Last Updated: Friday, 11 July 2014, 13:14 GMT

Annual Prison Census 2012 - Turkey

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date 11 December 2012
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Annual Prison Census 2012 - Turkey, 11 December 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/50c7027bc.html [accessed 13 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Journalists in prison as of December 1, 2012

Turkey: 49

Hatice Duman, Atılım
Imprisoned: April 12, 2003

Duman, former owner and news editor of the socialist weekly Atılım (Leap), was serving a life term at Gebze M Type Prison in Kocaeli on charges of being a member of the banned Marxist Leninist Communist Party, or MLKP, producing propaganda, and "attempting to change the constitutional order by force."

As evidence, authorities cited Duman's attendance at MLKP demonstrations and the testimony of confidential witnesses. Duman's defense lawyer, Keles, Öztürk, told CPJ that his client was targeted because Atılım had opposed administration policies. In October 2012, the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld Duman's life sentence.

Mustafa Gök, Ekmek ve Adalet
Imprisoned: February 19, 2004

Gök, Ankara correspondent for the leftist magazine Ekmek ve Adalet (Bread and Justice), was serving a life term at Sincan F Type Prison in Istanbul on charges of "attempting to change the constitutional order by force." He faced an additional prison term of five to 10 years on a pending charge of being a member of the outlawed Devrimci Halk Kurtulus, Partisi-Cephesi, or DHKP-C.

Gök's defense lawyer, Evrim Deniz Karatas,, told CPJ that the evidence against the journalist consisted of his news coverage and attendance at political demonstrations. He said Gök had been targeted for his reporting on politics and human rights, along with his beliefs as a socialist. Karatas, said his client suffers from Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which has led to a loss of sight and balance.

Fusün Erdoğan, Özgür Radyo
Imprisoned: September 8, 2006

Erdoğan, former general manager for the leftist Özgür Radyo (The Free Radio), was being held at Kocaeli T Type Prison on charges of helping lead the banned Marxist Leninist Communist Party, or MLKP. She faced a potential life prison term. Authorities alleged she used radio station assets to support the MLKP.

Zulfü Erdoğan, the journalist's lawyer and sister, told CPJ that the main evidence against her client was a 40-page document that supposedly included the names and personal information of MLKP members. The lawyer questioned the authenticity of the document, saying it was not seized from her client's home or office and that no evidence connected it to her client. She also noted that court proceedings had yet to result in a verdict after six years, an extraordinarily long period of time that was also the subject of a complaint before the European Court of Human Rights. Zulfü Erdoğan said the case against Erdoğan had been fabricated because the journalist and her news outlet had opposed the administration. She said Erdoğan suffered from a thyroid disease and needed medical attention.

Bayram Namaz, Atılım
Imprisoned: September 8, 2006

Namaz, a columnist for the weekly socialist newspaper Atılım (Leap), faced charges of possession of dangerous materials, possession of unregistered weapons, forgery of official documents, and attempting to eliminate the constitutional order. The journalist was being held at Edirne F Type Prison.

Atılım is affiliated with the Socialist Party of the Oppressed, or ESP, which is a lawful organization. Gülizar Tuncer, Namaz's lawyer, told CPJ that the state considered the paper and party to be fronts for the illegal Marxist Leninist Communist Party, or MLKP. In an indictment, authorities said Namaz was arrested with others at a house in Aydın's Nazilli district in western Turkey, where the fourth general congress of the MLKP was held. Namaz said he was picked up by police at another location and brought there.

Authorities alleged that Namaz possessed a fake ID and that IDs belonging to him were found in an MLKP house in Kayseri Province. As evidence against him, authorities also cited a 2005 article about an MLKP conference that was published in a Kurdish-language journal. Tuncer said her client was not the author of the article.

Tuncer said Namaz had been working under constant police surveillance for years, making it impossible for him to lead a secret life as a member of an illegal organization.

Faysal Tunç, Dicle News Agency and Özgür Gündem
Imprisoned: April 5, 2007

Tunç, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency and the daily Özgür Gündem (The Free Agenda), was serving a sentence of six years and three months on charges of producing propaganda and being a member of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK. He was transferred in 2011 to the Rize Kalkandere L Type Prison in Rize, according to a report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

After disposition of the case, Tunç's lawyers were themselves imprisoned as part of an investigation into the Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK,an umbrella group of pro-Kurdish organizations that includes the PKK.

In March 2012, Tunç sent a letter to the independent news portal Bianet in which he alleged that authorities had set him up for a false arrest. In April 2007, he said, he offered a woman he believed to be a member of the Democratic Society Party, a legal entity that was the forerunner of today's Peace and Democracy Party, some assistance in finding lodging. Tunç said he did not know the woman and now believed she had acted as an agent of the police. Within days, he said, he was detained on charges of aiding a member of a terrorist group.

