Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gestures during an interview in New York, September 20, 2016. (Reuters/Brendan McDermid)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gestures during an interview in New York, September 20, 2016. (Reuters/Brendan McDermid)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of November 13

Two years in prison for newspaper editor
Diyarbakır’s Fourth Court for Serious Crimes yesterday sentenced İsmail Çoban, responsible news editor of the Kurdish-language daily newspaper Azadiya Welat to two years and four months in prison for “propagandizing for a [terrorist] organization,” the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which the Turkish government classifies as a terrorist group.

The court found Çoban guilty for material published in the February 21, 2014, edition of Azadiya Welat, the leftist newspaper Evrensel reported.

The government last month used emergency powers it assumed after a July 2016 failed military coup to order Azadiya Welat closed by decree.

UN Special Rapporteur calls on Turkey to release jailed journalists
UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye, concluding a four-day visit to Turkey, today called on the Turkish government to release journalists jailed in the country immediately.

“Nobody should be held in detention for expressing opinions that do not constitute an actual incitement to hatred or violence,” Kaye wrote in his preliminary report.

[November 18, 2016]

Newspaper editor arrested on terrorism charges
Police in Turkey’s western province of Balıkesir detained Şaban İba, a former editor of the shuttered, pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem, the leftist newspaper Evrensel reported on its website today.

İba was detained from his home on suspicion of “being a member of a [terrorist] organization,” Evrensel reported.

Police on August 16 raided Özgür Gündem‘s main office in Istanbul, arrested its staff and board members, implementing a court order temporarily closing the newspaper on accusations that it was a mouthpiece for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey classes as a terrorist organization and sought to incite separatism. The government used emergency powers it assumed after a failed July 2016 military coup to order the newspaper and 14 other media outlets closed by decree.

[November 16, 2016]

Three journalists tried on terrorism charges
Istanbul’s 14th Court for Serious Crimes today began trying Huseyin Aykol, the former editor of the shuttered, pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem, and Oncu Akgul, a journalist for the socialist newspaper Alınteri, on charges of spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the leftist daily Evrensel reported. The court today adjourned their trial until February 21, the newspaper reported.

The charges against Akgul stem from the Özgür Gündem‘s coverage on the day she symbolically acted as co-editor of the newspaper to protest authorities’ relentless judicial harassment of the newspaper’s staff before police raided and shuttered its office on August 16.

Some 50 people face prosecution for participating in a protest that saw dozens of journalists, academics, and activists show solidarity with the newspaper by taking turns acting as co-editor of the newspaper for a day. Courts have indicted 36 participants, who now face trial, according to Evrensel.

İnan Kızılkaya, the newspaper’s former responsible news editor, is a codefendant in each of those 36 cases.

[November 15, 2016]

Newspaper CEO jailed pending trial on terrorism charges
Istanbul’s Ninth Court of Penal Peace late on November 11 ordered Akın Atalay, CEO of the embattled opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, jailed pending trial on charges of being member of an armed terrorist group.

Atalay was in Berlin when authorities jailed nine Cumhuriyet journalists and directors pending trial on charges of two rival organizations the Turkish government considers terrorist groups: The Kurdistan Workers’ Party and the Hizmet Movement–or the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), as the government calls it. Police detained him as he disembarked from his flight returning to Istanbul on November 11.

French journalist deported
Turkish authorities last night deported Olivier Bertrand, a reporter with the French news website Les Jours, the website reported.

Police in the southern Turkish town of Gaziantep on November 11 detained Bertrand as he interviewed refugees from Syria, prompting French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault to call publicly that the French citizen be released, according to Reuters.

Bertrand was arrested because he was not accredited as a journalist with Turkish authorities, the DHA News Agency reported in a report carried by Hürriyet‘s website.

[November 14, 2016]