency said Karahan was brought to the Diyarbakır Police Department’s anti-terror branch. The grounds for Karahan’s arrest were not immediately disclosed.
Turkish Journalists Union (TGS) Diyarbakır representative Mahmut Oral told P24 that journalist Tümen Anlı, the press and media relations officer for the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), Vedat Dağ, the press relations officer for the Diyarbakır branch of People’s Democratic Party (HDP), and Özgür Ülke, the press relations officer for the local Bismil Municipality, were also taken into custody during the raids.
The four journalists were among a total of 418 individuals, who also included local HDP politicians and municipal employees, arrested as part of the operations that took place in Diyarbakır in the early hours of Monday.
Of the 418 people arrested, 40 people -- including Ziyan Karahan -- were brought to the Diyarbakır Courthouse late on 22 August, after which they were released. Tümen Anlı and Vedat Dağ were among 44 others whose custody period was extended until 26 August.
Journalist Ergin Çağlar released after four days in custody
Journalist Ergin Çağlar, a Mersin-based reporter for Mezopotamya news agency, who was arrested on 16 August 2019 at the Mersin Courthouse, was released under judicial control measures by a Mersin court on 20 August.
Çağlar’s apartment in Mersin was raided on 14 August as part of an investigation by the Mersin Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, which had also issued an arrest warrant for the journalist.
Çağlar was brought to the Mersin Police Department for interrogation after being arrested at the Mersin Courthouse. The journalist is charged with “membership in a terrorist group” and a confidentiality order was in place concerning the investigation.
Court lifts travel ban on Peace Academic Toksöz
The 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul lifted the international travel ban on Professor Gülay Toksöz, one of hundreds of academics on trial on the charge of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” for being among the signatories of 2016’s Academics for Peace petition.
Toksöz’s lawyer had filed for the lifting of the ban following the Constitutional Court’s recent ruling in favor of the Academics for Peace. However, the court rejected the request. Toksöz’s lawyer filed a second petition demanding the lifting of the ban, saying that the trial court’s failure to recognize the Constitutional Court’s ruling would amount to misconduct and would also trigger a constitutional and judicial crisis.” The court ruled to lift the ban after the lawyer’s second petition. The ruling is significant in that it marks the first ever trial court ruling in favor of an academic on trial for signing the 2016 petition.
List of journalists and media workers in prison
As of 23 August 2019, at least 138 journalists and media workers in Turkey are in prison -- either in pre-trial detention or serving a sentence.The full list can be accessed here.