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Jailed Kurdish journalists indicted on terrorism charges due to their news reports

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Three Kurdish journalists who had been detained as part of an İstanbul-based investigation and were arrested by a court last month have been indicted on terrorism charges 12 days after their arrest, the Media and Law Association (MLSA) reported on Wednesday.

Pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya news agency reporters Esra Solin Dal and Mehmet Aslan and journalist Erdoğan Alayumat, defended by the MLSA, were released pending trial by the İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court on Tuesday, 24 days after their arrest.

The 17-page indictment accepted by the court accuses the journalists of “membership in a terrorist organization” due to their alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey and its Western allies.

Drafted by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in only 12 days, the indictment cites 126 news reports by the three journalists as evidence for the charge. They include 41 reports by Aslan, 65 by Dal and 20 by Alayumat.

The news pieces were classified under three different categories: “perception management activities,” “sending messages to the supporting masses” and “conveying instructions,” according to the MLSA.

Dal’s articles include an interview with documentary filmmaker Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, interviews with female lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party) and news reports about the “isolation” imposed on Abdullah Öcalan, the 74-year-old leader of the PKK.

The “isolation” of Öcalan, who has been jailed in a high-security prison on İmralı Island in the Sea of Marmara since security agents seized him in Kenya in 1999, refers to his inability to speak with his lawyers for years.

Six posts by Dal on her X account were also included in the indictment as evidence, MLSA said.

Alayumat’s interview with Kurdish politician Hatip Dicle on October 9, 2020 was also among the articles cited as evidence, with the prosecutor claiming that through the article, the journalist aimed to “denigrate the Republic of Turkey in the international community.”

Among Aslan’s news articles that were considered evidence against him were his reports on the arrest of his colleague, MA reporter Fırat Can Arslan, and a case filed against MA editor Sedat Yılmaz for his journalistic activities.

Four of the journalists’ social media posts were also considered to include “elements of a crime” in the indictment, according to the MLSA.

The first hearing will be held at the İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court on October 15.

Kurdish journalists in Turkey frequently face legal harassment, stand trial and are given jail sentences for covering issues related to Kurds and the outlawed PKK.

Rights groups routinely accuse Turkey of undermining media freedom by arresting journalists and shutting down critical media outlets, especially since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan survived a failed coup in July 2016.

Turkey, which has been suffering from a poor record of freedom of the press for years, ranks 158th among 180 countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index published on May 3 on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day.

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