Berlin, September 30, 2020 — Swedish authorities must conduct a swift and thorough investigation into the attack on Turkish journalist Abdullah Bozkurt, and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On September 24, at about 2:40 p.m., three unidentified men attacked Bozkurt, a Turkish journalist living in exile, in the street outside his home in Stockholm, according to the journalist, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview, news reports, and a report by the Nordic Monitor, a Sweden-based news website that covers Turkish politics and intelligence activity, where Bozkurt works as executive director.
One of the men pulled Bozkurt to the ground, and then all three kicked him for several minutes before fleeing the scene, according to the journalist and those reports. Bozkurt told CPJ he suffered scrapes and bruises to his face, arms, and legs, and was treated at a local hospital and then released.
Bozkurt filed a report to police following the attack; he told CPJ that authorities have opened an investigation and found eyewitnesses to the incident.
“Swedish authorities must conduct a swift and thorough investigation into the attack on journalist Abdullah Bozkurt, find the perpetrators and those who ordered the attack, and bring them to justice,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Swedish authorities must maximize their efforts to prevent such attacks and ensure that Bozkurt and other exiled journalists can work without fearing that their lives are at risk.”
Bozkurt told CPJ that he believes the attackers were the same three unidentified men who, the day before the attack, had stood in the street outside his home and shouted for him to come outside because they “wanted to talk.” He refused to meet them, and filmed a video of the men, which he said he turned over to police following the attack.
“I think this attack was targeted and is part of an intimidation campaign against exiled Turkish journalists with the clear message that we should stop speaking up against the Turkish government,” Bozkurt told CPJ. Nordic Monitor frequently publishes articles critical of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as well as allegations of malfeasance by Turkish diplomats and intelligence agents, according to CPJ’s review of the outlet’s recent coverage.
Bozkurt told CPJ that he regularly receives threats on social media over his coverage of Turkey, including threats to his and his family’s safety, but said that they mainly came from people living in Turkey, and he had not received threats specifically relating to the attack in Sweden.
Bozkurt has a warrant out for his arrest in Turkey for his alleged membership in the Gülen movement, which the Turkish government considers to be a terrorist group and blames for the failed 2016 coup attempt, he said. Bozkurt was granted asylum in Sweden in 2016, after the Turkish government shuttered the pro-Gülen daily newspaper Zaman, where he worked, and the Muhabir news agency, which he co-founded, following the coup attempt, he said.
In an email to CPJ, a Swedish police representative said that an investigation into the attack was ongoing, and that details could not be released until charges were filed against the suspected perpetrators. Following the publication of this alert, on October 2, a police representative emailed CPJ saying that authorities had leads in the investigation but had not made any arrests.
The representative did not comment on CPJ’s questions about what security measures authorities could take to protect Bozkurt.
On February 26, 2020, exiled Chechen blogger Tumso Abdurakhmanov was assaulted in his Sweden apartment in what he said was an assassination attempt by Chechen government agents, as CPJ documented at the time.