Turkey jails reporter, charges him with anti-state activities

September 23, 2015 3:53 PM

Istanbul, September 23, 2015--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the arrest and subversion charges filed against Gültekin Avcı, a columnist for the independent daily Bugün, and calls on Turkish authorities to drop the charges and release him immediately.

The 2nd Penal Court of Peace in Istanbul on Sunday ordered Avcı to be imprisoned pending trial on charges including "attempting to overthrow the government" and being a member of a terrorist organization, news reports said. Avcı was first detained on Friday in the western city of Izmir and then taken to the Istanbul court where he was officially arrested, reports said.

Prosecutors charged Avcı in connection with a series of columns he wrote in 2013 and 2014 for Bugün in which he alleged that the Turkish National Intelligence Organization, the country's spy agency, had links to a group called Tawhid-Salam, Today's Zaman reported. News reports said that Turkish authorities declared the Iranian-backed group a terrorist organization in 2014.

Avcı's lawyer said the journalist was not allowed to testify in court, news reports said. The lawyer also said Avcı had been mistreated in custody and denied food.

"Turkish authorities routinely use vaguely worded terrorism and subversion charges to jail journalists who cover sensitive subjects. This practice is unacceptable for a country candidate for European Union membership," said Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova. "The charges against Gültekin Avcı should be dropped, he should be released immediately, and Turkey should fundamentally reform its penal and anti-terror laws without delay."

Four police officers were also detained in connection with the same case, but three of them were later released, news reports said.

Avcı is a former prosecutor who began writing columns for Bugün, news reports said. He is also the legal representative for Hidayet Karaca, the chairman of the Samanyolu Broadcast Group who has been imprisoned since December on politicized anti-state charges.

Turkey was holding at least seven journalists in jail in connection with their work in December, when CPJ conducted its annual prison census. Six of them were held on anti-state charges.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The alert has been corrected to reflect that Izmir is a city in western Turkey.