Die Welt correspondent Deniz Yucel, pictured after his February 2018 release from prison, has testified about his treatment in a Turkish prison. (AFP/Yasin Akgul)
Die Welt correspondent Deniz Yucel, pictured after his February 2018 release from prison, has testified about his treatment in a Turkish prison. (AFP/Yasin Akgul)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of May 12, 2019

Journalists beaten, hospitalized in Ankara and Antalya
At least six men used baseball bats to beat Yavuz Selim Demirağ, a columnist for the nationalist daily Yeni Çağ, in Ankara on the evening of May 10, the same day that he appeared as a guest on a political talk show on the nationalist Türkiyem TV, his employer reported.

The journalist, who was driven home by a colleague after the show, was attacked just before entering his house and had to be taken to the hospital, the report said. Six suspects were taken into custody, but released after questioning by prosecutors, according to reports. The alleged assailants said the attack was related to a traffic dispute, according to reports. The nationalist opposition The Good Party (IYI) suggested in parliament on May 15 that it set up a research committee to look into the attack on Demirağ, but it was outvoted by the leading Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), reports said.

In a separate attack on May 15, İdris Özyol, a local journalist from the southern city of Antalya, was beaten by a group of unidentified assailants, the leftist daily Evrensel reported. Özyol was attacked in front of the offices of Akdeniz’de Yeni Yüzyıl, the local newspaper that he works for, and was left with injuries to his head and his hand according to the reports.

CPJ and 20 other press freedom and freedom of expression organizations sent a letter to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressing serious concern and asking him to publicly condemn the attacks.

Die Welt’s Deniz Yücel says he was tortured in Turkish jail

Deniz Yücel, a correspondent for the German outlet Die Welt, said in court testimony to an Istanbul court that he was tortured during his incarceration in Turkey, Deutsche Welle reported on May 10. Yücel, who has German-Turkish citizenship, was released from prison on February 16, 2018, after being detained for a year without charge, and went to Germany. The same date that he was released, Turkish authorities issued an indictment, CPJ documented at the time.

According to Yücel’s testimony, he was “tortured for three days” by prison guards who physically and verbally assaulted him. The journalist said he was called a “traitor to the fatherland” and a “German agent” and forced to bow to a trash can. He received blows to feet, chest, back and the back of his head and was punched in the face, according to his testimony.

In another report of Deutsche Welle (in Turkish), from May 13, Yücel’s lawyer Veysel Ok said the allegation of torture was not new. He said that they filed a complaint two years ago but the prosecutors dropped the investigation after questioning the guards but not his client. The guards were reassigned, according to Ok.

Journalists detained over protests, unpaid reporting fines

  • Three journalists were briefly detained in separate cases in Istanbul on the evening of May 10, according to reports. Canan Coşkun, a former reporter for the opposition daily Cumhuriyet, was taken into custody for an unpaid fine of 12,600 Turkish lira (US$2,091) over a story she wrote for her previous employer. In a tweet posted the following day, Coşkun said that her newspaper was supposed to have paid, and that she was released after paying the fine. The newspaper reimbursed the journalist later, according to a tweet that she posted on May 14.
  • İrfan Tunççelik, from the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) and freelancer Zeynep Kuray, who were covering protests in Istanbul on May 10, were taken into police custody, according to reports. The protests were related to a hunger strike by thousands of prisoners in Turkey over authorities preventing the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan from seeing his lawyers, according to the Associated Press. Kuray was following a group of prisoner relatives at Eminönü District near the Spice Bazaar, while Tunççelik was following another group who wanted to march toward the Bakırköy Prison in Bakırköy District, reports said. The journalists were transferred to court by prosecutors where they were released under judicial control on May 13, the independent news website Bianet reported.
  • Soner Karabulut, a reporter for the leftist news website Gazete Fersude, was taken into custody during house raids by the police in the Gazi neighbourhood, on May 14, his employer reported. The journalist was detained alongside members of the leftist political party ESP (the Socialist Party of the Oppressed). Karabulut was released with others on May 15, according to a leftist Etkin News Agency (ETHA) report.

RTÜK orders Voice of Russia off air

Turkey’s official broadcast watchdog RTÜK ordered RS Radio (The Voice of Russia) to halt the next five broadcasts of a daily radio show hosted by the journalist Zafer Arapkirli, and ordered the station to pay administrative fees, the leftist daily Birgün reported on May 13.

The report said that the RTÜK order came after Arapkirli discussed police violence during the Gezi events of 2013 on his morning show, while criticizing a recent development in which a police officer convicted of killing a protester in 2013 had his sentence reduced, the report said.

Court acquits journalist in MİT Trucks trial

  • An Istanbul court hearing the retrial of the “MİT Trucks trial” ruled on May 15 that Erdem Gül, formerly from Cumhuriyet, should be acquitted and Enis Berberoğlu, former chief editor for Hürriyet, should not be penalized, Bianet reported. Can Dündar, Cumhuriyet‘s former editor who was a defendant in the original case, was excluded from the retrial while authorities await his arrest, according to reports. Dündar, who is CPJ’s 2016 International Press Freedom awardee, is in exile in Germany. The trial is connected to reports published in Cumhuriyet in May and June 2015 that alleged Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) had transferred weapons to Syria under the cover of humanitarian aid.
  • A local appeals court in Istanbul revoked a seven-year, six-month prison sentence for Seda Taşkın, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency, for one charge, but approved a sentence for a second charge, the news website T24 reported. The court acquitted Taşkın of “aiding a [terrorist] organization without being a member” but upheld a suspended one-year, one-month and 11-day sentence for “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization,” according to the report. Taşkın, who spent close to a year behind bars was released pending appeal on January 17, CPJ documented at the time.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The first item in the Crackdown Chronicle has been updated to correct where the attack took place.]