Dolan, reporter for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), was detained by the police while working in the Sur District of Diyarbakır, southeastern Turkey, on February 19, 2016. He was arraigned by the Diyarbakır’s First Court of Penal Peace on charges of being a member of a terrorist organization on February 23.
Dolan had been following urban clashes between the Kurdish rebel group the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H) and Turkish security forces for months when he was trapped in fighting in Sur District, which was placed under military curfew on February 17. Dolan was trapped in a basement with others, and DİHA issued a statement voicing concerns about the reporter, recalling that at least one journalist had been killed while sheltering in a basement in the southeastern town of Cizre in early February.
Dolan left the area when a security corridor was opened during fighting on February 19, but was detained with four other people, including three relatives, as he tried to flee. In late 2016 he was in Diyarbakır Prison, pending trial.
DİHA Editor Dicle Müftüoğlu told BBC Turkey while Dolan was trapped: “We wanted to send a reporter of ours to Sur before the curfew. Mazlum said he had a lot of relatives in Sur and that he knew those neighborhoods well. He insisted. He went before the curfew started. We learned everything we knew about Sur from the news Mazlum had been sending for 80 days. He is a friend of ours whose success in transferring information [and] covering the atmosphere [there] is praiseworthy.”
CPJ examined Dolan’s testimony before prosecutors, in which the journalist stated he had entered Sur while the curfew was not in effect. Dolan told interrogators he did not have ties to any terrorist organization, and neither did the relatives with whom he had stayed.
As the pro-Kurdish IMC TV channel reported, Dolan stayed at the home of his aunt, Fatma Ateş, while in Sur. Ateş was seriously wounded by a bomb shortly before the family used the security corridor to get out, Dolan told prosecutors. Dolan and his relativeswere detained shortly after they brought Fatma Ateş to a nearby ambulance. She later died, he told prosecutors.
According to the record of the interrogation, Dolan’s lawyer, Resul Tamur, told prosecutors that his client was in Sur for journalistic purposes and that he could not have been participating in the fighting because one of his feet is disabled.
In the state’s request that the court order Dolan jailed pending trial, which CPJ has examined, Prosecutor Kenan Karaca asserted that it was “suspicious” that civilians risked their lives by staying in the area, and that there were secret witness testimonies implicating Dolan’s relatives in terrorism. Dolan’s name listed at the bottom of the document, with the others, but does not mention that he told prosecutors he was a journalist. The document contained no mention of secret witness testimony implicating him in terrorism.
Diyarbakır’s First Court of Penal Peace, in its order to hold Dolan pending trial, noted that the Ateş family denied the charges against them. The document notes that the family’s lawyers provided evidence that the family had phoned the police and the office of the governor to request to be evacuated from the area.
The state adduced as evidence that traces of explosives were found on the family members’ clothes. The defense argued that weeks of fighting meant that the area was full of dust, including traces of chemicals, and that the family had not had access to running water for bathing for weeks during the curfew. The document does not specifically say that Dolan was among those found to have traces of explosives on his clothes.
The court stated there was a “strong suspicion” that Dolan and the others were members of a terrorist organization based on the fact that they remained in the area where the fighting was most intense, secret witness testimonies, and police reports, alongside the traces of explosives found on their clothes, and ordered them held pending trial on charges of being members of a terrorist organization.
On September 24, 2016, Diyarbakır’s Fifth Court for Serious Crimes approved prosecutors’ request to indict Dolan and the other defendants on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, reports. CPJ examined the request for an indictment, which also features his testimony before prosecutors. The document states the journalist had two mobile phones when he was detained and that neither had content that would be considered criminal.
The first hearing in Dolan’s case was expected to happen in December, Evrensel newspaper reported, without specifying the date.