President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addresses members of Turkey's parliament in Ankara on October 16, 2018. A court convicted three journalists of insulting the president in the pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem. (AFP/Adem Altan)
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addresses members of Turkey’s parliament in Ankara on October 16, 2018. A court convicted three journalists of insulting the president in the pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem. (AFP/Adem Altan)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of October 18

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Court sentences journalists over Özgür Gündem campaign
An Istanbul court on October 24 sentenced three journalists to jail for “insulting the president” in the now shuttered pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem, the daily Evrensel reported.

The charges relate to an edition of Özgür Gündem in which Ihsan Çaralan, a columnist for Evrensel was acting as guest editor as part of a solidarity campaign. CPJ in June 2016 documented at least 55 cases of journalists being prosecuted for participating in the campaign.

In the October 24 hearing, the court ruled that a column Çaralan wrote on the day he was guest editor insulted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Evrensel reported. The court handed Çaralan a suspended sentence of 14 months in prison, reduced for good behaviour in court to 11 months and 20 days.

The court sentenced Hüseyin Aykol, who was Özgür Gündem’s editor-in-chief, to two years, two months and eight days in prison. The journalist remains free pending appeal, according to reports. İnan Kızılkaya, the paper’s responsible news editor, was handed a suspended sentence of two years, two months and eight days in prison.

Appeals court upholds journalists’ sentences

A local appeals court in Istanbul on October 22 rejected the appeals of 18 journalists who were sentenced to prison on terrorism-related charges in March, the independent news website Bianet reported on October 24.

According to Bianet, the court rejected the appeals of Abdullah Kılıç, Ahmet Memiş, Ali Akkuş, Atilla Taş, Bayram Kaya, Bünyamin Köseli, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Cihan Acar, Cuma Ulus, Davut Aydın, Habip Güler, Halil İbrahim Balta, Hanım Büşra Erdal, Hüseyin Aydın, Muhammet Sait Kuloğlu, Mustafa Erkan Acar, Mutlu Çölgeçen and Ünal Tanık. Earlier this year, CPJ documented details about the journalists, their outlets, and the charges filed against them.

When the court handed down the sentences, two of the journalists– Taş and Murat Aksoy–had already served their time; Halil İbrahim Balta was released due to health reasons on February 6; Acar and Köseli were released in August 2017, CPJ documented at the time. They have not been taken back into custody, according to reports. The other journalists were already in in prison.

Lawyers representing the journalists told CPJ they will take their cases to the national Supreme Court of Appeals.

Reporter threatened

Nalin Öztekin, a reporter for the online outlet Artı Gerçek, was threatened with violence due to her work, her employer reported on October 22. An anonymous person called the journalist and warned, “Be careful with what you write, we will break your fingers,” according to the report. The outlet said it believes the threat was about the journalist’s reporting on a trial.

Journalist says he fears being deported

Swiss authorities rejected an asylum claim from Mustafa Mamay, a journalist who has worked with various pro-Kurdish outlets and who fled Turkey for Syria about three years ago after being prosecuted for his journalism, the news website Bianet reported on October 18.

Mamay says officials rejected his asylum claim because he arrived in Switzerland via South Africa, which the officials said they considered a safe country, according to the report. The journalist told the news website he has been at the airport since October 18, and that he fears he will be deported to Turkey if he is forced to return to South Africa.

Police question video journalist, confiscate archive

Police in the western city of Izmir on October 16 detained Oktay İnce, a reporter and video activist for a group that documents protests in Turkey, the leftist news website Sendika reported. İnce was released after being questioned about “making terrorism propaganda.” Police also searched his house and confiscated almost 20 years’ worth of archives, according to the report.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The fourth item in this blog post has been updated to correct the name of the journalist seeking asylum.]