At least six editors and writers associated with the daily Özgür Gündem (The Free Agenda) were in prison on December 1, 2013, when CPJ conducted its annual prison census. They were arrested as part of a massive government roundup of journalists associated with pro-Kurdish news outlets in December 2011. Authorities said the sweep was related to their investigation into the banned Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, of which the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is part. According to the indictment, all of the main pro-Kurdish media and news agencies in Turkey are directed by the KCK.
Kişin, Özgür Gündem editor, was being held at Kocaeli F Type High Security Closed Prison No. 1, according to an updated list of imprisoned journalists provided by the Justice Ministry in November 2013 at CPJ’s request. Kişin is charged with being a leader of the KCK press committee and taking orders from the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. As evidence, authorities cited three pro-Kurdish newspaper stories, one written by Kişin and two in which he was the subject. The prosecution also cited wiretapped telephone conversations in which Kişin spoke to people who wanted him to run obituaries for PKK members-Kişin declined because of legal constraints-and contributors seeking to publish articles in his newspaper. Kişin said his newspaper was a dissident publication but did not take orders from the KCK.
Genç, a columnist, was being held at Bakırköy Women’s Closed Prison in Istanbul on charges of leading an armed terrorist organization, the KCK, according to the Justice Ministry’s updated list. Authorities, citing statements from other suspects, alleged that Genç was a “high-level” member of the KCK press committee and had participated in committee meetings in northern Iraq. Authorities also cited as evidence Genç’s notes about ethnic conflicts in Spain, South Africa, and Bolivia, along with her phone conversations with other journalists. Genç’s request that a writer do a piece about a World Peace Day demonstration in Turkey, for example, was considered by authorities to be an order serving the PKK. Genç said she did not participate in the KCK press committee and that her communications with other journalists were professional in nature.
Erdemir, a reporter and editor, was being held at Bakırköy Women’s Closed Prison in Istanbul on charges of leading an armed terrorist organization, the KCK, according to the Justice Ministry’s updated list. Citing passport records and the statements of confidential witnesses, the government alleged that Erdemir participated in a KCK press committee meeting in Iraq in 2009. The indictment also cited as evidence her participation in a press conference in which Özgür Gündem editors protested police operations against Kurdish journalists, and an interview she conducted with a leader of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). Erdemir disputed the charges.
Demiral, a former editor, was being held at Bakırköy Women’s Closed Prison in Istanbul on the charge of being a member of an armed terrorist organization, the KCK. Citing passport records and the statement of a detained PKK member, authorities said Demiral participated in a 2005 KCK press meeting in Iraq. Authorities also cited the seizure of digital copies of banned books and a speech Demiral gave at a memorial ceremony that cast a deceased PKK member in a favorable light. Demiral denied any ties to the KCK and said she had traveled for journalistic purposes.
Güler, a former editor, was being held at Bakırköy Women’s Closed Prison in Istanbul on the charge of being a member of an armed terrorist organization, the KCK, according to the Justice Ministry’s updated list. Citing passport records and documents seized from an accused KCK member, the government alleged that Güler participated in the organization’s press committee meetings in Iraq in 2003 and 2005, and had met with KCK leader Murat Karayılan. Güler told authorities she did not participate in any KCK meetings.
Fırat, an editor and columnist for the paper, was being held at Kocaeli F Type High Security Closed Prison No. 1 in Kocaeli province on the charge of leading an armed terrorist organization, the KCK, according to the Justice Ministry’s updated list. Citing passport records, organization records, and the accounts of confidential witnesses, authorities alleged he participated in committee meetings in Iraq in 2003, 2005, and 2007. Authorities, who tapped Fırat’s phone conversations, said the journalist printed an article by KCK leader Karayılan, applying a penname that he had devised in conspiracy with another journalist. Fırat said his travel was for journalistic purposes and that he did not participate in KCK activities.
In most cases, the journalists faced up to 15 years in prison if convicted. Their trial was ongoing at Istanbul’s Fifteenth Court of Serious Crimes at Silivri Prison in late 2013.