Mustafa Balbay, Cumhuriyet
Imprisoned: March 5, 2009

Balbay, a columnist and former Ankara representative for the leftist-ultranationalist daily Cumhuriyet, was detained as part of the government's investigation into the alleged Ergenekon plot, a shadowy conspiracy that authorities claimed was aimed at overthrowing the government through a military coup.

Balbay was initially detained on July 1, 2008, brought to Istanbul, and questioned about his news coverage and his relations with the military and other Ergenekon suspects. Police searched his house and the Ankara office of Cumhuriyet and confiscated computers and documents, but released him four days later. Balbay was detained a second time in March 2009 and placed at Silivri F Type Prison in Istanbul pending trial. He was moved to solitary confinement in February 2011. His lawyers filed complaints with the European Court of Human Rights alleging violations of due process. Despite being imprisoned, Balbay was elected a parliamentary deputy on the Republican People's Party ticket in Izmir province in the June 2011 election.

The charges against Balbay included being a member of an armed terrorist organization; attempting to overthrow the government; provoking an armed uprising; unlawfully obtaining, using, and destroying documents concerning government security; and disseminating classified information. The charges could bring life imprisonment, according to a report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The evidence against Balbay included documents seized from his property and office, the news stories he produced, wiretapped telephone conversations, and secretly recorded meetings with senior military and government officials. Balbay denied the government's accusations and, in columns written from prison and in court hearings, repeatedly said that the seized notes and recorded conversations related to his journalism.

In its indictment, the government said Balbay had kept detailed records of his meetings with military and political figures. Authorities alleged that Balbay had erased the notes from his computer but technicians were able to retrieve them from the hard drive. The notes – some of which dated back to the period before the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, won power – showed military officials discussing how they could alter Turkish politics. For example, in notes dated April 6, 2003, a general identified as Yas,ar asked the columnist: "Tell me, Mr. Balbay, can a coup be staged today with this media structure? It can't. You cannot do something today without the media backing you. You are the only one entreating secularism. The other papers are publishing photographs of women with covered heads every day, almost trying to make it sympathetic."

In public comments, Balbay said he had been keeping the notes for journalistic purposes, including for use in a potential book. He said the government's indictment quoted excerpts out of context and in a way that made him appear guilty. In the indictment, Balbay was quoted as saying that he had erased the files after concluding their use would not be right.

Participants in the conversations included İlhan Selçuk, the now-deceased chief editor of Cumhuriyet and an Ergenekon suspect before his death in June 2010; generals Şener Eruygur, Aytaç Yalman, and Şenkal Atasagun; and former President Ahmet Necdet Sezer. The indictment identified Selçuk as a leader of Ergenekon and accused Balbay of acting as secretary in organizing meetings and keeping notes under cover of journalism. Military officials considered Cumhuriyet a favorite because they shared the paper's positions on secularism and the Kurdish issue.

The government also said it found classified documents in Balbay's possession, including military reports on neighboring countries and assessments on political Islam in Turkey. Balbay said news sources had provided him with the documents and that he was using them for journalistic purposes.

Two taped conversations at the gendarmerie headquarters – dated December 23, 2003, and January 5, 2004 – were also cited as evidence. The government alleged that, among other topics, Balbay and other participants had discussed whether political conditions would allow a coup. Balbay said such discussions were theoretical and constituted no criminal intent.

The government also cited Balbay's news coverage, including a May 2003 story headlined "The Young Officers Are Restless." The phrase had been used previously in Turkish politics and was seen as code for a potential military coup. The story claimed that Hilmi Özkök, then the military's chief of general staff, had warned Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about perceived anti-military pressure from the ruling AKP. Özkök denounced the story as false at the time. Authorities claimed that Balbay's own notes showed that Atilla Ates,, then the commander of Turkish land forces, had congratulated him for the piece by saying, "You did your duty."

The İKMS Law Firm, which represents Balbay, did not respond to CPJ's questions seeking further information about his defense.

Ahmet Birsin, Gün TV
Imprisoned: April 14, 2009

Birsin, general manager of Gün TV, a regional pro-Kurdish television news station in southeastern Turkey, faced trial for assisting an offshoot of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, attending PKK events, possessing PKK documents, and assisting the PKK in its press work, according to Justice Ministry documents. His lawyer, Fuat Coşacak, told CPJ that the charges were retaliatory and without basis.

Birsin described his arrest in a May 2009 letter published in the daily Gündem. He said police came to his office on the night of April 13, searched the building, and confiscated archival material, computer hard drives, laptops, cameras, and other broadcast equipment. Birsin, imprisoned at Diyarbakır D Type Prison, could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.

Deniz Yıldırım, Aydınlık
Imprisoned: November 8, 2009

Yıldırım was the chief editor of the ultranationalist-leftist Aydınlık (Enlightenment), then a monthly, when police detained him at his house in Istanbul as part of the government's investigation into the alleged Ergenekon plot, a shadowy conspiracy that authorities believed was aimed at overthrowing the government through a military coup.

