Last week I not only attended the Odatv trial (see blog below). The day before (29 January) I was joined by Mustafa Kuleli (General Secretary of the Journalists Union of Turkey, TGS) at the first hearing against journalists Can Dündar (Cumhuriyet), Utku Çakirözer (Cumhuriyet), Hakan Gülseven (Yurt) and Nazli Ilicak (Bugün).
The journalists are being sued by the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his wife Emine and son Bilal for alleged violation of privacy and defamation following their reporting of corruption probes in Turkish politics. A real family affair it seems. As Can was speaking at a conference in Germany and could not be present, the case was adjourned to 26 March 2015.
The same day I visited the offices of the daily newspaper Birgün where a number of journalists, including the editor-in-chief, are also facing serious charges and court appearances for their reporting. I told them that we were following with increasing concern the continued attacks on press freedom and the right to report in Turkey and will continue to support the TGS and stand in solidarity with our colleagues.
Two days later I met Editor-in-chief Ekrem Dumanli and other journalists working for the daily Zaman newspaper which was raided on 14 December (for details see my blogs of 15 and 16 December 2014). Although Ekrem was released after 4 days, Samanyolu Broadcasting Group Chair Hidayet Karaca, who was also arrested with others working for the network, remains in Silivri Prison where he has been since 19 December. Both were arrested on the grounds of “being a member of an armed terrorist organization”, “depriving individuals of their freedom by force or threat” and “false accusations”. (EÖ/BM)
Meanwhile, according to a report by the Ankara-based Human Rights Watch and Assessment Center (İHİDEM) on legal violations which took place during the 14 December raid, detainees, including Hidayet Karaca, were maltreated while in detention.
The report, which was released on İHİDEM‘s website a few days later, alleged that human rights violations took place during the government-orchestrated detentions of members of the press, including Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanl?, Samanyolu Broadcasting Group General Manager Hidayet Karaca and directors and producers of a popular television series. The report also said that during the detentions and court questioning, the detainees were subjected to treatment that is prohibited by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the Turkish Constitution and the Code on Criminal Procedure (CMK).
According to the report, Karaca claims police officers threatened and shouted at him, in addition to preventing his lawyer from being able represent him properly. The İHİDEM report says Karaca’s lawyers wanted to take photos of him for a statement showing his physical and psychological condition, but were stopped by the police.
A US State Department statement made shortly after the raid warned Turkey not to violate its “own democratic foundations” while drawing attention to raids against media outlets “openly critical of the current Turkish government.”