Diren Yurtsever, news editor for the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency (MA), was one of 10 journalists detained for alleged terrorist links in various Turkish cities in October 2022. She was taken into custody in Istanbul and is being held without charge in Sincan prison in Ankara. The reason for the mass arrest remains unclear, but lawyers representing the journalists told CPJ that all of them have denied any connection with a terrorist group.
Employees of MA, which supports the political and cultural rights of Turkey’s ethnic Kurdish citizens, have been subject to frequent prosecution as the Turkish authorities associate them with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has clashed with Turkey over Kurdish independence for decades. Yurtsever was briefly detained on August 15, 2022 on suspicion of provoking “animosity and hatred” on social media, though she was not charged at the time.
On October 25, police simultaneously raided several homes and one newsroom in the cities of Ankara, Diyarbakır, Istanbul, Mardin, Urfa, and Van as part of an investigation led by the Ankara chief prosecutor’s office, arresting 10 journalists perceived as pro-Kurdish. One, Zemo Ağgöz, was released the next day on house arrest to care for her newborn baby.
The remaining detainees were questioned on suspicion of “being a member of a [terrorist] organization,” and about their journalistic activities; they were placed under arrest though they have not been officially charged, according to news reports. Yurtsever was asked why she works for MA. She told prosecutors she had no ties to terrorism and had worked for news outlets since 2016, including the now-shuttered Gün TV and another shuttered news website, Dihaber, according to documents reviewed by CPJ.
MA reported that police officers manhandled and threatened the journalists, handcuffing them for up to 15 hours during the transfer to Ankara and refusing to provide a medical assessment to confirm that some of them had been injured in custody. Some were kept in solitary confinement or given insufficient water, according to MA. Emrullah Acar, an MA reporter among the detainees, told colleagues from prison that Sincan does not provide reading materials in Kurdish, and denied inmates personal letters and healthcare.
CPJ emailed the Turkish Ministry of Justice in November 2022 for comment, but did not receive any reply.