Turkey: Nine Kurdish journalists released

Turkey: Nine Kurdish journalists released
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The reporters were in custody for over six months over accusations of "being a member of a terrorist group."

Nine Kurdish journalists who were under arrest since 29 October 2022 and face "terror" charges were released by a Turkish court, Evrensel's Damla Kirmizitas reported.

The court hearing on Tuesday was attended by the chair of Turkey's Journalists' Union (TGS), representatives of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), International Press Institute (IPI), Human Rights Association (IHD) of Turkey, and families of journalists.

Oznur Deger, a reporter for all women news agency JinNews, made her defense statement in Kurdish that was simultaneously translated to Turkish.

Recounting her arrest, she told the panel:

"The police at the anti-terrorism department in Ankara tried to stage a drama. They asked us to bow our heads down, trying to picture us as terrorists in photos they took. I was beaten up by the police. They prevented me from getting a medical report. I was kept in a cell for three days. I was issued a fake health report. I want to expose that here in court. Please tell me, when was I really taken to hospital? It was all to cover up torture."

Noting that the prosecution made an allegation that she was "trying to establish a Kurdish state" because she used the word "Kurdistan" in her news reports, she said:

"This is a spurious allegation, because Kurdistan is a geographical area, not a state. Just as it's not a criminal offense to say 'Thrace,' it cannot be an offense to say 'Kurdistan' either (...) I'm also accused over my tweets in Kurdish. This is denial of a language. I am accused because I used the Kurdish names of settlements in my reports. It is only natural for something to have a Kurdish name as much as it has a Turkish one. Is it an offense to speak Kurdish?"

She continued:

"I have experienced in custody the things I earlier wrote about in my reports. I am facing court because of my reports on strip search, and I have been subjected to strip search myself. I filed complaints over that. They deny in the Turkish Parliament that people are strip searched, but this is indeed a violation that we have been subjected to. How could I possibly turn a blind eye to it?"

After all suspects were heard, the panel announced its decision for the release of Diren Yurtsever, executive editor at Mezopotamya News Agency (MA), MA reporters Berivan Altan, Ceylan Sahinli, Deniz Nazlim, Emrullah Acar, Hakan Yalcin, Selman Guzelyuz, and JinNews reporters Habibe Eren and Oznur Deger.

Journalist Hamdullah Bayram was denied release.

Photo credit: Damla Kirmizitas (Evrensel)