Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addresses local government officials in Ankara, January 19, 2017. (Yasin Bulbul/Presidential Press Service/Pool via AP)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addresses local government officials in Ankara, January 19, 2017. (Yasin Bulbul/Presidential Press Service/Pool via AP)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of March 12

Editor sentenced to nine years in prison
The 7th Court for Serious Crimes in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakır yesterday sentenced Aydın Atar, former news editor for the shuttered Kurdish-language daily newspaper Azadiya Welat, to nine years, four months, and 15 days in prison on charges of “propagandizing for a [terrorist] organization,” the news website Dihaber reported. The journalist is free, pending appeal.

He has been fighting the charges since 2011.

Court dismisses terrorism charges against press freedom advocates
Istanbul’s 22nd Court for Serious Crimes yesterday dismissed charges of “propagandizing for a [terrorist] organization” against Hakkı Boltan and Nevin Erdemir–co-chairs of the shuttered, pro-Kurdish Free Journalists Association and previous co-editors of the shuttered pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem, the leftist daily newspaper Evrensel reported. The two were among dozens of journalists, activists, intellectuals, and artists who symbolically acted as co-editor of Özgür Gündem for a day in order to protest authorities’ persistent judicial harassment of the newspaper’s staff.

The court also dismissed charges against Hasan Şanlı, a religious leader from the Alevi sect, for his participation in the campaign, Evrensel reported.

The court found that the criminal investigation into the three had not begun within the legally prescribed period of four months from publication, the report said.

The same court also acquitted Boltan, Erdemir and Reyhan Çapan, former responsible news editor for Özgür Gündem in a second trial for the newspaper’s coverage, Evrensel reported.

[March 17, 2017]

Police detain journalist from home
Anti-terrorism police detained Hayri Demir from his home in Ankara this morning, his employer, the news website Dihaber reported today. The police took the journalist to a sports arena in the Beştepe neighborhood which has been used as a detention center since the failed July 2016 military coup.

Dihaber reported that because the investigation is subject to a court order of secrecy, Demir’s lawyers will not know anything about it until it produces an indictment.

Demir’s family home in the southeastern province of Bitlis was also damaged by police there in a simultaneous raid, the report said.

[March 16, 2017]

Pro-government hackers deface BBC Twitter account
Pro-government hackers took control of several high-profile Twitter accounts, including that of BBC North America, according to wire reports.

“#NaziGermany. #NaziHolland. This is a small #Ottomanslap for you. See you on #April16. I wrote what? Learn Turkish,” the hacker wrote. The French Economy Ministry and a German sporting club were also affected, according to Agence France-Presse.

[March 15, 2017]

Court refuses to release imprisoned editor, publisher
Istanbul’s 23rd Court for Serious Crimes today refused to release İnan Kızılkaya, the former responsible news editor for the shuttered pro-Kurdish daily newspaper Özgür Gündem, and Kemal Sancılı, the newspaper’s former publisher, pending the conclusion of their trial on terrorism charges, the news website Bianet and the daily newspaper Özgürlükçü Demokrasi reported.

Kızılkaya, whose position at the newspaper made him legally responsible for everything it published, faces more than 100 criminal cases in connection with the newspaper’s coverage. Sancılı appeared via videoconference from prison, according to news reports.

The court also refused to lift travel bans imposed on formerly jailed members of the newspaper’s board, or to lighten the requirements of their probation, according to media reports.

German officials not allowed to meet imprisoned Die Welt correspondent
A German Foreign Ministry spokesman told journalists in Berlin that German consular officials have not been allowed to visit jailed Die Welt Turkey correspondent Deniz Yücel, a dual citizen of Turkey and Germany, Deutsche Welle’s Turkish service reported
yesterday. The correspondent has been jailed since February 14.

Deutsche Welle also reported yesterday that German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said that Yücel’s continued detention is among factors complicating greater economic cooperation between Germany and Turkey. The minister said he was in contact with his Turkish counterpart regarding some “opportunities,” but that strained relations between the countries were making it “extremely difficult to continue working on them.”

[March 14, 2017]