Police officers are seen in Ankara, Turkey, on November 23, 2020. Police in Van recently detained journalist Dindar Karataş. (AP/Burhan Ozbilici)

Turkish police raid Mezopotamya News Agency, detain journalist Dindar Karataş

Istanbul, November 24, 2020 – Turkish authorities should stop harassing journalists working at the Mezopotamya News Agency, immediately release reporter Dindar Karataş, and return any equipment confiscated from the outlet, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

This morning, police officers in the eastern city of Van arrested Karataş at his home, and then brought him to the local office of his employer, the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency, where they searched the premises and confiscated equipment, according to reports by the outlet and by local independent news website Bianet.

Authorities stated that Karataş will not be allowed to see a lawyer for his first 24 hours in custody, and have not disclosed any allegations against him, according to those reports.

Previously, on October 6, police raided the same office and detained Mezopotamya News Agency reporters Adnan Bilen and Cemil Uğur, according to news reports. Authorities have not disclosed the motive for those detentions, but the reporters have been questioned about their work while in detention, according to reports.

“Turkish authorities must cease detaining journalists at the Mezopotamya News Agency, and let them work freely and safely,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Reporter Dindar Karataş and all other journalists recently arrested in Van should be released without delay, any confiscated equipment should be returned, and authorities should cease employing such tactics to harass and obstruct the press.”

Police detained Karataş, a general assignment reporter who often covers politics and human rights, in relation to an investigation by the chief prosecutor’s office of the northeastern city of Erzurum, according to his employer, which did not include any details on the nature of that investigation.

During their search of the newsroom, police confiscated letters sent to Karataş, the journalist’s laptop, another laptop belonging to the office, and three hard drives, according to his employer’s reports.

CPJ emailed the Erzurum prosecutor’s office for comment, but did not immediately receive any reply.