Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses graduating students at the Imam Hatip religious school in Istanbul, May 26, 2017. (Reuters/Murad Sezer)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses graduating students at the Imam Hatip religious school in Istanbul, May 26, 2017. (Reuters/Murad Sezer)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of June 11, 2017

Twelve witnesses against journalist say testimony extracted under torture
Twelve out of 13 witnesses prosecutors called yesterday to testify that Nedim Türfent, a former reporter for the shuttered, pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), was a member of a terrorist organization recanted their written testimony, saying police extracted it under torture, the daily Evrensel reported. Police arrested Türfent in May 2016, CPJ reported at the time, and have held him in pretrial detention since.

Witnesses told Hakkari’s Second Court for Serious Crimes said they in fact did not know who Türfent was when they signed their testimonies. Some of the witnesses said police put guns to their heads to make them sign testimony incriminating the journalist. One said that police ripped out two of his teeth and threatened to take out more if he tried to recant his testimony later, according to Evrensel.

“I signed the testimony while my head was being banged on the desk. I did not know what was written on it,” one witness told the court, Evrensel reportred.

“I was detained for five days and subjected to torture,” another reportedly said.

“They made me sign the testimony by saying they would shoot me in the head,” said another.

The court adjourned until August 9 without releasing the journalist, Evrensel said.

Cumhuriyet online editor indicted on terrorism charges for tweet
Istanbul’s 28th Court for Serious Crimes yesterday indicted Oğuz Güven, the online editor for the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, on charges of “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization,” but ordered him released pending the conclusion of his trial, the daily newspaper Hürriyet reported.

Police arrested Güven last month after a tweet briefly appeared on Cumhuriyet‘s account, CPJ reported at the time.

Güven’s trial is scheduled to begin on September 14, according to news reports.

Pro-Kurdish news website blocked
The pro-Kurdish news website Gazete Sujin yesterday reported that Turkey’s telecommunications regulator the BTK had blocked access to the site.

The site’s report saying it was blocked was not available from the United States today. The website’s front page was also not accessible from the United States today.

[June 15, 2017]

MP and former editor Enis Berberoğlu jailed for life for being newspaper source
Istanbul’s 14th Court for Serious crimes today sentenced Enis Berberoğlu, a member of parliament with the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the former editor the daily newspaper Hürriyet, to life in prison, reduced to 25 years, on espionage charges, the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet reported today.

Berberoğlu was convicted of passing video apparently showing trucks bearing weapons bound for Syrian rebels under cover of humanitarian aid to former Cumhuriyet editor Can Dündar in 2015.

Dündar and the newspaper’s Ankara representative, Erdem Gül, were convicted of revealing state secrets that could harm national security, CPJ reported in May 2016. In his book Tutuklandık (“We were arrested”), written while the journalist was jailed pending trial last year, Dündar said that “a leftist lawmaker” gave him the footage. Prosecutors alleged that the lawmaker in question was Berberoğlu based on Dündar’s phone records, CPJ reported in August 2016. Berberoğlu denied the charges.

Berberoğlu was present at Istanbul’s Çağlayan Courthouse for the hearing, and was jailed in the courthouse afterwards, Cumhuriyet reported. Dündar, who has fled the country and has said he will not return while the state of emergency is in place because he does not trust he will get a fair trial, and Gül are still on trial for “committing a crime in the name of a [terrorist] organization without being a member.”

[June 14, 2017]

Police detain average of six people a day for social media posts
Turkish police last week detained at least 38 people for their activity on social media, the news website Diken reported yesterday, citing public data on anti-terrorism activity published by the Interior Ministry each week. On May 30, citing the same data, Diken reported that police detain an average of six people a day based on their social media posts.

Last week, Turkish police investigated 391 social media accounts, located 180 of them, and detained 38 people for their posts to social media, according to the ministry. The individuals were suspected of “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization, praising such organizations, declaring ties to these organizations, provoking the people to hatred and animosity, insulting state officials, harboring ill-will against the inseparable unity of the state and the safety of the lives of the people,” the ministry said.

[June 13, 2017]

Suspended sentence for journalist convicted of terrorism charges
Mersin’s Second Court for Serious Crimes convicted Cemil Uğur, a reporter for the leftist daily newspaper Evrensel, of “propagandizing for a [terrorist] organization” on the grounds that he posted a photographs of members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which the Turkish government classes as a terrorist organization, who were shot in Paris, Evrensel reported. The court imposed a 15-month, suspended sentence on the journalist and acquitted fellow Evrensel journalist Halil İbrahim Polat, whom police detained alongside Uğur as they covered an August 23 demonstration in Mersin.

Amnesty International chair arraigned on terrorism charges
A court late on June 9 arraigned Taner Kılıç, chair of Amnesty International’s Turkey chapter, on charges of membership in a [terrorist] organization. Prosecutors allege that he is linked to the Hizmet Movement, or FETÖ as the Turkish authorities call it, which the government blames for the failed, July 2016 military coup, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported on June 10.

Wire reporter apprehended, jailed
Police today arrested Zehra Doğan, a former reporter for the shuttered, pro-Kurdish news agency JİNHA, on the road between the southeastern provinces of Diyarbakır and Mardin, Evrensel reported. The journalist, who had been free her pending appeal on terrorism charges, was sent to Diyarbakır Prison because she lost her final appeal last week.

[June 12, 2017]