A student of fine arts jailed over charge of ‘insulting’ Turkey’s President Erdoğan

Gizem Yerik

Gizem Yerik, as student from the Department of Fine Arts at Bursa’s Uludağ University was arrested again on Thursday as her sentence over charge of “insulting President Erdoğan” and “illegal organization propaganda” on her Twitter posts was upheld by the Court of Cassation. Yerik was jailed for 75 days in Bursa prison on the same charge in 2016 and the she was released pending trial.

The Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the offenses of 11 months and 20 days in prison for ‘insulting’ Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and 3 years and 9 months in prison for “propagating for a terror organization,” which amounts to 4 years 8 months and 20 days in prison.

Gizem Yerik was detained by anti-terror units from her classroom on February 26, 2016. However, she denied the accusations. During the interrogation in prosecutor office she was asked about her retweets and Twitter posts about the Kurdish people who were stuck in the basements in Cizre, and on Arin Mirxan who lost her life during the local Kurds Kobanê resistance.

Yerik was sentenced to 4 years 8 months and 20 days in prison in the first hearing held on May 11, 2016 and after she was kept behind the bars for 75 days she was released.

Journalist Pınar Gayıp.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Etkin news agency (ETHA) reporter Pınar Gayıp was also detained by Turkish gendarmarie as she was following the first hearing of Suruç massacre in a Şanlıurfa court. It is reported that journalist Gayıp was kept in custody in a local gendarmarie post.

Thirty-three people were killed, 104 people injured in a bomb attack on July 20, 2015 outside the Amara Culture Centre in Suruç. Most victims were members of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) Youth Wing and the Socialist Youth Associations Federation (SGDF), university-ages students who were giving a press statement on their planned trip to reconstruct the Syrian border town of Kobanî.

Twitter’s latest government transparency report on March 2017 revealed the extent of the Turkish government crackdown on social media, making the country the leader in Twitter censorship. According to the report, the Turkish government made 493 requests for account information and 2,232 requests to remove accounts or content in the second half of 2016. It marked a 76 percent and 25 percent increase, respectively, from the first half of 2016.

Twitter says it didn’t comply with any of the information requests, and that 19 percent of the removal cases resulted in “some content [being] withheld.”

Over the past few years, Turkey’s regime under Erdoğan has cracked down on free speech and attempted to restrict internet and social media usage. In the second half of last year, according to the transparency report, it led the world in Twitter take down requests. The second country listed in the report (France or Brazil, depending on the specific metric used) wasn’t even close.

Turkey was also single-handedly accounted 844 out of 894 all court requests worldwide for removal of content on Twitter between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2016. As of the end of 2016, at least 10,000 people were under investigation on committing alleged crime of making terrorist propaganda and insulting senior state officials on social media.

According to figures released by the Ministry of Interior Affairs in December, 3,710 social media users had been investigated in the last six months of 2016, of whom 1,656 were arrested. A total of 1,203 of those investigations resulted in releases on probation.

Turkey also stands out from the crowd by a distant margin by holding a record number of 235 journalists and media workers behind bars, breaking an all time world record. More than half of the journalists who are in prison around the world are now located in Turkey, a member of the Council of Europe (CoE) and a candidate member for the European Union (EU).

Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has documented that 235 journalists are now in jails, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 214 are arrested pending trial, Only 21 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons.  An outstanding detention warrants remain for 103 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey. Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the coup attempt.

May 4, 2017

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