How two Facebook posts are enough to land you in a Turkish jail - Open Democracy

The only pieces of evidence in the case against Cihan Erdal, a Turkish permanent resident of Canada, who was arrested in Turkey in September, were two posts on his personal Facebook account, according to Open Democracy.

Erdal had reposted a statement by Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, who himself was arrested in 2016, and a newspaper article, both related to the 2014 protests against an Islamic State (ISIS) siege of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, the Britain-based foundation reported on Monday.

The prosecutor handling Erdal’s case considered the two posts to be terrorist propaganda in favour of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought for Kurdish self-rule for some four decades.

Erdal was a member of the pro-Kurdish left-wing opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) central executive committee at the time of his arrest, as well as a member of Turkey’s Green Left, a constituent of the HDP. He had never been arrested or detained before.

“Like others in the HDP, he is committed above all to promoting democracy, social solidarity and the rights of minorities and marginalised groups, within and beyond Turkey,” Open Democracy said.

The European Parliament, in a resolution adopted on Jan. 21, expressed “deep concern” over Erdal’s arrest and said the “continuous specific and politically motivated targeting of the HDP” undermined the proper functioning of Turkey’s democratic system.

“Today, due to political calculations, my freedom has been seized arbitrarily and unlawfully due to an event for which I have no responsibility,” Erdal said in a letter he sent out to human rights organisations, calling the charges brought against him “baseless”.

Erdal, who risks losing his scholarship and doctoral research in Canada’s Carleton University as a PhD candidate, spoke of the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) December decision on Demirtaş, saying it indicated there was “no concrete evidence that can persuade an objective observer that the detention of those in my situation is justified.”

“This war is not our war,” Erdal had captioned the article he reposted on Facebook telling the story of a Kurdish family who lost their son during the months-long curfews and clashes in several Kurdish-majority urban centres after a peace process with the PKK failed in 2015.

This comment “cannot reasonably be presented as ‘evidence’ of ‘being a supporter of a terrorist organisation’,” Erdal wrote.

“The logic-defying charges against me - with an indictment that was prepared seven years later, especially the allegation that ‘I acted upon instructions’ - is extremely serious spiritual violence,” said the young academic.

Erdal was detained as part of an extensive operation that sought arrest for 108 people in relation to the Kobani protests, when in Oct. 2014, Turkey’s Kurds and supporters took to the streets in several provinces in demonstrations that continued for three days and resulted in the death of at least 37 people. Most of the casualties were HDP members who died at the hands of fundamentalist mobs or the police.

The protests against an ISIS siege of Kobani broke out after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Kobani was about to fall, which many interpreted as an endorsement. Demirtaş, co-chair of the HDP at the time together with Figen Yüksekdağ who is also imprisoned, called for democratic protests against the siege and demanding Turkey intervene against ISIS.

High-ranking members of the PKK had also spoken against the siege, which may constitute the connection the prosecutor made with HDP members. Turkey’s extensive anti-terror laws criminalise “propaganda” that is made “in the name of terrorist organisations without being a member of them”.

The indictment was filed eight days after the ECHR ruled for Demirtaş’s immediate release, saying there was no concrete evidence for his ongoing detention.