He was being held at Silivri F Type Prison in Istanbul on charges of being a member of a terrorist organization, violating privacy rights, and disclosing state secrets. According to the indictment, Yıldırım received a recording from Ergenekon conspirators and published its contents. The recording purported to include a 2004 phone conversation between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat in which the two discussed the sensitive issue of Cyprus' political status. It also purportedly included a conversation between Erdoğan and businessman Remzi Gür.

As evidence, authorities cited Yıldırım's published work and other recordings allegedly found during a police raid of the Aydınlık offices. Yıldırım, who faced up to 57 years in prison, said he had no ties to Ergenekon. Mehmet Aytenkin, his lawyer, told CPJ that his client was arrested because Aydınlık was critical of the government.

Seyithan Akyüz, Azadiya Welat
Imprisoned: December 7, 2009

Akyüz, Adana correspondent for the Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat, was serving a 12-year term at Kürkçüler F Type Prison in Adana on charges of aiding the banned Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, an umbrella group of pro-Kurdish organizations that includes the Kurdistan Workers Party. Authorities cited as evidence his possession of banned newspapers and his presence at a May Day demonstration in İzmir.

The trial in Adana made national news when the judge refused to allow Akyüz and other defendants to offer statements in their native Kurdish. A report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe also found that court officials withheld case documents from Akyüz's lawyer for more than a year.

Legal representation for Akyüz and other detained Azadiya Welat journalists changed in 2012. The new defense lawyer, Cemil Sözen, who represented Akyüz on appeal, said he could not comment because he was not yet familiar with the case.

Kenan Karavil, Radyo Dünya
Imprisoned: December 7, 2009

Karavil, editor-in-chief of the pro-Kurdish radio station Radyo Dünya in the southern province of Adana, was serving a prison term of 13 years and six months on charges of being a member of the banned Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, and the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK.

As evidence, authorities cited news programs that Karavil produced, his meetings with members of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, and his wiretapped telephone conversations with colleagues, listeners, and news sources, his defense lawyer, Vedat Özkan, told CPJ. In one phone conversation, the lawyer said, Karavil discussed naming a program "Those Who Imagine the Island." He said the indictment considered this illegal propaganda because it referred to the imprisonment of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, who was being held in a prison on İmralı Island.

In a letter to media outlets, Karavil said authorities had questioned him about the station's ownership and the content of its programming. Court officials refused to allow Karavil to give statements in his native Kurdish language, Özkan said.

Erdal Süsem, Eylül Sanat Edebiyat Dergisi
Imprisoned: February 10, 2010

Süsem, editor of the leftist culture magazine Eylül Sanat Edebiyat Dergisi (September Arts Literature Magazine), was being held at Edirne F Type Prison on charges of helping lead the outlawed Maoist Communist Party, or MKP. Authorities alleged that Süsem's magazine produced propaganda for the party.

In a letter published in February 2012 by the independent news portal Bianet, Süsem said the evidence against him consisted of journalistic material such as books, postcards, and letters, along with accounts of his newsgathering activities such as phone interviews. Süsem made similar statements in a letter to the Justice Ministry that was cited in news accounts.

Süsem had started the magazine during an earlier imprisonment at Tekirdağ F Type Prison. The magazine featured poems, literature, and opinion pieces from imprisoned socialist intellectuals. After producing the initial four editions by photocopy from prison, Süsem transformed the journal into a standard print publication after his 2007 release from prison, circulating another 16 issues.

Süsem's earlier imprisonment stemmed from March 2000 allegations that he stole a police officer's handgun that was later used in a murder. (He was not directly charged in the murder.) Süsem pleaded innocent to the gun theft charge during proceedings that were marked by a number of questions. No forensic evidence tied Süsem to the weapon, and witness descriptions of the suspect did not match the journalist. A criminal court convicted him on the theft charge and sentenced him to life imprisonment, a ruling that was overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeals in 2007. In 2011, the Supreme Court reversed itself, reinstating the theft conviction.

Ali Konar, Azadiya Welat
Imprisoned: May 27, 2010

Konar, the Elazığ correspondent for Azadiya Welat, Turkey's sole Kurdish-language daily, was serving a term of seven years and six months at Malatya E Type Prison on charges of being a member of the banned Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, of which the Kurdistan Workers Party is part.

In a January 2012 letter published by the independent news portal Bianet, Konar said his published news reporting and his interactions with colleagues were cited as evidence of criminality. Authorities also cited his visits to his jailed brother as evidence that he was a prison liaison for the KCK, he said.

