Istanbul, February 1, 2024 – Turkish authorities must stop the country’s security forces from harassing the press and investigate accusations by Mahmut Altıntaş, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency, that police beat him in detention, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
Police in the eastern province of Adıyaman took Altıntaş into custody on suspicion of terrorism propaganda on Saturday, January 27, freed him pending investigation, and then immediately took him into custody a second time and held him overnight. Altıntaş told CPJ and local news organizations that police officers hit him the first time he was in custody.
“The treatment of Mahmut Altıntaş, who was taken into custody twice, is absolutely unacceptable even in an environment where members of the press are routinely abused for doing their work,” said Özgür Öğret, CPJ’s Turkey representative. “Turkish authorities must investigate Altıntaş’ complaint against those he said used force against him, hold them accountable, immediately return his confiscated equipment, and take action to prevent unnecessary arrests and violence by security forces.”
Altıntaş, based in Şanlıurfa province, traveled to Adıyaman on Saturday to report on the aftermath of a 2023 earthquake when he was taken into police custody on suspicion of terrorism propaganda and questioned about 19 of his social media posts, including links to articles written by him and others on Mezopotamya and articles from Kurdish language newspaper Xwebûn, according to the sources above.
Altıntaş said a police officer told him to keep his head low while being taken to see a prosecutor at the city courthouse following the police interrogation. The journalist told CPJ that five officers surrounded him when he refused to lower his head.
“I chanted the slogan ‘Biji Çepemanya Azad,’ which in Kurdish means ‘long live the free press’ to protest the situation. I received a blow on my face after that. One of the officers was holding my neck; another put his finger in my mouth. The others were holding my arms,” said Altıntaş. He said he was then brought inside the courthouse as the officers were holding his arms, pressing his head down, and insulting him.
Altıntaş was later released under judicial control pending investigation by an Adıyaman court, but before he could leave the courthouse, he was informed that an officer filed a complaint against him for “resisting the police.” He was once again taken into police custody by the order of a prosecutor and spent a night in jail before another court released him under judicial control pending investigation. Adıyaman police confiscated his phone, computer and camera, Altıntaş told CPJ.
The journalist’s lawyer has filed a criminal complaint against the police officers Altıntaş says were involved in the abuse.
CPJ emailed the Adıyaman chief prosecutor’s office and the Interior Ministry of Turkey, which oversees the police, for comment but didn’t receive any reply.