Nedim Türfent

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Police detained Türfent, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), in the eastern province of Van on May 12, 2016, CPJ reported at the time. The Yüksekova Court of Penal Peace in Hakkari province ordered him jailed pending trial in Hakkari prison the following day, according to the leftist daily newspaper Evrensel.

According to court documents CPJ reviewed, prosecutors asked the journalist about a DİHA story on Kurdish Civil Protection Units (YPS), which the Turkish government classes as a terrorist organization, and news he shared on his Twitter account.

The prosecution cited witness testimony, including from someone it said was a captured YPS member, accusing Türfent of being a member of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK/KCK) and the offshoot group, the YPS, who propagandizes for the banned groups by interviewing their members and taking photographs and videos of them.

According to the court documents, Türfent responded that he was not the one who took the pictures or videos his organization used for the story in question, and that he had not written it. He denied being a member of the PKK/KCK, and noted that it was his job to interview people, including members of illegal organizations. "Interviewing organization members does not make one an organization member," he said, according to the court record.

The prosecution also cited witness accounts that Türfent photographed trenches and blockades Kurdish rebels prepared in the eastern Turkish town of Yüksekova. In response, the journalist said he documented the events because they had news value, and that all the witnesses' claims against him were unsupported by evidence.

The court ruled that the witness testimonies were enough to create a "reasonable suspicion" that Türfent was a "member of a [terrorist] organization," and ordered him jailed pending trial.

DİHA reported in May 2016 that Türfent received threats from police officers prior to his arrest. He told his employer that people who claimed to be police officers threatened him at his home, and that police officers told relatives, "Nedim should be careful."

According to court documents CPJ reviewed, Türfent told the court that he was "subjected to inhumane treatment and torture" while being detained.

All of the 13 initial witnesses that prosecutors called to testify that Türfent was a member of a terrorist organization later recanted their written testimony, saying police extracted it under threat or torture, the daily Evrensel reported after the hearing on June 14, 2017. The witnesses told the court said they did not know who Türfent was when they signed their testimonies, and some said that police put guns to their heads to make them sign. One said that police ripped out two of his teeth and threatened to take out more if he tried to recant later, according to news reports. "I signed the testimony while my head was being banged on the desk. I did not know what was written on it," one witness told the court. "I was detained for five days and subjected to torture," another said. "They made me sign the testimony by saying they would shoot me in the head," said another, according to press reports.

At a hearing in August 2017, another witness who is a minor identified in press reports only by his initials D.B., told the court that authorities pressured him to testify against Türfent and that the testimony had not been taken in the presence of a lawyer, the press freedom group P24 reported. D.B. recanted his testimony and told the court that he did not know the defendant.

Türfent attended the hearing via teleconference, but without audio because of technical problems. Despite all witnesses saying they were pressured to falsely accuse the journalist of terrorism, the court did not release Türfent.

Türfent is detained in a maximum-security prison in Van, his lawyer, Harika Günay, told CPJ in September 2017. Authorities denied Türfent’s requests to attend his trial hearings in person, the lawyer said. Günay said he would raise the issue with the Constitutional Court and, if necessary, the European Court of Human Rights.

Türfent has been kept in solitary confinement since his arrest and although he has access to mail, almost all of the books he has requested are not allowed in prison, the lawyer said.

A court in Hakkâri court on December 15, 2017, found Türfent guilty of "being a member of a [terrorist] organization," and sentenced him to eight years and nine months in prison, according to reports. The reports cited defense lawyer Harika Karataş as saying that 19 out of 20 prosecution witnesses recanted their testimony at Türfent's trial and said that they were subjected to police threats and, in some cases, torture, to testify against the journalist. Despite the discrepancy, the court accepted some of the witnesses' original testimony as evidence, the reports also said.

Türfent’s lawyers told CPJ in November 2018 that a local appeals court rejected their appeal that that the case was sent to the national Supreme Court of Appeals.

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