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Protesters hold up copies of the pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem during a rally in Istanbul in June 2016. Turkish courts will proceed with 14 cases against a former publisher of the now shuttered newspaper. (AFP/Oan Kose)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of April 7, 2019

By Özgür Öğret/CPJ Turkey Representative on April 11, 2019 1:05 PM ET

14 trials in one week for Özgür Gündem publisher
Over the course of one week, Turkish courts agreed to proceed with 14 cases involving Ziya Çiçekçi, a former publisher of the shuttered pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem, the Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) reported. All but one of the cases involve accusations of "making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization" (PKK) over columns or news stories published in the daily, the report said. The other trial relates to an accusation of "insult" related to a former governor, the report said. Seven trials were started against Çiçekçi on March 14; five on March 15 and two more on March 21, the report said.

A court in 2015 found Çiçekçi guilty of "making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization" (PKK) and sentenced him to three years and nine months in prison. That verdict was upheld on January 17, 2019, the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency reported. Çiçekçi, who is not currently in custody, said he believes the additional trials were added now so that he will "rot in prison," the report said.

Publisher free in one case, behind bars in second trial

An Istanbul court ordered Kemal Sancılı, another former publisher of Özgür Gündem, to be released pending trial on April 10, but the publisher remains in prison while he serves a prison term from a conviction in a separate case, the leftist daily Evrensel reported. Özgür Gündem was shuttered by a government decree in October 2016. The next hearing for Sancılı is scheduled for July 3, Evrensel reported.

Freelancer detained dozens of times in Van

Police in the eastern city of Van detained freelance journalist Oktay Candemir during a raid on his home in the early hours of April 5, the Mezopotamya News Agency reported. After being questioned by the police, the journalist was brought to Van courthouse on April 7 to be questioned by a prosecutor, according to the report. The prosecutor asked that Candemir be detained pending trial on suspicion of "being member of a [terrorist] organization" (PKK), but the court released him under a foreign travel ban, the report said.

In an April 9 interview with the Mezopotamya News Agency Candemir said police have detained him dozens of times in the past couple of years and each time he was treated as a criminal for doing his job and told to stop reporting. "Each story we write is recognized as 'terrorism propaganda' by the prosecutors. And it is said that you are trying to [manipulate] perception with these stories. The prosecutor presents his own evaluation. The police reports are like this too," Candemir said.

Two journalists released under travel ban

An Istanbul court on April 10 ordered two journalists from the shuttered pro-Kurdish daily Özgürlükçü Demokrasi to be released pending the outcome of their trial, the Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) reported. News editor İshak Yasul and editor Hicran Ürün were ordered released under a foreign travel ban, the report said. Ürün and Yasul, along with the paper's publisher, İhsan Yaşar, editors Mehmet Ali Çelebi and Reyhan Hacıoğlu, and employee Pınar Tarlak, are on trial for the charges of "being member of a [terrorist] organization" (PKK), "making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization" (PKK) and "continuously printing and publishing the publications of a [terrorist] organization." The prosecutors accused two other employees--Ramazan Sola and Mizgin Fendik-of "knowingly aiding a [terrorist] organization without being a member. The trial is due to continue on June 28, according to the report.

Yasul has been detained since March 28, 2018 and Ürün since April 10, 2018, according to CPJ research. Özgürlükçü Demokrasi was seized and its staff taken into custody on March 28, last year, CPJ documented.


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