Deniz and Ermişwere in jail on December 1, 2013, when CPJ conducted its global prison census. They were arrested as part of a massive government roundup on December 2011 of journalists associated with pro-Kurdish news outlets. 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.
Deniz, a reporter for the socialist daily Evrensel, was being held at Kocaeli F Type High Security Closed Prison No. 1 in Kocaeli province on charges of being a member of an armed terrorist organization, the KCK; attempting to change the constitutional order by force; and producing propaganda in favor of the same organization, according to an updated list of imprisoned journalists provided by the Justice Ministry in November 2013 at CPJ’s request. Citing passport records, authorities alleged that Deniz had participated in KCK press committee meetings in Iraq in 2003, 2005, and 2009, and had met with KCK leader Murat Karayılan. The indictment said authorities had seized news reports, documents, and banned books from Deniz that allegedly linked him to the group. The indictment described one of the documents as a “report of the publishing board” of the daily Özgür Gündem, an internal document that authorities said had cast Öcalan in a favorable light and had described efforts to further the aims of his organization. Deniz, who had once worked for the pro-Kurdish Özgür Gündem, denied participating in KCK meetings and said his travel was for journalistic purposes.
Ermiş, a member of the editorial board of the political bimonthly Özgür Halk ve Demokratik Modernite (Democratic Modernity), was being held at Bakırköy Women’s Closed Prison in Istanbul on charges of being a member of an armed terrorist organization, the KCK; and producing propaganda in favor of the same organization, according to the Justice Ministry’s updated list. Citing passport records, the indictment said Ermiş participated in a 2009 KCK press committee meeting. The government also said it had seized notes from her property that cast Öcalan and other PKK members in a favorable light. The indictment considered those notes as being taken during organizational training. Ermiş disputed the charges.
The journalists face 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.