26-year-old journalist to face trial on trumped-up terror charges

Journalist Ayşenur Parıldak (26) who worked for Turkey’s largest national daily as a court reporter while pursuing a law degree in Ankara is scheduled to appear in the court for a first hearing on February 9, 2016.

She was arrested on August 11, 2016 while attending to her exams in the law school, charged under the country’s abusive anti-terror laws based on her tweet messages and now faces prison sentences up to 15 years if she gets convicted.

Turkish journalist Ayşenur Parıldak is one of the journalists who were arrested in the escalating crackdown on journalists and media outlets by the government of Turkey.

According to a recent report by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), 191 journalists are currently behind bars and additional 92 journalists are wanted for detention. Close to 200 media outlets were shuttered by executive decisions that were not subject to an effective judicial or legislative scrutiny.

The Reporters without Borders’ ‘2016 World Press Freedom Index’ shows Turkey as “world leader in imprisoned journalists” as US-based Freedom House defines Turkey as a “not free” country in terms of freedom of the press in its most recent report covering the year 2016. 

In her letter sent to Cumhuriyet daily on October 4, 2016; Parıldak wrote about the mistreatment and sexual harassment during detention. She also uttered these powerful words: “I’m afraid of being forgotten in jail.”

The SCF urges the network of human rights associations, freedom advocacy groups and professional organizations to mobilize and to call on Turkish government to free this young journalist who was wrongfully and unjustly arrested in the first place.

Please join us in spreading the word around the world that Ayşenur must be free where she served about six months already in pre-trial detention and tell her that so won’t be forgotten.

 

MORE ON JOURNALIST AYŞENUR’S CASE

SCF has obtained the 7-page indictment filed against Ayşenur on Nov. 11, 2016 by public prosecutor İdris Ünal who accused the journalist of being a member of ‘armed terror group’.

The indictment lacks any evidence linking Ayşenur to any violence or terror. Instead, her journalism career in two national dailies — Taraf and Zaman newspapers that were shut down by the government decree in the aftermath of failed coup bid of July 15, 2016 – was cited as criminal activity.

Instead the indictment listed her Tweet messages as far back as in 2014, claimed she had written “biased and impartial” articles for the newspapers she worked for. At one point, the prosecutor even charged her for engaging what he called as “subjective reporting” while journalist was covering prosecutions, and trials in Turkey’s courtrooms.

The prosecutor listed a photograph of Ayşenur while she was posing in the Constitutional Court room as criminal evidence. Her critical tweets of judicial cases in what many believe as government witch-hunt persecution targeting critics, opponents and dissidents were also included as evidence.

The prosecutor even maintained that Ayşenur’s retweeting of the anti-coup message of P24, an independent journalism portal in Turkey, as the evidence of the commissioning of the crime. The P24 message with a hashtag “#darbeyehayır (no to coup) said ‘there is no place for but, a major crime committed against the nation.” The prosecutor did not explain how the journalist’s stand against the coup constituted a crime under the laws but merely suggested that she used that as an argument to clear herself of any involvement with the coup.

In another bizarre twist in the case, the prosecutor claimed the journalist has a connection with a government whistleblower known as Fuat Avni who shared the inside information from the government circles on Twiter. Ayşenur, well-known for her reporting on court cases, was among hundreds followed by the whistleblower on Twitter. The whistleblower himself has close to three million followers on Twitter.

Last but not the least, the banking activity of the journalist was also presented as criminal activity in the indictment. A money transfer in amount of TL 25,000 (approximately $6,800) to the journalist account by a man named Ahmet Baltacı on May 25, 2016 as suspicious activity. Parıldak’s lawyer presented documents proving that the transaction was about the payment for a car sold by the journalist and the indictment listed Baltacı as a man who has sold 47 cars so far.

Other transactions such as TL 600 ($162) that was transferred to another journalist on June 6, 2016, and TL 1,994 ($539), Ayşenur’s father transferred to a school in New York on Feb.2, 2013, were included as alleged evidences of the crime.

Ayşenur, like dozens of her other colleagues, are alleged to have been affiliated with the Hizmet movement, a peaceful civil society initiative inspired by the US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. The government labels Gülen, a vocal critic of government, as ‘terrorist’ and describe his movement as “the Gülenist Terror Group, or FETÖ.”

Turkish government also accuses Gülen of being behind the failed coup of July 15, 2016. Mr.Gülen rejected accusations and the government has so far failed to present any solid evidence linking Mr. Gülen to the coup.

      

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