Turkey yesterday arrested several people, including the local official for Reporters Without Borders and the head of a key human rights organisation, over their support for a newspaper that targets a Kurdish audience.
They are accused of helping to spread “terrorist” propaganda, the Dogan news agency reported.
Ozcan Kilic, a lawyer handling the case, told DPA that prosecutors issued arrest warrants for Erol Onderoglu, from the journalist advocacy group; Sebnem Korur Fincani, the chairman of the Turkish Human Rights Foundation; and journalist Ahmet Aziz Nesin.
Ozgur Gundem, a pro-Kurdish newspaper, has been under pressure from the government over alleged ties to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The three stepped in as symbolic editors for a day in support.
Supporters of Ozgur Gundem yesterday protested against the arrest.
About 200 people chanted “The free press cannot be silenced” as riot police stood by outside Ozgur Gundem.
The three people who were arrested had joined a “solidarity campaign” with nearly 50 other journalists to guest-edit the paper for a day each.
“The court, directed by the palace and acting on its orders, once again has signed its name to a shameful decision and arrested our three friends,” editor Inan Kizilkaya said, referring to President Tayyip Erdogan’s office.
The presidency said it would not comment on court cases.
The EU, which Turkey seeks to join, claimed the arrests violated Ankara’s commitment to fundamental rights.
Fincanci, 57, a professor of forensic medicine, is particularly well-known, having won the first International Medical Peace Award for helping establish UN principles for detecting and documenting torture.
Erdogan has vowed to stamp out a three-decade insurgency by Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants that flared anew a year ago after peace talks he spearheaded collapsed.
Left-wing Ozgur Gundem, which has a circulation of 7,500, has featured the writings of Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK’s jailed leader, and has published columns by senior rebel commanders.
Turkey, the US and EU list the PKK as a terrorist group.
The Index on Censorship says 20 journalists have been detained in Turkey this year.
Most are Kurds working in the strife-hit southeast.
Can Dundar, editor-in-chief of the secularist Cumhuriyet newspaper which is often at odds with Ozgur Gundem’s pro-Kurdish stance, yesterday took on the symbolic role of editor-in-chief.
Dundar was jailed for five years last month over coverage of alleged arms shipments to Syrian rebels, but is free pending appeal.
He is aware he could be prosecuted again after his stint at the helm of Ozgur Gundem.
“If we don’t stand together, we will all lose. The time is now to support each other,” he told Reuters.
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