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People take souvenir photos along the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey in February 2018. Turkey continues to crackdown on the press; a Turkish court sentenced four journalists to life without parole on February 16, 2018, on charges relating to their journalistic activity. (Reuters/Osman Orsal)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of February 19, 2018

By Özgür Öğret/CPJ Turkey Representative on February 22, 2018 2:09 PM ET

Journalists acquitted, released

Turkish authorities on February 17 released from jail Deniz Yücel, Turkey correspondent for the German newspaper Die Welt, who had been imprisoned for a year pending investigation, according to Reuters. A Turkish court on the same day also indicted Yücel on charges of "propagandizing for a [terrorist] organization" and "provoking the people to hatred and animosity," according to news reports. The maximum penalty for the two charges is 18 years.

The daily Evrensel, citing the German Süddeutsche Zeitung's coverage, reported that Yücel's release was part of ongoing negotiations between Berlin and Ankara.

According to Süddeutsche Zeitung, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel secretly met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during the president's recent trip to the Vatican.

Yücel left Turkey on a German government plane the day he was released, according to Agence France-Presse.

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An Istanbul court ordered the release from prison of Nur Ener, an editor for the conservative daily Yeni Asya, and ordered Ener to be held under house arrest, the journalist's employer reported on February 20.

Turkish authorities arrested Ener on March 6, 2017, and accused her of having ties to the Hizmet network, also known as the Gülen movement, which the Turkish government blames for the failed coup attempt in July 2016 , according to Yeni Asya.

Ener's trial will continue on April 19.

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A court in the southeastern city of Hakkari on February 22 acquitted Şermin Soydan, a former reporter for the shuttered Dicle News Agency, who was charged with "obtaining secret state documents," according to a tweet from Mahmut Oral, a regional representative for the Journalist's Union of Turkey who attended the session, and a report by the pro-Kurdish Mezoptamya Agency.

Authorities jailed Soydan on May 12, 2017, and released him from prison on November 23 pending trial, CPJ has documented.

Journalists sentenced to life in prison

A Turkish court on February 16 handed life sentences without parole to Ahmet Altan, an internationally recognized novelist and former chief editor for the shuttered daily Taraf; Mehmet Altan, an academic, columnist, and TV host, most recently with shuttered outlets Can Erzincan TV and the daily Özgür Düşünce; Nazlı Ilıcak, a veteran journalist, columnist, and TV host, most recently with shuttered outlets Can Erzincan TV and the daily Özgür Düşünce; and Fevzi Yazıcı, former layout editor for the shuttered daily Zaman. The four, who have been jailed since 2016, were found guilty of attempting to topple Turkey's constitutional order in the failed July 2016 coup attempt through their journalistic activities, according to news reports.

Prisoners serving life sentences are kept in single-person cells and are allowed one hour out of their cells each day. They are allowed to make two phone calls and get two visits from direct relatives per month, according to a 2014 article by lawyer and human rights activist Gülizar Tuncer.

Journalists detained

Istanbul police on February 18 detained Elif Çetiner and Melike Ceylan, reporters for the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya Agency, while the pair was conducting street interviews in the Hacı Ahmet neighborhood, their employer reported.

Çetiner and Ceylan were released after questioning the same day.

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Police in the eastern city of Van on February 16 detained Ferhat Duman, a newspaper distributor for the pro-Kurdish daily Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, while he was distributing the day's paper, his employer reported. Duman remains in police custody; CPJ was unable to determine the reason behind his detention.

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Police on February 6 detained Çetin Kurşun, a former employee of the shuttered Kurdish language daily Azadiya Welat, the online newspaper Gazete Karınca reported.

A court in the city of Mardin on February 20 ordered Kurşun to be held pending trial on suspicion of "aiding a [terrorist] organization without being a member," according to Gazete Karınca.


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