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Kurdish journalist released from pretrial detention 306 days after arrest

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A Turkish court on Thursday decided for the release from pretrial detention of a Kurdish journalist 306 days after she was arrested on terrorism-related charges, the Media and Law Studies Association announced.

Dicle Müftüoğlu, co-chairperson of the Dicle Fırat Journalists Association and an editor at the Mezopotamya news agency who was arrested in May, was released from jail at the third hearing of her trial at the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court in southeastern Turkey.

The court, however, decided to impose a travel ban on her.

Müftüoğlu attended the hearing via the IT Voice and Image System (SEGBİS) from Sincan Women’s Prison in Ankara. The hearing was observed by representatives from local and international press organizations, including Reporters without Borders (RSF) Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu, Turkish Journalists Union (TGS) President Gökhan Durmuş and MLSA co-director and lawyer Veysel Ok.

A secret witness who testified during the hearing described Müftüoğlu’s professional work such as tasking other journalists with writing reports and holding meetings with staff as “criminal activities.” When asked by the court whether they had any information about Müftüoğlu’s being a member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the secret witness said, “No.”

It is common for Kurdish journalists in Turkey to face terrorism charges due to their alleged links to the PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.

In her defense, Müftüoğlu said she is being held in pretrial detention not based on concrete criminal evidence but based on slander and false accusations from a secret witness. She said she has been a journalist for 15 years and accused the secret witness of trying to criminalize her professional activities.

Müftüoğlu was one of five journalists who were sent to jail on May 3, World Press Freedom Day in 2023

Along with the other journalists, she faces charges of terrorist organization membership and running a terrorist organization due to her journalistic activities.

She went on a hunger strike in late January to draw attention to the criminalization of journalistic activities in Turkey.

“We are living in a reality where everyone who thinks, speaks or writes the truth is imprisoned in Turkey. … As a journalist who has been imprisoned by the criminalization of professional activities, experiencing firsthand the consequences of injustice, I am raising my voice against the silence,” Müftüoğlu said at the time, calling on everyone to “raise their voices so that the truth does not remain in the dark.”

Designated 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.

Turkey, which has a poor record in freedom of the press, ranked 165th among 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2023 World Press Freedom Index, plunging 16 places from its ranking of 149th in 2022.

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