9 Kurdish journalists released following 7 months in pretrial detention

Nine Kurdish journalists, eight of whom were put in pretrial detention on terrorism charges in October, were released by a local court in Ankara during the first hearing of their trial, the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) reported.

Police in October took 11 journalists into custody in İstanbul and Ankara as well as other cities including Diyarbakır as part of an investigation conducted by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. In March Hamdullah Bayram, from the pro-Kurdish Yeni Yaşam newspaper, was detained as part of the same investigation.

The Kurdish journalists are accused of membership in the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The Ankara 4th High Criminal Court on Tuesday ruled for the release of MA’s editor-in-chief Diren Yurtsever and MA reporters Selman Gözelyüz, Deniz Nazlım, Berivan Altan, Emrullah Acar, Hakan Yalçın and Ceylan Şahinli as well as journalists Habibe Eren and Öznur Değer from JinNews.

Bayram, however, was not released by the court. 

Zemo Ağgöz, one of the detained journalists from Mezopotamya who had a one-and-half-month-old baby at the time, and Mehmet Günhan, who once worked as an intern at MA, were earlier released.

Kurdish journalists in Turkey frequently face legal harassment, stand trial and are given jail sentences for covering issues related to Kurds and the PKK, considered a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.

According to a report by MA, 34 journalists have been arrested for their work in the last 11 months as part of separate investigations across Turkey.

Dozens of critical journalists were jailed in Turkey, while many media outlets were closed down in the aftermath of a coup attempt in 2016.

Turkey is ranked 165th in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2023 World Press Freedom Index, among 180 countries, not far from North Korea, which occupies the bottom of the list.

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