Sadiye Eser, an Istanbul-based reporter for the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency (MA), has been detained alongside her colleague Sadık Topaloğlu in Istanbul since late November 2019. Both are accused of being part of the intelligence unit for the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).
On the evening of November 29, 2019, Eser and Topaloğlu were detained on the evening of November 29, 2019, after leaving the agency’s office in the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul, according to MA. The agency reported that it later learned that police took the reporters into custody and had raided their houses. The report did not specify if the raids took place while the journalists were detained, or if police confiscated any items from the houses.
As of late 2019, the journalists’ lawyer had not responded to CPJ’s follow up questions about the raid.
The journalists were not allowed to see a lawyer for 24 hours, according to a November 30 report by their news agency. Lawyers for the Mezopotamya News Agency were told a court order for secrecy had been applied to the investigation and the lawyers were not given any information, the report said.
Police accused the journalists of “being a member of a [terrorist] organization” based on secret witness testimonies, MA reported.
On December 3, a court ordered both journalists to be held pending trial on suspicion of “being a member of a [terrorist] organization,” MA reported.
The court’s arrest order, reviewed by CPJ, featured paraphrased summaries of the journalist’s testimonies, which they repeated at court. The document did not include what authorities questioned the journalists about. As evidence of the journalists’ being alleged members of the intelligence units of the PKK, the court cited Eser’s travels to Iraq, a PKK anthem on her music player, and her refusal to give police the password for her phone. In Topaloğlu’s case, the court cited a witness statement and that he did not give police his phone password. Both Eser and Topaloğlu denied the accusations against them and stated that they have done nothing but journalism, according to the document.
Due to the court order for secrecy, the exact charges leveled against the journalists will not be made public until an indictment is prepared.
The journalists’ lawyers spoke with them in custody on December 1, MA reported. The lawyers said the journalists were in fine health and morale was high.
Eser is detained in Bakırköy Women’s Prison and as of late 2019, Topaloğlu was in Metris Prison, but is expected to be transferred to Silivri in Istanbul, MA reported.