Turkish court arrests nine Kurdish journalists, releases one

A court in Turkish capital Ankara ordered the arrest of nine journalists working for Kurdish-focused Mezopotamya Agency and all-female outlet Jin News, while releasing another on parole late on Friday evening, Mezopotamya reported.

The journalists were detained in dawn raids on their homes on Tuesday. Among the 11 who were taken into police custody, Mezopotamya reporter Zemo Ağgöz was released to house arrest on Wednesday to be able to nurse her newborn baby.

The other journalist who was released on parole had been an intern at the Mezopotamya Agency for a short while in the past.

Mezopotamya editor-in-chief Diren Yurtsever and reporters Berivan Altan, Deniz Nazlım, Selman Güzelyüz, Hakan Yalçın, Ceylan Şahinli and Emrullah Acar, as well as Jin News reporters Habibe Eren and Öznur Değer were arrested.

Questioning at the Ankara Court House was conducted simultaneously by eight prosecutors who were not well informed on the charges, Mezopotamya said, while the case prosecutor personally attended sessions for Güzelyüz and Eren only.

The journalists, when they were able to speak with their lawyers after a court-ordered restriction during their time in custody, said they had been asked about news they covered, social media posts, travels and attendance to a funeral.

Yurtsever reported being asked why she worked as the editor-in-chief for Mezopotamya, while Nazlım said he was asked whether he was “uncomfortable” that he worked for the agency.

“Where is Kurdistan,” Güleryüz reported being asked, while Değer faced a question on why she accepted an award from the Ankara Chamber of Architechts in the name of Jin News.

They were also asked why they attended the funeral of Nagihan Akarsel, a Kurdish academic and feminist theorist who was in early October assassiated in northern Iraq, her assumed homeland after having to leave Turkey.

PEN International Europe Programme Coordinator Aurélia Dondo said Turkey “must stop using anti-terrorism laws to target independent journalists”.

PEN International itself called on Ankara to “end the prosecution and detention of writers and journalists on the basis of the content of their writing”, sharing an comments from the Coalition For Women in Journalism (CFWIJ).

CFWIJ Founding Director Kiran Nazish said Turkey was becoming “one of the top countries to harass and violate freedom of the press, especially women journalists. We would expect Turkey to show much more respect and reverence to female journalists based on their traditions, but instead the journalists face home raids and arrest.”

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