Soner Yalçın, Odatv and Hürriyet
Imprisoned: February 14, 2011

Yalçın Küçük, Odatv and Aydınlık
Imprisoned: March 7, 2011

Several members of the ultranationalist-leftist news website Odatv were arrested in February and March 2011 on charges of having ties to the alleged Ergenekon plot, a shadowy conspiracy that authorities claimed was aimed at overthrowing the government through a military coup. Authorities charged all of the staffers with propagandizing on behalf of Ergenekon and lodged additional charges against some. Yalçın and Küçük remained imprisoned when CPJ conducted its December 1 worldwide census.

Odatv features news and commentary that promotes an ultranationalist agenda from a Kemalist perspective and is harshly critical of its perceived opponents. The targets of its attacks include the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the Fethullah Gülen religious community, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and liberals. Much of Odatv's critical commentary involves highly personal attacks.

Yalçın, owner of the site and an opinion writer for the daily Hürriyet (Freedom), was charged with attempting to influence court proceedings, inciting hatred, violating privacy rights, and disclosing classified military and intelligence documents. He denied the accusations and said the evidence amounted to the website's published material and his professional phone conversations. He was being held at Silivri F Type Prison in Istanbul pending trial.

Küçük, an opinion writer for the site and for the daily Aydınlık, was also accused of being a leader of the Ergenekon organization, inciting hatred, violating privacy rights, and disclosing classified military and intelligence documents. In court, Küçük said the charges were without basis.

As evidence, authorities cited wiretapped phone conversations between staffers in which coverage was discussed. In one conversation, authorities alleged, Yalçın directed a columnist to write a piece suggesting that the ruling AKP was forcing the military's hand to stage a coup.

Authorities also cited as evidence a series of digital documents found on Odatv computers during a police raid on the news outlet. The authenticity of the documents has been challenged by the defense. A team from the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, which examined the evidence at the request of the defense, found that the computers contained Trojan files that left the machines vulnerable to outside manipulation. The team also found that the documents themselves were altered on the day of the police raid, further raising the possibility that the files could have been planted or manipulated.

Authorities said the documents included an Ergenekon media strategy memo, an ultranationalist text describing the AKP as dangerous, and directions on covering the PKK, AKP, army generals, and the Ergenekon investigation.

Authorities also cited two documents claiming that the well-known investigative reporter Nedim Şener had helped a former regional police chief, Hanefi Avci, write a 2010 book alleging that the Gülen movement had infiltrated the police force. Another document claimed Şener was also helping investigative reporter Ahmet Şık write a book about the Gülen movement. Authorities used those documents to link Şener and Şık to the Ergenekon plot. The two were jailed for more than 12 months before being freed pending trial; they continued to face anti-state charges related to the plot.

Turhan Özlü, Ulusal Kanal
Imprisoned: August 21, 2011

Özlü, chief editor for the ultranationalist-leftist television station Ulusal Kanal (National Channel), was being held at Silivri F Type Prison in Istanbul on charges of participating in the Ergenekon conspiracy, a shadowy plot that prosecutors said was aimed at overthrowing the administration. Özlü faced up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

According to the government's indictment, the channel aired an audio recording made by Ergenekon conspirators. The recording purported to include a 2004 phone conversation between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat in which the two discussed the sensitive issue of Cyprus' political status. It also purportedly included a conversation between Erdoğan and businessman Remzi Gür.

The indictment identified Ulusal Kanal as a media arm of Ergenekon.

Tayip Temel, Azadiya Welat
Imprisoned: October 3, 2011

Temel, a former editor-in-chief and columnist for the Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat, was being held at Diyarbakır D Type Prison on charges of being a member of the Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, of which the banned the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is part. He faced more than 22 years in prison upon conviction, according to a report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

In a January 2012 letter to the independent news portal Bianet, Temel said he was being targeted for his journalistic activities. As evidence, the government cited wiretapped telephone conversations he had with colleagues and with members of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) and Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), Temel said. He said the government had wrongly described his work-related travels to Iraq as related to attendance at PKK meetings.

"My articles, correspondences, headline discussions, and requests for news and visuals from reporters were defined as 'orders' and 'organizational activity' and I am accused of organization leadership," Temel wrote, describing the government's indictment.

Another chief editor of Azadiya Welat – Mehmet Emin Yıldırım – was also imprisoned on similar charges.

Hasan Özgünes,, Azadiya Welat
Imprisoned: October 28, 2011

Özgünes,, a veteran journalist and a columnist for the Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat, was being held at Kocaeli F Type Prison on charges of helping to lead the banned Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, of which the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is part. He was also charged with producing propaganda and taking part in illegal demonstrations.

Özgünes, has written columns for Azadiya Welat on political, social, cultural, and economic issues since 2007 after writing for Kurdish magazines such as Tiroj and Zend since 1993. He is also a member of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP.

Authorities would not allow Özgünes, to give statements in his native Kurdish, news accounts said. During questioning, authorities sought information about Özgünes,' lectures at a BDP political academy, his conversations with the pro-PKK satellite station Roj TV, and his presence at a political demonstration, according to the indictment.

