CPJ calls on Turkey to hold all involved in assault of local journalist to account

Journalist Sinan Aygül after he was assaulted by people connected to the ruling party

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Turkey to hold to account all those involved in the recent assault of local journalist Sinan Aygül.

Aygül, editor-in-chief of Bitlis News and head of the Bitlis Journalists Association, was attacked on June 17 by two people connected to the mayor of a Justice and Development Party (AKP)-run municipality, which he had recently claimed was involved in irregularities.

Aygül shared photos on Twitter the same day showing his face covered in blood following the attack. He claimed he was assaulted by individuals in the security detail of Mehmet Emin Geylani, the mayor of the Tatvan Municipality in Bitlis.

“Turkish authorities should thoroughly and swiftly investigate the cowardly beating of journalist Sinan Aygül and hold everyone involved to account,” said Özgür Öğret, CPJ’s Turkey representative. “Authorities should ensure that the investigation is transparent and free from political influence. Journalists must be able to cover local government figures without fear of physical attack.”

A local court on Sunday arrested police officer Engin Kaplan and Yücel Baysal, a municipal employee, in connection with the incident on charges of “intentional injury,” according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.

The arrests came as part of an investigation initiated by the Bitlis Governor’s Office into the suspects after footage of the incident, which was captured by a nearby security camera, was released on social media. The footage shows Aygül being assaulted by Baysal, while Kaplan prevents bystanders from intervening and keeps them at a distance by displaying his gun.

Aygül told CPJ that he sustained injuries to his head and shoulder, a shattered cheekbone that requires surgery and a bruise under his right kneecap that has hindered his walking.

The attack came after Aygül alleged that there were “serious irregularities and crimes” involved in some of the property sales of the AKP-run Tatvan Municipality.

Aygül has been constantly targeted due to his coverage of corruption allegations involving members of the AKP government. He was previously arrested following a complaint by Vahit Kiler, a former AKP lawmaker from Bitlis, but was later released. Aygül had also reported on allegations of nepotism in Tatvan.

Aygül told CPJ that he believed Geylani had ordered the attack in response to his recent coverage of alleged corruption in the municipality. He said Baysal told him, “You will die if you write about the mayor again.” Geylani denied any involvement in a statement released shortly after the attack. 

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