Fifty-four human rights and press freedom organizations on Wednesday urged Turkish authorities to “immediately and unconditionally release” journalist Nedim Türfent and to overturn his conviction.
“Today marks 2000 days since he was arrested and subsequently sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison on trumped-up terrorism charges following an unfair trial, during which scores of witnesses said they had been tortured into testifying against him,” the statement said.
The signatories included ARTICLE 19, PEN International and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
Türfent was arrested after reporting on Turkish special police forces’ ill-treatment of some 40 Kurdish workers. In video footage taken by Türfent and published by the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DIHA), a police officer was seen shouting at the handcuffed workers lying on the ground. “You will see the power of the Turks! What did this state do to you?” apparently alleging that the workers had links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
‘Today marks another painful milestone in Nedim Türfent’s gross miscarriage of justice,” Ma Thida, chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, said. “That he has now spent 2000 days behind bars simply for doing his job beggars belief.”
An online harassment campaign was launched against Türfent immediately after the release of the footage. He was detained on May 13, 2016 and charged with membership in a terrorist organization the following day. He was incarcerated for 399 days before his indictment was drafted.
“On the occasion of this day, I call upon all national and international rights organizations to show solidarity with all those imprisoned because of their thoughts, words and identities,” Türfent said in a message.
Nineteen of 20 witnesses called in the trial said their initial statements against Türfent had been given under torture. But he was still sentenced to eight years, nine months in prison in December 2017. Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals upheld his sentence on May 21, 2019. His case is now pending before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
“Türfent’s application before the European Court of Human Rights is still pending, three years after being lodged, and we trust that the Court can prioritize the case,” Thida said. “The PEN Community stands once again by Türfent and all the writers and journalists wrongfully imprisoned in Turkey and will keep advocating for their freedom until every single one of them is released.”