Istanbul, February 16, 2016 -- Turkish authorities should immediately release Feyyaz İmrak, a correspondent for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Police on February 11 searched İmrak's home in Antalya, on Turkey's southern coast, confiscated his reporting equipment and notes, and arrested him, according to local press reports. He appeared before an Antalya criminal court on February 15 to hear the state's charges that he belongs to the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), which the Turkish government has designated a terrorist organization, according to press reports. İmrak is currently held at Antalya Prison, pending trial, his lawyer, Sidar Öztürk, told CPJ.
"We call on authorities in Antalya to release Feyyaz İmrak immediately and allow him to report without fear of reprisal," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said from New York. "Turkey must stop using its overbroad anti-terrorism laws to stifle press coverage it deems undesirable."
İmrak, who is also a university student, was detained in the course of an anti-terrorism investigation into the activities of students allegedly sympathetic to the PKK, according to prosecution documents reviewed by CPJ. Several other students have been detained in that investigation so far, according to those documents.
As part of his questioning by the Antalya Chief Prosecutor's Office, interrogators asked İmrak about his presence at demonstrations in recent months against Turkey's security crackdown in southeastern provinces of the country, which are heavily populated by ethnic Kurds, according to the prosecutors' report. The journalist denied he was a member of the PKK, and said he was covering the rallies for DİHA, according to the report.
Interrogators also questioned İmrak about his telephone conversations and reporter's notes from meetings with journalistic sources. İmrak denied all accusations of criminal activity during his interrogation and in his testimony to the Antalya court, according to prosecutorial and court documents, which CPJ has reviewed.
İmrak faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted on the charge of belonging to a terrorist organization.
Turkey remains among the worst jailers of journalists in the world. İmrak is at least the seventh Kurdish journalist Turkish police have arrested on suspicion of belonging to the PKK since December 1, 2015.