Two journalists attacked and detained; WSJ reporter given prison sentence and ETHA journalist Tolu remains in prison

 

Two local journalists in Van province were first assaulted and then taken into police custody on October 14, while working on a report about a new construction site.

Van journalists İdris Yılmaz and Erhan Akbaş reported on the case of Mesut D., who allegedly molested at least ten children in a school in Erciş, a district of Van. The two journalists reportedly received threats after the report appeared.

On October 14, journalist Oktay Candemir tweeted that the two reporters had gone missing. Another journalist, Cüneyt Yavuz, claimed Yılmaz and Akbaş were assaulted by a person named Şahin Yağar.

Later, journalist Candemir said that the two reporters were in a state hospital, which was surrounded by a group of armed men. He also said that the two reporters were detained in the hospital and taken to the police station.

It wasn’t immediately clear why they were detained, but the armed group around the hospital were related to a contractor, who was unhappy about the journalists’ plans to report on an ongoing road construction in Van.

The two journalists were released later in the evening, Birgün reported.

Mesut D., the alleged offender in the two journalists’ report, was released on the grounds of lack of evidence, and the two journalists were being tried for “violating the confidentiality order” on the case.

WSJ reporter handed down prison sentence

A Turkish court on October 10 handed down a two-year and one-month prison sentence to Wall Street Journal reporter Ayla Albayrak.

The journalist was charged with spreading propaganda on behalf of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), considered a terrorist organisation in Turkey.

The journalist is currently in New York. Her sentence relates to a story titled ‘’Urban Warfare Escalates In Turkey’s Kurdish-Majority Southeast,’’ published by WSJ in 2015.

WSJ Editor-in-Chief Gerard Baker commented on the charges: “This was an unfounded criminal charge and wildly inappropriate conviction that wrongly singled out a balanced Wall Street Journal report.”

He added: “The sole purpose of the article was to provide objective and independent reporting on events in Turkey, and it succeeded.”

WSJ reported that Albayrak plans to appeal the ruling.

ETHA reporter Meşale Tolu remains in prison

An Istanbul court ruled to keep the arrest warrant in place for Meşale Tolu, a translator with the shuttered ETHA news agency and ruled for the release of imprisoned ETHA photo-journalist Ulaş Sezgin.

On October 11, the two journalists appeared before a court for the first time since their arrest on May 5. The court ruled to keep Tolu in prison, but release Ulaş Ömer Sezgin.

Tolu, who also holds German citizenship, is accused of terror related charges for attending a funeral for militants who died fighting the Islamic State. A secret witness testimony against her is also included in the indictment.

She said she was being kept in prison with her two-year old, as her husband is also imprisoned.

Tolu and her lawyers argued that attending a funeral falls under the scope of freedom of faith, and requested her release.

The next hearing will be held on December 18.

Azadiya Welat employees released

Şirin Çoban and İlker İlkan, two employees of the Azadiya Welat newspaper which was shut down under a cabinet decree, who were imprisoned on terror charges for 13 months, were released on October 12 in their first hearing.

The Mersin 8th High Criminal Court ruled for the release of Çoban and İlkan, who were arrested in September 2016 on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

İlkan testified in court via the court conferencing system SEGBİS at Ermenek Prison where he is being kept, and Çoban, also through SEGBİS, at Tarsus Prison.

Both journalists denied the allegations. Çoban, who testified in Kurdish, said she was only distributing newspapers.

İlkan also asked for his release, saying he had been imprisoned for a long time just for distributing newspapers.

The court released the two employees, given the time period they’ve already spent in prison. They will have to check with their local station at regular intervals.

P24 updates lists of journalists in prison

With the recent updates and in light of recent information about the release of several journalists previously unknown to P24, we have updated our list of journalists in prison. The updated list can be viewed here. Currently, at least 156 journalists are imprisoned in Turkey.

Spain says won’t extradite writer Doğan Akhanlı

Spanish authorities have said they will not extradite a writer who was arrested in the country on a request from Turkey.

The Justice Ministry of Spain announced on October 13 that writer Doğan Akhanlı, who was detained in Spain on a request from Turkey and later released on bail, will not be extradited to Turkey. The ministry said the decision not to extradite Akhanlı was given by the Cabinet in line with a recommendation from Justice Minister Rafael Catala.

Akhanlı, a resident of Germany originally from Turkey, was detained on August 19 while vacationing in Spain.

Ahmet Şık given Raif Badawi award

Turkish journalist Ahmet Şık was given the Raif Badawi award for courageous reporting at the 69th Frankfurt Book Fair. The award is given in honor of Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger has been imprisoned for five years.

Şık has been imprisoned in Turkey since November of last year. His lawyer Can Atalay accepted to award on his behalf.

A message from Ahmet Şık was read during the ceremony. The message said: “It is as painful as it gives me proud being given this award in the name of raid Badawi, who has been imprisoned and tortured for expressing his thoughts in another country, as someone who has been imprisoned for doing journalism, expressing the truth and expressing his opinions.” I leave the shame of pressuring of a journalist for trying to perform his job, which is his duty and responsibility, to the perpetrators of that shame.”

Journalists Ersin Çaksu and Harun Epli convicted on insult charge

On October 12, a court handed down a five-month prison sentence to former Özgürlükçü Demokrasi Editor-in-Chief Ersin Çaksu and Newsroom Manager Harun Epli on charges of “denigrating the Republic of Turkey and the military of the state.”

Eren Keskin convicted over column

Lawyer Eren Keskin was given six months in prison over a column that was published in the shuttered Özgür Gündem daily. The sentence was converted to a monetary fine.

The Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance heard the trial on October 12, where Keskin was accused of “denigrating the agencies and institutions of the Republic of Turkey,” in her April 19, 2016 column titled “Radical Evil.”

The six-month term was converted to a TL 3000 monetary fine.

Three newspapers start letter campaign for rights defenders

Evrensel, Cumhuriyet and Birgün newspapers have started a campaign where they will publish letters sent to the eight human rights defenders who were detained on July 5 on the Büyükada island.

İdil Eser, the Director of Amnesty Turkey; İlknur Üstün, Women’s Coalition; Günal Kurşun, Human Rights Agenda Association;Nalan Erkem, Citizens’ Assembly; Özlem Dalkıran, Citizens’ Assembly;

Veli Acu, Human Rights Agenda Association; Şeyhmus Özbekli, lawyer Nejat Taştan; Association for Monitoring Equal Rights

Ali Gharavi; Digital strategy and wellbeing consultant, writer

Peter Steudtner; Trainer for non-violence, Digital strategy and well-being consultant were detained on July 5. Taştan and Özbekli were later released on probation.

The eight who remain in prison are barred from sending or receiving letters. İlknur Üstün, who is being held in Ankara Sincan Prison, can receive letters.

 

Click here to view the list in a spreadsheet file; where figures on shuttered media and civil society associations are also available on separate tabs.