Kadri Gürsel, left, is handcuffed by police outside an Istanbul prison on May 29. Gürsel, a former columnist for Cumhuriyet, and Turkey chair of the International Press Institute, was freed later that day. (AP/DHA)
Kadri Gürsel, left, is handcuffed by police outside an Istanbul prison on May 29. Gürsel, a former columnist for Cumhuriyet, and Turkey chair of the International Press Institute, was freed later that day. (AP/DHA)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of May 26, 2019

More journalists beaten in Turkey
On May 25, three men beat Selahattin Önkibar, a columnist for the ultranationalist opposition news website Odatv, near his house in Ankara, the leftist daily Evrensel reported. Önkibar is the fifth journalist to be attacked in Turkey this month, in apparent retaliation for their work, CPJ has found.

Shop owners intervened when Önkibar was on the ground and being attacked, according to the report. The assailants escaped in a car and the journalist was taken to a hospital. Önkibar said he believes he was attacked because of his criticism of Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party and a political ally of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Evrensel reported.

Police detained four suspects on May 26, who were released on probation by a court, the report said.

At least four other journalists have been attacked in Turkey this month, CPJ has found: Yavuz Selim Demirağ was attacked in Ankara, and İdris Özyol in Antalya on May 15; Ergin Çevik was beaten in Antalya on May 20; and Hakan Denizli was attacked in Adana on May 24.

Sezgin Tanrıkulu, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), asked for a parliamentary investigation into the attacks on journalists during a session on May 27, but the proposal was rejected on May 28 by AKP votes, despite support from the opposition The Good Party and The People’s Democratic Party, according to reports.

Newspaper distributor says Istanbul police beat him

Hasan Ceyhan, a distributor for the pro-Kurdish daily Yeni Yaşam, said that police and subway security officials in Istanbul beat and threatened him, his employer reported.

Ceyhan, who has epilepsy, is cited in his paper as saying that he lost consciousness while in the Gayrettepe subway station on May 28. He said that paramedics helped him, and police also attended. The newspaper distributor said that the police checked his bag, found a copy of the newspaper, and took him to a security booth at the station. “They made me sit there. Later, a cop came [and] he slapped me in the face without saying anything. I reacted back with a quick reflex due to my condition. After that, the subway security guard and two cops beat me for more than an hour,” Ceyhan is cited as saying in the report.

Ceyhan said that during the attack he was insulted, threatened with death, and called a “traitor” because he had a copy of Yeni Yaşam. The distributor said his eardrum was shattered during the beating and that despite being threatened, he planned to file a criminal complaint.

Istanbul police did not immediately respond to CPJ’s email requesting comment.

Cumhuriyet’s Kadri Gürsel briefly returns to prison

Kadri Gürsel, a former columnist for Cumhuriyet, and Turkey chair of the International Press Institute, returned to prison on May 29, the independent news website Bianet reported in English.

Gürsel was among the Cumhuriyet trial defendants who lost the chance to delay the execution of their sentences despite the Supreme Court of Appeals waiting to rule on the sentencing of several of their co-defendants. Six of the co-defendants turned themselves in to authorities in April but Gürsel did not immediately go back to prison due to time already served, Cumhuriyet and Reuters reported at the time.

Gürsel tweeted on May 29 that he was called by a prosecutor’s office on May 20 and told to turn himself in within 10 days for the execution of the sentence. Images taken by The Associated Press showed him being taken in handcuffs to Metris Prison in Istanbul. He was released later that day under judicial control.

Court rules on case of Azadiya Wela employee

On May 30, a court in the southeastern city of Mardin sentenced Çetin Kurşun, a former employee for the shuttered Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat, to three years in prison, but released him for time served, the daily Yeni Yaşam reported.Kurşun was originally charged with “being a member of a [terrorist] organization” (PKK) but the court dismissed that charge and instead convicted him of “making continuous propaganda for a [terrorist] organization,” the report said.

According to reports from January, a 12-page indictment against Kurşun and his brother, who has been acquitted, accused Kursan and his brother of founding and running a PKK website called Ciwannews.

Kurşun pleaded not guilty in a hearing on February 7, the leftist Etkin News Agency (ETHA) reported. It did not specify if Kurşun denied or confirmed having any connection to Ciwannews.

Kurşun was first detained in February 2018, CPJ documented. Allegations of his arrest being connected to journalism were not made public until earlier this year.

Pro-Kurdish reporter denied access to government building

Police on May 27 blocked Ahmet Kanbal, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency, from entering the municipality building of the southeastern province of Mardin, according to the reporter’s tweets and his employer’s report. Police told Kanbal they were acting on an “order from above” and when he asked for a written version of that order he was told to come back the following day, according to report. The journalist returned on May 28 and was not allowed in the building and was not given any document. Kanbal said he believes he was denied access because of his reporting on alleged corruption by the trustee management of the municipality, according to the report. He said that he planned to file a criminal complaint.

Worker jailed after sharing cartoons of president

Deniz Avcı, a construction worker from the western province of Balıkesir, was sentenced to two years and two months in prison on May 24 for “insulting” the president by sharing two cartoons on social media, Evrensel reported. The cartoons were originally published by Cumhuriyet and Evrensel in 2017. One of the cartoons is by former Cumhuriyet cartoonist Musa Kart and the other is by Sefer Selvi, a resident cartoonist with Evrensel. Kart is currently in prison as one of the defendants in the Cumhuriyet trial.

Avcı pleaded not guilty and said he shared the cartoons as criticism, not insult. He said he was not remorseful because he did not believe he had committed a crime, according to the report. Avcı is free pending appeal. Neither cartoon had been banned or been previously part of a legal case, according to the report.