Abdullah Çetin, Dicle News Agency
Imprisoned: December 16, 2011

Abdullah Çetin, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency, or DİHA, in the southeastern province of Siirt, was being held at Diyarbakır D Type Prison on charges of aiding the Union of

Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, of which the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is part. Upon conviction, he faced up to 15 years in prison, according to a report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

The ETHA news agency said Çetin was accused of organizing anti-government demonstrations. The government's indictment also cited Çetin's professional phone conversations as evidence, the Bianet independent news portal said. Çetin told authorities that he attended demonstrations for journalistic purposes, Bianet said.

Ziya Çiçekçi, Özgür Gündem
Turabi Kişin, Özgür Gündem
Yüksel Genç, Özgür Gündem
Nevin Erdemir,Özgür Gündem
Dilek Demiral,Özgür Gündem
Sibel Güler, Özgür Gündem
Nurettin Fırat, Özgür Gündem
Imprisoned: December 20, 2011

At least seven editors and writers associated with the daily Özgür Gündem (The Free Agenda) 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 banned 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.

Çiçekçi, publisher and news editor, was being held at Kandıra F Type Prison in Kocaeli on charges of helping lead the KCK press committee, which allegedly orchestrated coverage that would further the organization's goals. The indictment accused Çiçekçi of setting his news agenda in conformance with organization orders and participating in press committee meetings in Iraq. As evidence, authorities cited books, magazines, a computer hard drive, CDs, DVDs, cassettes, bank account books, handwritten notes, letters, and a copy of Özgür Gündem. One of the electronic documents, the indictment said, included video of PKK and KCK events.

Kişin, Özgür Gündem editor, was being held at Kandıra F Type Prison on charges of being a leader of the KCK press committee and taking orders from the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan that were sent via email from defense lawyers. As evidence, authorities cited three pro-Kurdish newspaper stories, one written by Kişin and two in which he was the subject. The prosecution also cited wiretapped telephone conversations in which Kişin spoke to people who wanted him to run obituaries for PKK members – Kişin declined because of legal constraints – and contributors seeking to publish articles in his newspaper. Kişin said his newspaper was a dissident publication but did not take orders from the KCK.

Genç, a columnist, 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. Authorities, citing statements from other suspects, alleged that Genç was a "high-level" member of the KCK press committee and had participated in committee meetings in northern Iraq. Authorities also cited as evidence Genç's notes about ethnic conflicts in Spain, South Africa, and Bolivia, along with her phone conversations with other journalists. Genç's request that a writer do a piece about a World Peace Day demonstration in Turkey, for example, was considered by authorities to be an order serving the PKK. Genç said she did not participate in the KCK press committee and that her communications with other journalists were professional in nature.

Erdemir, a reporter and editor, was being held at Bakırköy Prison for Women and Children in Istanbul on charges that she helped lead the KCK's press committee. Citing passport records and the statements of confidential witnesses, the government alleged that Erdemir participated in a KCK press committee meeting in Iraq in 2009. The indictment also cited as evidence her participation in a press conference in which Özgür Gündem editors protested police operations against Kurdish journalists, and an interview she conducted with a leader of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). Erdemir disputed the charges.

Demiral, a former editor, was being held at Bakırköy Prison for Women and Children in Istanbul on charges of being a member of the KCK press committee and producing propaganda for the organization. Citing passport records and the statement of a detained PKK member, authorities said Demiral participated in a 2005 KCK press meeting in Iraq. Authorities also cited the seizure of digital copies of banned books and a speech Demiral gave at a memorial ceremony that cast a deceased PKK member in a favorable light. Demiral denied any ties to the KCK and said she had traveled for journalistic purposes.

Güler, a former editor, 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 and documents seized from an accused KCK member, the government alleged that Güler participated in the organization's press committee meetings in Iraq in 2003 and 2005, and had met with KCK leader Murat Karayılan. Güler told authorities she did not participate in any KCK meetings.

Fırat, an editor and columnist for the paper, was being held at Kocaeli F Type Prison on charges of being a leader of the KCK press committee. Citing passport records, organization records, and the accounts of confidential witnesses, authorities alleged he participated in committee meetings in Iraq in 2003, 2005, and 2007. Authorities, who tapped Fırat's phone conversations, said the journalist printed an article by KCK leader Karayılan, applying a penname that he had devised in conspiracy with another journalist. Fırat said his travel was for journalistic purposes and that he did not participate in KCK activities.

In most cases, the journalists faced up to 15 years in prison upon conviction.

