Mazlum Özdemir

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

At least seven editors and reporters with the Dicle News Agency, or DİHA, who were arrested as part of a massive roundup of journalists associated with pro-Kurdish news outlets in December 2011, remained in prison on December 1, 2013, when CPJ conducted its global prison census. Authorities said the sweep was related to their investigation into the banned Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, of which the 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.

Özdemir, a reporter, was being held at Kocaeli F Type High Security Closed Prison No. 1 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, email traffic, and the accounts of confidential witnesses, authorities alleged that Özdemir attended KCK committee meetings in Iraq, had contact with the Fırat editor Kayhan, and produced journalism that cast the group in a favorable light. Authorities said they intercepted encrypted electronic messages showing that Özdemir handled financial transfers for the KCK. Authorities also cited Özdemir’s news stories as evidence of culpability. Özdemir told authorities that his email messages involved news reporting and personal matters. Authorities confiscated books, CDs, a hard drive, cellphone, and a hunting rifle. Defense lawyer Özcan Kılıç told CPJ that the weapon was an antique handed down by his client’s grandfather; Özdemir was not charged with a weapons violation.

In most cases, the journalists faced up to 15 years in prison if convicted. Their trial was ongoing in late 2013.