A court in Turkey’s eastern province of Van on March 24, 2017, ordered Ayhan Demir, owner of the local news website Çaldıran Haber Ajansı, jailed pending trial on terrorism charges, the news website Dihaber reported. Police arrested Demir on March 20 from his home in the Çaldıran district of Van.
According to the indictment, prosecutors charged the journalist with “being member of a [terrorist] organization” and “making propaganda of a [terrorist] organization.”
Demir’s website covers local news and politics, with a pro-Kurdish angle.
The indictment said a legal investigation into Demir began with testimony by secret witnesses that he was a member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK/KCK). Evidence presented against the journalist included his social media posts; a letter and a note written in Kurdish that police allegedly found in his home, behind a photograph; his presence at a roadblock during a dispute between the security forces and local residents; and secret witness testimony that alleged Demir was a press representative of the PKK/KCK in charge of propaganda and delivering published material to field militia.
Demir pleaded not guilty, according to the indictment. He said that the Facebook posts cited were reports from his news website; that the secret witness testimonies were lies; that he was at the roadblock to report on a dispute between the security forces and locals, and that he is not a member of the outlawed organization.
Demir’s lawyer Cihat Kaya told CPJ in September 2017 that the journalist is in good health and that his main complaint is that the trial had not started yet.
The journalist was being held in Van Prison, according to reports.