The following questionnaire, prepared 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 pre-trial 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.
Semiha Şahin filled out the questionnaire during a prison visit by her lawyer in June 2019.
Name: Semiha Şahin
Etkin News Agency (ETHA) editor Semiha Şahin was arrested in Istanbul on 13 April 2018 during a midnight police raid on her home. Şahin was placed in pre-trial detention by a court alongside ETHA reporter Pınar Gayıp, and two others, on charges of “membership in a terrorist group” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group.”
Further information about Şahin’s trial can be found here.
Prison: Bakırköy Women’s Prison
Detained since: 19 April 2018
In pretrial detention or under sentence: pre-trial detention
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 prison cell with 24 others. The cell can accommodate up to 36 people.
2. How many hours a day are you allowed to go out to the courtyard or prison yard?
We are allowed to go out on our cell’s courtyard between 07:30 a.m. and 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?
The food served here is too oily; they also use too much tomato paste, which is unpleasant. This could lead to permanent [health] issues for people who have been in detention for a long period. I do not have any health issues requiring a certain food regimen.
4. Have you had any problems in meeting your day-to-day needs such as heating, warm water for shower/bath, laundry, cleaning, etc.?
No we haven’t. We’ve heard that in other prisons, cleaning supplies were provided by the prison management whereas here we have to purchase the cleaning supplies we need.
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?
No, I haven’t.
6. Have you had any problems sending/receiving letters?
The letters we have been sent are usually delivered too late. Some of the letters that have been sent to me got lost before I could receive them. Additionally, we are not allowed to send separate letters in a single envelope although each letter is addressed to the same person. The prison management says this is forbidden due to security reasons, but we believe this is an arbitrary practice wherein the prison management aims to boost its financial benefit while at the same time minimizing its workload.
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?
Yes, I have. Socialist publications are not allowed in the prison. We have not been given the Yeni Yaşam newspaper since March 1. The prison management said this was due to the [newspaper’s coverage of] hunger strikes, but although the hunger strikes have ended, the ban is still in place. Also, we are not allowed to get the periodicals Atılım, Özgür Gelecek, Mücadele Birliği, Yeni Demokrasi, Marksist Teori, Teori ve Politika. There is also a limitation on the number of books we can have. Each of us is allowed to have 10 books. We exchange old volumes with new ones; which is problematic regarding long-term work requiring a lot of research.
8. How often can your lawyers or your immediate family visit you? Are other relatives or friends allowed to visit you?
My lawyers and my relatives have been regularly visiting me.
9. Have you been visited by a member of the parliament? If yes, could you please name those who came to your visit?
Yes, I was visited by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Utku Çakırözer. A number of lawmakers from the opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP) also sent me postcards of solidarity on special days such as International Women’s Day, Newroz and May Day.
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 haven’t asked to use the computer. I learned through previous experience that such a demand would remain unanswered. I have not filed any petitions.
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?
No, I haven’t.
12. Have your demands in your petitions been met? Which of your requests have or have not been met?
I haven’t filed any petitions. I didn’t have any problems getting the books I requested from the prison library.
13. Please name any other problems/demands/shortcomings not mentioned above.
I demand freedom.