The following questionnaire, conducted by P24 Platform for Independent Journalism, is part of a survey aimed at revealing the conditions faced by journalists in prison in Turkey, either in pretrial detention or under a sentence. In addition to documenting the problems journalists might be facing during their time in prison, this survey is also aimed at helping improve their prison environment.

Hanım Büşra Erdal filled out the questionnaire during a prison visit in July 2018 by P24’s lawyers.

 

Name: Hanım Büşra Erdal

Hanım Büşra Erdal, a court reporter for the shuttered Zaman and Yeni Hayat dailies, was taken into custody on 26 July 2016 at her family’s home in the western province of Manisa as part of a crackdown on journalists suspected of links with the banned movement led by Fethullah Gülen. Erdal was indicted for “terrorist group membership” based on some of her Twitter posts and news reports, along with 28 other journalists. At the end of that trial, the court convicted Erdal of “membership in an armed terrorist organization” and sentenced her to 6 years and 3 months in prison.

More information about the case against Erdal can be accessed here.

Prison: Bakırköy Women’s Prison

Detained since: 29 July 2016

In pretrial detention or under sentence: under sentence

 

1. Are you detained with other inmates or are you in solitary confinement? How many people do you share the prison ward/cell with?

I am detained along with three other inmates.

2. How many hours a day are you allowed to go out to the courtyard or prison yard?

The courtyard is open from 07:00 a.m. until 08:00 p.m.

3. Have you had any problems regarding the food served in prison? Does the food meet your health and/or dietary requirements? 

I did not encounter any problems with food. But they generally use poor quality oil. At the end of the day, it’s prison food, so it’s hard to distinguish between good prison food and poor prison food.

4. Have you had any problems in meeting your day-to-day needs such as heating, warm water for shower/bath, laundry, cleaning, etc.?

Cleaning products and tools are subject to limitation. We have no problem with hot water.

5. Do you suffer from any chronic illnesses? Do you have to take regular medication? Do you have access to a medical doctor and/or psychiatrist whenever you need? Have you had any difficulty obtaining your prescribed medicines?

I’ve been having trouble accessing the infirmary. Also getting certain medications can be difficult, especially those that are not provided by the state.

6. Have you had any problems sending/receiving letters?

The restriction I was imposed concerning written communication was lifted around a year ago. Since then I haven’t had any problems. 

7. Have you faced any limitations concerning books, newspapers or other publications you asked for? How many books are you allowed in your prison ward/cell? 

We are allowed to have five books each. Currently we can get all the newspapers we want. At first we had some problem getting certain newspapers, but later that problem was fixed.

8. How often can your lawyers or your immediate family visit you? Are other relatives or friends allowed to visit you?

My immediate family is entitled to visit for 35 minutes per week, which is very little. The law stipulates that a minimum of 30 minutes should be allowed for visitation, but in other prisons longer visitation is allowed. Additionally, the first face-to-face and contact visits I received following the lifting of the state of emergency were both carried out as though the state of emergency was still in place; both visits were recorded.

9. Have you been visited by a member of the parliament? If yes, could you please name those who came to your visit?

When I was first arrested, Republican People’s Party (CHP) MPs Sezgin Tanrıkulu, Utku Çakırözer and Mahmut Tanal visited me as a group; we had brief meetings with each of them. Another CHP deputy, Atilla Sertel, also visited me once.

10. Have you faced any problems preparing your defense statement? Do you have access to a computer, to the library, and to your case file while working on your defense statement?

There was a restriction on using the section designed for inmates to work on their defense statements. I am not allowed to use the library either. Additionally, you need to pay a fee in order to get a print-out from the computer.

11. Have you been subject to ill-treatment or any physical or verbal harassment? If so, have you filed a complaint, and if yes, what happened following your complaint?

I was strip-searched when I was arrested. They tried to conduct a body search without giving me a gown first.

12. Have your demands in your petitions been met? Which of your requests have or have not been met? 

We often have to file a petition more than once. We seldom get response to our petitions. If one wants to get a response, they need to file their petition with the first warden.

13. Please name any other problems/demands/shortcomings not mentioned above.

My most urgent and pressing demand is justice and freedom.