Some good and some bad news

Hamza Yalçin (see blog dated 20 August 2017) was released on 28 September following a decision by Spain’s National High Court. “We are very pleased for our colleague, whose release we have been requesting since 3 August,” said European Federation of Journalists General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez. “The Spanish Government has now to clarify that there is no basis to extradite Hamza Yalçin. There was simply no reason to arrest him: Interpol did not require his arrest.”

The decision was also welcomed by Margot Wallström, Swedish minister for Foreign Affairs’ who said: “I welcome the Spanish decision not to hand out Hamza Yalcin to Turkey. Hamza Yalcin is now free to travel and can return to his family. Sweden has been working intensively with the case since the detention process became known and we have been clear that urgent and legal certainty has been necessary. All other questions are referred to the Spanish authorities”.

Meanwhile according to Reporters Without Boarders (RSF), a prosecutor in Diyarbakır, in south eastern Turkey, has asked the country’s justice minister to obtain an Interpol ‘red notice request’ for the arrest of Can Dündar, a Turkish journalist now in exile in Germany, on a charge of propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). In response, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has reiterated its call for an urgent overhaul of Interpol because of the growing tendency for it to be exploited by repressive governments such as Turkey’s.

The ‘red notice request’ came just one day after Dündar, the former editor of the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He decided to stay in Germany in 2016 after being prosecuted on charges of “divulging state secrets for espionage purposes” and “assisting a terrorist organization.”

According to RSF the new PKK propaganda charge is based on a speech he gave in Diyarbakır on 24 April 2016 in which he criticised the harassment of critical journalists and accused pro-government journalists of being accomplices to war crimes by supporting the government’s military operations in Turkey’s Kurdish provinces.

The grounds given by the Diyarbakır prosecutor’s office for seeking the Interpol red notice was its inability to question Dündar in connection with this charge.

Julie Ward MEP for the North West of England has already taken up the case.

After spending nearly 100 days in detention in late 2015 and early 2016, Dündar was sentenced to five years and ten months in prison in May 2016 (along with fellow Cumhuriyet journalist Erdem Gül) on the charge of “divulging state secrets.” The court let him remain free pending the outcome of his appeal, but he was the target of a murder attempt as he left the courthouse in Istanbul.

Dündar fled the country shortly after the July 2016 coup attempt, which triggered an unprecedented purge against critical media outlets. In his farewell editorial in Cumhuriyet, (reported in my blog of 16 August 2016) he wrote that he would not return to Turkey, as the draconian emergency powers assumed by Recep Tayyip Erdogan since the coup meant he would not get a fair hearing. “From now on, what we face would not be the court but the government,” he said. “To trust such a judiciary would be like putting one’s head under the guillotine.”

He and Gül are still also being prosecuted on a charge of collaborating and supporting “the FETÖ terrorist organization” (the Gülen Movement) (and see my blog of 25 September 2016 – ‘More trials pile up’). The last hearing in the case was scheduled to be held on 4 October.

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