Editors and writers representing a variety of news outlets were arrested as part of a massive government roundup 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.
Kuray, a reporter and photographer for the leftist daily Birgün, and an occasional contributor to Fırat, was being held at Bakırköy Prison for Women and Children in Istanbul on charges of being a member of the press committee of the KCK, which allegedly orchestrated coverage furthering the organization’s goals. As evidence, authorities cited photos and stories by Kuray, along with wiretapped phone conversations with İsmet Kayhan, a Fırat News Agency editor wanted by the government on charges of leading the KCK press committee in Europe. Prosecutors alleged Kuray’s work served as propaganda for the PKK, particularly in coverage of the alleged use of chemical weapons against Kurdish rebels in southeast Turkey, and police operations against Kurdish politicians and lawyers for Abdullah Öcalan, the convicted leader of the PKK. Police photographs of Kuray at Kurdish demonstrations were also presented as evidence.
Deniz, a reporter for the socialist daily Evrensel, was being held at Kocaeli F Type Prison in Kocaeli on charges that he helped lead the KCK’s press committee. 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 also 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 Prison for Women and Children in Istanbul on charges of being a member of the KCK press committee. 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.
Aslan, editor for now-defunct, pro-Kurdish opinion magazine Özgür Halk ve Denokratik Modernite (The Free People and Democratic Modernity), was being held at Kocaeli F Type Prison on charges of being a member of the KCK’s press committee. As evidence, authorities cited seized text messages and tapped phone calls concerning published stories, distribution of the periodicals, and police efforts to block distribution. Authorities also said they found one of Aslan’s fingerprints at his office, citing that as evidence that he worked for the “terrorist organization’s media organ.” Citing passport records, authorities alleged that he participated in KCK press committee meetings in Iraq. Aslan has disputed allegations of KCK ties.
In most cases, the journalists faced up to 15 years in prison upon conviction.