(Berlin) – An academic and two journalists who have played a key role in Turkey’s human rights movement have been jailed pending investigation into spurious allegations of spreading terrorist propaganda. They should be released immediately and the investigation dropped.
An Istanbul court on June 20, 2016, accepted a prosecutor’s request for them to be placed in pretrial detention on suspicion of having committed terrorist offenses. They are Erol Önderoglu, who is the Turkey representative of Reporters Without Borders and a journalist with the independent news website Bianet; Professor Şebnem Korur Fincancı, an academic at Istanbul University’s forensic medicine department and head of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey; and Ahmet Nesin, a writer and journalist.
“The decision to demand the detention of Önderoğlu, Fincancı, and Nesin is a shocking new indication that the Turkish authorities have no hesitation about targeting well-known rights defenders and journalists who have played a key role in documenting the sharp deterioration in human rights in the country,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia Director. “The three should be released immediately and the investigation dropped.”
The three were among 44 journalists, writers, and activists who participated in a solidarity campaign for media freedom in which each of them acted as a symbolic co-editor-for-a-day at the pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem in Istanbul. The government sees the newspaper as hostile to it and as a result has placed it under immense pressure.
Özgür Gündem initiated the solidarity campaign in defense of media freedom on May 3. The Turkish authorities have opened 37 criminal investigations into journalists, writers, politicians, and human rights lawyers involved in the campaign.
“The jailing of Önderoğlu and Korur, two of Turkey’s most respected rights defenders, is a chilling sign that human rights groups are the next target,” Williamson said “The EU and US governments should speak out strongly against this vicious campaign of intimidation and censorship.”