CPJ calls on Spain to release journalist arrested on Turkish warrant

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Spanish authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Hamza Yalçın, a writer for the leftist Turkish magazine Odak Dergisi.

Police arrested Yalçın, who has dual citizenship in Turkey and Sweden, at Barcelona’s El Prat airport on Aug. 3 and detained him pending an extradition hearing on charges of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and maintaining “terrorist links” with the banned Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C).

“Turkish authorities have detained so many journalists and closed so many media outlets on bogus terrorism charges that nobody but the government’s most fervent supporters believes them anymore,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Spain should not make itself an accomplice to the injustices Turkey’s thin-skinned government daily perpetrates against the press, and should release Hamza Yalçın without any further delay. Deporting Yalçın would set a terrible precedent for those Turkish journalists who have escaped Turkey for the relative freedom of the European Union.”

Yalçın has written for Odak Dergisi, which is often critical of the Turkish government, since immigrating to Sweden in 1984, according to The Associated Press.

The Spanish Interior Ministry did not immediately reply to CPJ’s email requesting comment.

Yalçın was arrested in Turkey in 1979 for being a member of the ultra-left Turkish Peoples Liberation Party/Front (THKP-C). He escaped from prison after serving six months and applied for asylum in Sweden in 1984. He later returned to Turkey and served three years in prison from 1990 to 1994. He then returned to Sweden again.

In December 2016, when CPJ last conducted its annual census of journalists jailed around the world, Turkey had imprisoned at least 81 journalists for their work — more than any other country at any time in the 25 years CPJ has kept detailed records.

On Thursday, detention warrants were issued for 35 Turkish journalists over the use of a smart phone application known as ByLock.

Turkey is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2017 World Press Freedom Index. The situation of media in Turkey has become critical under the state of emergency proclaimed after a coup attempt last July.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has showed that 276 journalists and media workers are now in jails as of August 9, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 252 are arrested pending trial, only 24 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 110 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 controversial coup attempt. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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