Zuhal Tekiner, Dicle News Agency
Semiha Alankuş, Dicle News Agency
Kenan Kırkaya, Dicle News Agency
Ramazan Pekgöz, Dicle News Agency
Fatma Koçak, Dicle News Agency
Ayşe Oyman, Dicle News Agency
Çağdas, Kaplan, Dicle News Agency
Ertuş Bozkurt, Dicle News Agency
Nilgün Yıldız, Dicle News Agency
Sadık Topaloğlu, Dicle News Agency
İsmail Yıldız, Dicle News Agency
Ömer Çelik, Dicle News Agency
Mazlum Özdemir, Dicle News Agency
Imprisoned: December 20, 2011

At least 13 editors, writers, and managers with the Dicle News Agency, or DİHA, 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.

Tekiner, chairwoman of the DİHA board, was being held at Bakırköy Prison for Women and Children in Istanbul on charges of being an "administrative" member of the KCK press committee, which allegedly orchestrated coverage that would further the organization's goals. The indictment cited Tekiner's contribution to DİHA's account of a 2010 May Day rally as evidence that she was producing propaganda. Authorities, who tapped Tekiner's phone, also cited a conversation she had with an accused PKK member who had sought news coverage of a press conference. Tekiner denied any links to the KCK.

Alankuş, a translator and editor, 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. Authorities alleged that Alankuş participated in a meeting of the KCK press committee in northern Iraq in September 2009, and used her position as a DİHA editor to broadcast directions from the PKK. Possession of banned magazines and books was also cited as evidence. Alankuş said she did not participate in the press committee meeting.

Kırkaya, DİHA's Ankara representative, was being held at Kandıra F Type Prison in Kocaeli on charges that he helped lead the KCK press committee. Authorities cited the statements of two confidential witnesses as evidence. The government also cited as evidence news reports by Kırkaya, including pieces about PKK militia allegedly killed by chemical weapons, articles addressing the Kurdish issue, and stories critical of the government. Calling Kırkaya a "so-called journalist" who worked under orders from convicted PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, the indictment alleged that his reporting had furthered the aims of the KCK and had sought to manipulate public opinion. Kırkaya told authorities he had no connection to the KCK.

Pekgöz, an editor, was being held at Kocaeli F Type Prison on charges that he helped lead the KCK press committee. Citing passport records and the statements of confidential witnesses, the government alleged that he participated in two KCK committee meetings in Iraq and that he met with KCK leader Murat Karayılan. Pekgöz said he met with Karayılan for journalistic purposes and denied the government's allegations. Authorities, who tapped Pekgöz's phone conversations, accused the editor of following KCK directives and relaying the organization's orders to other journalists. The indictment said Pekgöz directed a pro-KCK agenda when he served as news editor for Günlük, the daily now known as Özgür Gündem. The indictment cited as evidence a phone conversation between Pekgöz and columnist Veysi Sarısözen concerning potential column topics, and Pekgöz's efforts to recruit a writer to discuss the potential unification of socialist and leftist parties. The indictment said convicted PKK leader Öcalan supported the unification of the parties.

Koçak, a news editor, was being held at Bakırköy Prison for Women and Children in Istanbul on charges of being a member of the KCK press committee. Koçak's phone conversations with news sources and reporters, including tips to DİHA about pro-Kurdish demonstrations, were cited as evidence. The indictment asserted that "a normal journalist" would not receive such tips, and it faulted Koçak for not relaying information about the events to authorities. The indictment also faulted Koçak for receiving information by phone about fatalities among guerrillas in eastern Turkey, and fielding a request from German ZDF TV for video of PKK army clashes and the funerals of PKK fighters. Stories Koçak wrote about democratic autonomy were also considered evidence. Koçak disputed alleged ties to the KCK.

Oyman, a reporter, was being held at Bakırköy Prison for Women and Children in Istanbul on charges of being a member of the KCK press committee. Among the cited evidence were phone conversations with reporters in the field, banned books and magazines, and the news stories that she produced for DİHA. The indictment labeled her reporting as propaganda aimed at causing "disaffection for the state and sympathy for the organization." Citing passport records and the accounts of two confidential witnesses, authorities also alleged that she participated in a KCK press committee meeting in Iraq in 2003 and had contact with İsmet Kayhan, a Fırat News Agency editor wanted by the government on charges of leading the KCK's press committee in Europe. Oyman, who also worked as a reporter for Özgür Gündem, disputed the allegations.

Kaplan, a reporter for DİHA, was being held at Kocaeli F Type Prison on charges of being a member of the KCK press committee. The indictment cited as evidence Kaplan's news coverage and phone conversations in which he relayed information to the pro-PKK satellite station Roj TV. The indictment said Kaplan's stories distorted the facts, reflected the official perspective of the KCK, and presented "police operations against the KCK as operations against the Kurdish people." For example, the indictment said a report about the funeral of a PKK member "tried to draw conclusions in favor of the organization." Kaplan was also accused of having contact with Fırat's Kayhan.

