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 series is also aimed at helping improve their prison environment.
Hüseyin Aydın answered the questionnaire during a prison visit by P24’s lawyers in June 2018.
Name: Hüseyin Aydın
Hüseyin Aydın, a former reporter for the now closed down Cihan News Agency, stood trial alongside 25 other journalists purported to be part of the media structure of the “Fetullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ),” the name given by the government to the Fethullah Gülen network, which it accuses of being the perpetrators behind the attempted coup of July 15, 2016. The 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which oversaw the trial, convicted Aydın of “membership in an armed terrorist organization” on March 8, 2018, and sentenced the journalist to 6 years and 3 months in prison.
Prison: Silivri Prison, Istanbul
Detained since: July 30, 2016
In pretrial detention or under sentence: Under sentence pending appeal
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 share a cell with two other inmates. May 24, 2018, marked the 670th day of my imprisonment. I haven’t been able to talk to anyone else apart from the inmates I share my cell with. I haven’t been allowed to take part in any kind of social or cultural activities [in the prison]. We are not even allowed to make eye contact with other inmates.
2. How many hours a day are you allowed to go out to the courtyard or prison yard?
I am allowed to go out on the courtyard in front of my prison cell. It’s a 30 square meter enclosed area covered with wire mesh above. We have no contact with anyone else. The courtyard is accessible for around 10-12 hours every day. I have never been allowed to a shared section. There is a football field [in the prison compound]. Inmates accused of other [terrorist] group membership charges are allowed [to use it], but we are not.
3. Have you had any problems regarding the food served in prison? Does the food meet your health and/or dietary requirements?
The food served in the prison is not good at all. They serve precooked food, such as precooked meatballs. Those who are ill are given diet food, but it’s not edible. We eat food that we buy from the prison commissary. Which is of course troublesome, financially.
4. Have you had any problems in meeting your day-to-day needs such as heating, warm water for shower/bath, laundry, cleaning, etc.?
We are only allowed a very restricted list of items. For example, we are not allowed to have an extra towel other than the one we use to dry our hands and face. We are only allowed to have a very tiny washbowl, and we try to wash [our day to day laundry] in it. So many items among things we need are rejected [by the prison administration] based on excuses such as an item’s color or the designs on it.
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?
There is an infirmary in the prison. Not being able to immediately go to a hospital in emergency situations is a huge problem. There is no doctor [in the infirmary] at night. As for dental healthcare, I often have to wait for an appointment for months.
6. Have you had any problems sending/receiving letters?
We were not allowed written correspondence for more than a year. The court later lifted that restriction, but it takes too long to receive letters.
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 cannot read the newspaper of our choice. We can only read those that are permitted by the prison management. So many books and periodicals are restricted. For instance, books by Ahmet Altan are banned. We are allowed to have 10 books [in our cell], but not more. Yeni Asya [newspaper] is also banned because it is billed as “improper.”
8. How often can your lawyers or your immediate family visit you? Are other relatives or friends allowed to visit you?
I do not have a lawyer. Only spouses, children and parents are allowed visitation, other relatives are not. We are allowed non-contact visitation for one hour every week, and contact visitation once every two months. I am not allowed to sit next to my wife during contact visitation. Friends are not allowed to visit at all.
9. Have you been visited by a member of the parliament? If yes, could you please name those who came to your visit?
No MP has ever visited me in prison. Deputies choose which jailed journalist to visit according to that journalist’s news value; they visit certain journalists in order to increase their own popularity. Neither a lawyer, nor a civil society representative or an MP has ever visited me.
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?
I was allowed to use a computer under very heavy restrictions: just two hours a week. I am not allowed to use the library. We can only access our case files if courts choose to send our files to us. We are not allowed to access UYAP. I had a lot of difficulty preparing my defense statement.
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?
A group of prison guards harrassed the group of journalists that also included myself as we were being transferred to the prison on the night of July 30, 2016, at around 02:00 a.m.. There were those among us who were violently dragged, slapped, etc. But filing complaints is difficult. Wherever we turn to, we often get a response that is against us. We are suffering a great deal of persecution.
12. Have your demands in your petitions been met? Which of your requests have or have not been met?
None of my demands have been met. I asked to take part in sports and cultural activities in jail, but the court rejected my requests. They did not even let us have more than one towel. Nor did they consent to change the visitation time. Prison management makes all the decisions here. They would not even let you watch the TV station you want.
13. Please name any other problems/demands/shortcomings not mentioned above.
Having our pictures taken is forbidden. Sitting next to your wife during visitation is forbidden. So is exercise, or chatting with other inmates, or having a musical instrument in prison. So many books are forbidden. Phone calls are limited to just 10 minutes every two weeks. We are subjected to random body search. We are neither allowed to watch the TV station of our choice nor read the newspaper of our choice. I am suffocating. I need some fresh air. I want these wire mesh to be removed so that I could “inhale not the air, but the sky,” just like [the poet] Ülkü Tamer wrote once. They have jailed my body, but at least my dreams could be free.
They clean the corridors every day so that the compound looks fine. But intellectually we are subject to so much persecution that there is a deafening silence, as though [we were inside] a very deep pit. There is so much restriction and oppression so that journalists and intellectuals in here are unable to come up with new ideas; so that they lose their critical viewpoint. It has almost been two years now [since I was jailed], but the repression has not reduced a bit. I never knew democracy was such a heavy burden to carry. Even so, we will still carry it to the spot it deserves to be. No one should doubt that.