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Turkey arrests 4 journalists detained in mass operation targeting Kurds

Journalist Abdurrahman Gok

Journalist Abdurrahman Gök

Four journalists who were detained along with more than 100 activists, lawyers and politicians in a mass operation targeting Kurds across Turkey earlier this week have been arrested on terrorism-related charges, the Gazete Duvar news website reported on Thursday.

A total of 128 people were detained as part of a Diyarbakır-based operation that was conducted in 21 provinces on Tuesday. The detentions, ordered by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, came three weeks before critical elections slated for May 14 that could extend President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s two-decade rule.

According to Turkish media reports, some of the detainees, including four journalists –Beritan Canözer, Mehmetşah Oruç, Abdurrahman Gök and Mikail Barut; politicians Hakim Kaya and Şahin Biçimli; and Abdulgani Alkan, a non-governmental organization member, were sent to court on Thursday after they refused to give a statement to the police.

The four journalists were arrested after they appeared in court. Canözer is a reporter for JinNews, the only all-female news agency in Turkey. Gök is an editor at the Mezopotamya news agency and Oruç is a reporter at Mezopotamya, while Barut also works as a reporter.

They are accused of membership in a terrorist organization, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). All the journalists faced similar charges in the past and spent some time in jail.

“Fascism will be defeated, long live the free press,” Gök said in protest of his arrest.

While the referral of more detainees to the court is expected during the day, it was also reported that none of the detained members of the Association of Lawyers for Freedom (ÖHD) gave a statement at the police station.

Two of the detained lawyers who have breastfeeding babies, Gurbet Özbey Öner and Jiyan Sametoğlu, along with actress Elvan Koçer were reportedly released by the court and placed under judicial supervision on Wednesday, while stage actor Şahperi Alphan Bayhan was released immediately after giving testimony to the prosecutor.

Meanwhile, the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya news agency reported Wednesday that the statements of detained members of the Mesopotamia Language and Culture Research Association (MED-DER), journalist Salih Keleş and Halise Aksoy, were postponed for a day since there was no interpreter for Kurdish at the court.

Aksoy is the mother of Agit İpek, a PKK militant whose remains were shipped by a prosecutor’s office to his family in a box by Turkish Post (PTT) in 2020 after he was killed in a clash with Turkish security forces in eastern Turkey in 2017.

Many voiced outrage and frustration at the time over the way the remains were sent to the family.

Deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community, the PKK has been waging a decades-long war against the state for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority.

In its report on Tuesday’s operation, state media TRT said police had detained people suspected of financing the PKK or luring new members to the group. It also involved suspects who allegedly transferred money to the PKK from municipalities held by Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), TRT said.

The HDP — the second-largest opposition party in parliament — is widely seen as a kingmaker in the tight race.

Erdoğan has often accused the HDP of alleged links to the PKK, which the party denies.

The HDP said last month it would not field a presidential candidate in the May 14 elections, giving tacit support to Erdoğan’s main rival, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

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