Bozkurt, an editor in DİHA's Diyarbakır office, was being held at Kocaeli F Type Prison on charges of helping lead the KCK press committee. As evidence, the indictment cited phone conversations in which Bozkurt relayed information to Roj TV. Authorities described Bozkurt's reports as "false," provocative, and designed to further the KCK's aims. The indictment also faulted Bozkurt for ensuring news coverage of pro-Kurdish demonstrations, and for providing German ZDF TV with video of a PKK fighter's funeral and army movements in southeast Turkey. Citing passport records and the account of a confidential witness, authorities alleged that Bozkurt took part in a KCK press committee meeting in Iraq in 2007 and had contact with Fırat's Kayhan. Authorities said they seized banned books by convicted PKK leader Öcalan, along with photographs of PKK guerrillas and Turkish military intelligence. Bozkurt told prosecutors that his activities were journalistic and that he had no ties to the KCK.

Nilgün Yıldız, a reporter, was being held at Bakırköy Prison for Women and Children in Istanbul Bakırköy L Type on charges of being a member of the KCK's press committee. Citing passport records and the account of a confidential witness, authorities alleged that Yıldız participated in KCK press committee meetings in Iraq. Authorities also cited her news coverage as evidence. The indictment pointed to a story that recounted a Kurdish youth setting himself on fire to protest Öcalan's imprisonment, which authorities called propaganda, and a piece that referred to a memorial service for a PKK member, which authorities said constituted a call for organization members to gather. Photographs of a PKK member's funeral, taken from her confiscated flash drive, were also cited as evidence. Yıldız denied any wrongdoing.

Topaloğlu, a reporter, was being held at Kocaeli F Type Prison on charges of being a member of the KCK press committee. As evidence, the indictment cited phone conversations in which Topaloğlu relayed information to Roj TV. The indictment also faulted Topaloğlu for fielding phone tips about press conferences and other news events, and for seeking information from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party's Antep branch about a local police crackdown against the party. Authorities alleged his reporting was aimed at humiliating the government, furthering the KCK's aims, and provoking "innocent Kurdish people against their state."

İsmail Yıldız, a reporter, was being held at Kocaeli F Type Prison on charges of being a member of the KCK's press committee. As evidence, authorities cited his news coverage of demonstrations, his telephone conversations at DİHA offices, and information he relayed to Roj TV. The indictment also detailed an episode in which Yıldız was among the first at the scene of an explosion in a trash container; authorities alleged his quick arrival meant that he had prior knowledge of the bomb. Banned books and magazines on the Kurdish issue, digital equipment, and CDs featuring interviews with PKK sympathizers were among the items seized from Yıldız.

Çelik, a reporter, was being held at Kocaeli F Type Prison on charges of being a member of the KCK press committee. Authorities faulted Çelik for biased coverage of a university dispute and other news events, labeling his reporting of an earthquake, for example, as "black propaganda." They also cited as evidence phone conversations in which Çelik received tips about press conferences and other news events, and a conversation in which he relayed information to Roj TV. His coverage of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party was in itself considered evidence of a crime. Çelik denied any wrongdoing, telling prosecutors he was not a member of the KCK press committee.

Özdemir, a reporter, was being held at Kocaeli F Type prison on charges of helping lead the KCK press committee. Citing passport records, email traffic, and the accounts of confidential witnesses, authorities alleged that Özdemir attended KCK committee meetings in Iraq, had contact with the Fırat editor Kayhan, and produced journalism that cast the group in a favorable light. Authorities said they intercepted encrypted electronic messages showing that Özdemir handled financial transfers for the KCK. Authorities also cited Özdemir's news stories as evidence of culpability. Özdemir told authorities that his email messages involved news reporting and personal matters. Authorities confiscated books, CDs, a hard drive, cellphone, and a hunting rifle. Defense lawyer Özcan Kılıç told CPJ that the weapon was an antique handed down by his client's grandfather; Özdemir was not charged with a weapons violation.

In most cases, the journalists faced up to 15 years in prison upon conviction.

Zeynep Kuray, Birgün, Fırat News Agency
Hüseyin Deniz, Evrensel
Nahide Ermiş, Özgür Halk ve Demokratik Modernite
Selahattin Aslan, Özgür Halk ve Denokratik Modernite
Imprisoned: December 20, 2011

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.

Mehmet Emin Yıldırım, Azadiya Welat
Imprisoned: December 21, 2011

A court in Diyarbakır ordered that Yıldırım, editor-in-chief of the Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat, be held as part of an investigation into the Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, of which the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is part. Authorities allege that the KCK directs all of the main pro-Kurdish media and news agencies in Turkey.

