Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Hüda Kaya’s son, former journalist Muhammed Cihad Cemre, was detained on Saturday by the counterterrorism police, Turkish media reported.
Cemre was reportedly taken into custody for photographing members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) eight years ago. The photographs were taken while Cemre was covering news on negotiations between the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and the PKK.
The PKK has been leading an armed insurgency against Turkey’s security forces since the ’80s in a campaign that has claimed the lives of some 40,000 people. The group is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the US.
The negotiations between the PKK and the government, also known as the Kurdish Peace Process, took place between 2013 and 2015. The process started with PKK’s imprisoned leader Abdullah Öcalan declaring it was time to end armed conflict in a letter that was read publicly. A bilateral ceasefire was achieved, and both sides tried to keep the ceasefire in place.
However, following a series of altercations on August 11, 2015, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that they had put the peace process “on ice. ”
A notice was sent to the Istanbul police on June 20 saying Cemre had visited PKK members in the Qandil Mountains near the Iran-Iraq border, an area that’s a sanctuary for the PKK. According to the notice, Cemre had photographs that included PKK members.
Police conducted an investigation in which they found photographs taken by Cemre during the peace process. The photographs were published by pro-government media outlets, which also mentioned that he had participated in pro-PKK activities.
Kaya said her son had been detained in western Turkey’s Çanakkale province. “My son, who is now a farmer in a village in Çanakkale, was detained by the counterterrorism police,” she said on Twitter. “There is a gag order on the investigation; therefore, we don’t know much about the case, but I see the pro-government media is already trying to slander us.”
Cemre’s lawyer, Abdi Alınak, said the photographs and interviews with PKK members were not new. He said the authorities were trying to create the impression that Cemre had only recently been communicating with PKK members. Alınak said the pro-government media were trying to defame Kaya and her family and denied that Cemre was a member of any illegal organization.
“These photographs were already on the Internet,” said Alınak. “They have not been considered criminal evidence for years, but all of a sudden they are being used as part of a criminal investigation.”
Turkey, which is among the top jailers of journalists in the world, was ranked 149th among 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2022 World Press Freedom Index, released in early May.
It is common for journalists in Turkey, which has a poor record on freedom of the press, to face threats, physical attacks and legal harassment due to their work.