Kurdish journalist’s detention extended amid controversial witness testimonies

Kurdish journalist’s detention extended amid controversial witness testimonies
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In Turkey, journalist Abdurrahman Gok remains detained on controversial terrorism charges, with his recent court hearing criticized for lack of substantial evidence and raising concerns about press freedom in the regio

A Kurdish journalist who was put behind bars in Turkey after documenting the killing of a university student during the Newroz celebrations in 2017 was denied release on Thursday, in a tightly watched court session held in Turkey's southeastern Diyarbakir.

Journalist Abdurrahman Gok from Mezopotamya Agency (MA) appeared before the judge for the first time following his arrest on April 27, in a case where he is being accused of "membership in a terrorist organization" and "propagating for a terrorist organization." The allegations against him are primarily based on the testimonies of Umit Akbiyk—a frequent witness in several cases concerning Kurdish journalists and politicians—and an anonymous witness.

The defense team argued that relying solely on witness statements, especially from a protected witness, as grounds for arrest is unconstitutional, highlighting the importance of hearing their testimonies in court. They also criticized the lack of substantial evidence against Gok from the prosecutor, stating that he is being detained merely for his journalistic activities.

During the trial, the prosecution requested the continuation of Gok's detention but his lawyers countered, asserting there was no evidence of him being involved with an armed group or any risk of him fleeing or tampering with evidence. Despite these pleas, the court ruled to extend Gok's detention and adjourned the hearing until December 5, planning to hear from witness Umit Akbiyk and the confidential witness at the next hearing.

Ahead of the trial, a press statement was issued outside the Diyarbakir Courthouse by various organizations and political representatives, which condemned the ongoing detention of journalists and the perceived stifling of press freedom in the region, lamenting the repetitive cycle of journalists being prosecuted for their activities.

Journalist Gok had previously uncovered a murder during the Newroz celebrations in Diyarbakir in 2017, photographing the moment university student Kemal Kurkut was shot by the police. For his "organization propaganda" through his reporting, Gok had been sentenced to 1 year, 6 months, and 22 days in prison, a verdict upheld by the appellate court.