Yıldırım was being held in Kandıra F Type Prison in Kocaeli on charges of following the directives of the KCK press committee. As evidence, authorities cited conversations in which Yıldırım relayed information to the pro-PKK satellite station Roj TV. The indictment also faulted Yildirim's news coverage for being critical of police operations against the KCK, insulting the government, and provoking Kurds to oppose the state. Authorities claimed notes and email traffic showed that he executed orders from the KCK. For example, a list of toiletries and other items – shaving blades, a tube of toothpaste, a toothbrush, a digital radio, and batteries – was cited as evidence that Yıldırim was providing supplies to the PKK.

Authorities would not allow Yıldırım to give a statement in his native Kurdish, which defense lawyer Özcan Kılıç said was a violation of a defendant's rights but one common in political cases. "They bring in a translator for cases such as narcotics trafficking, but they do not for these cases," he said.

Another chief editor of Azadiya Welat – Tayip Temel – was also imprisoned on similar charges.

Özlem Ağuş, Dicle News Agency
Imprisoned: March 6, 2012

Ağuş, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency, or DİHA, who helped expose the sexual abuse of juvenile detainees at an Adana prison, was being held at Karatas, Women's Closed Prison. Ağuş faced allegations that she was a member of the Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, of which the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is part. She faced up to 22 years in prison upon conviction.

Defense lawyer Vedat Özkan told CPJ that authorities had questioned his client about her published news coverage and her newsgathering practices. Authorities focused particularly on her coverage detailing the abuse of minors being held at Pozantı M Type Juvenile and Youth Prison in Adana. On March 1, 2012, DİHA published an interview Ağuş conducted with a 16-year-old detainee who described being abused by adult prisoners. The government said it would investigate the abuse allegations.

Özkan said his client was targeted because she worked for a news outlet that focused on the Kurdish issue and reported critically about the administration. He said the government's accusations of criminality were baseless.

Şükrü Sak, Baran
Imprisoned: April 20, 2012

Sak, an opinion writer and former chief editor for the Islamist weekly Baran, was summoned to serve a term of three years and nine months on charges of aiding the outlawed İslami Büyük Doğu Akıncılar Cephesi, or İslamic Great East Raiders Front.

A veteran editor and writer for Islamist publications, Sak was summoned to prison in April 2012 after the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld a conviction that dated back to 1999. Defense lawyer Güven Yılmaz told CPJ that authorities cited as evidence Sak's handwritten notes and the content of Akıncı Yol, the magazine he was editing at the time.

Musa Kurt, Yürüyüs,
Bahar Kurt, Tavır
Imprisoned: September 18, 2012

Police arrested sibling journalists Musa and Bahar Kurt as they waited outside the Forensic Evidence Office in Istanbul for the transfer of the body of a suicide bomber to the family of the deceased. The bomber, a member of the outlawed Devrimci Halk Kurtulus, Partisi-Cephesi, or DHKP-C, had attacked a police station on September 11, news reports said. One police officer died and several civilians were injured in the blast.

Musa Kurt, a reporter for the leftist monthly magazine Yürüyüs, (March), and Bahar KIurt, the owner of culture and arts magazine Tavır (Attitude), were charged with "taking photographs of the police" and "participating in events the terrorist organization called for." Yürüyüs, and Tavır take editorial positions in support of the DHKP-C.

Musa was being held at Tekirdağ Prison in Tekirdağ, and Bahar at the Bakırköy Prison in Istanbul. Their lawyer, Evrim Deniz Karatas, alleged that the two had been abused in custody. He said his clients were at the scene to report and photograph the transfer of the body as a news event.

Ferhat Arslan, Dicle News Agency
Imprisoned: October 5, 2012

Arslan, Mersin reporter for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), was being held at Kürkçüler F Type Prison in Adana after being arrested on allegations he is a member of the banned Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK. No indictment had not been filed as of late November so formal charges and evidence against Arslan had not been disclosed.

Vedat Özkan, Arslan's lawyer, told CPJ he could not discuss details of the investigation because the case had been subjected to official secrecy rules. But the defense claimed the detention is related to Arslan's reporting on allegations of sexual harassment and brutality at the Pozantı Prison in Mersin. Other journalists have faced legal harassment concerning coverage of the Pozantı allegations.

Zeynep Kuriş, Dicle News Agency
Imprisoned: November 3, 2012

Kuriş, a correspondent for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency, was being held at Karatas, Prison in Adana on allegations of being a member of the banned Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK. No indictment had not been filed as of late November so formal charges and evidence against Kuriş had not been disclosed. Defense lawyer Vedat Özkan told CPJ he could not discuss details of the investigation because the case had been subjected to official secrecy rules.

Kuriş had been previously detained because of her reporting on allegations of sexual harassment and brutality at the Pozantı Prison in Mersin. Other journalists have faced legal harassment concerning coverage of the Pozantı allegations. The defense believes the current detention is related to her Pozantı coverage.

Copyright notice: © Committee to Protect Journalists. All rights reserved. Articles may be reproduced only with permission from CPJ.

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