Critical news portal editor detained due to stance on referendum

One of the editors at the critical news website sendika.org, Ali Ergin Demirhan, was detained on Thursday morning due to his stance on a referendum held in Turkey on Sunday. Police teams raided the offices of the website early on Thursday and seized the hard disk of Demirhan’s computer as well as his mobile phone.

The editor was detained on charges of not showing the results of the public referendum as legitimate, organizing protests on social media and inciting hatred and enmity among the public as well as insulting a public official.

On Wednesday, Turkish police also detained 38 other people who took part in demonstrations held in protest of the referendum results.

A constitutional reform package introducing an executive presidency in Turkey was approved by 51.4 percent of the electorate in Sunday’s referendum. During the voting, some citizens cast their votes in unstamped ballots, while others used envelopes and ballots they brought with them, which prompted some opposition parties and naysayers to raise suspicions about the validity of the votes.

In a statement on Monday morning, Turkey’s election authority, the Supreme Board of Election (YSK),  said the ballot papers and envelopes brought by some citizens from outside were produced by the YSK and were authentic. Demonstrations have been held across Turkey to protest the YSK decision to consider the unstamped ballots valid.

KURDISH JOURNALIST MELTEM OKTAY WAS ARRESTED

Meanwhile, Meltem Oktay, a reporter from now-closed pro-Kurdish DİHA news agency, has been sent to prison on charges of “disseminating terrorist propaganda” and “membership in an armed terrorist organization,” the T24 news portal reported on Wednesday.

Oktay was initially arrested by the Mardin 2nd Criminal Court on April 11, 2016, and given a jail term of two years and 4 months for covering the operations carried out in the Nusaybin district of Mardin province by Turkish security forces against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

After the Supreme Court of Appeals has approved the ruling by Mardin 2nd Criminal Court, Oktay was detained by police in Edirne and later taken to a prison in Mardin province.

Also, police raided the house of Dihaber News Agency editor Abdurrahman Gök who documented the murder of Kurdish university student Kemal Kurkut by police in Diyarbakır during Nevruz celebrations on March 21, on Thursday. Gök was not home during the raid on his house in Bağlar district of Diyarbakır. Police confiscated some materials in Gök’s flat, including 4 books, one magazine and 2 mobile phones, while his cameras in the house were also examined.

Turkish security forces have been trying to clear southeastern towns and cities of PKK militants since July, 2015, when a two-year cease-fire with the group collapsed, shattering a settlement process launched by the government in late 2012 to end Turkey’s long-standing Kurdish problem and triggering the worst violence seen in the region in two decades.

According to a report by Amnesty International last December, an estimated half million people were forced from their homes as a result of a brutal crackdown by Turkish authorities over the past year, which may amount to collective punishment.

Moreover, Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano has called his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu to request the release of Italian journalist Gabriele Del Grande, who is currently in police detention in Hatay province. The phone call from Alfano came after journalist and documentary-maker Del Grande announced that he would begin a hunger strike on the grounds that his freedom and rights have been restricted since April 11.  Italian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on April 19 that Del Grande had managed to speak to his relatives by telephone on April 18 but “this is obviously not enough.”

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, an Italian politician, also called for Del Grande’s immediate release. “I call for the immediate release of #DelGrande and all journalists unjustly detained in Turkey. No democracy without freedom of expression,” Tajani tweeted.

Turkey is the worst jailer of journalists and media workers in the world. Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has recently announced the number of journalists behind bars reached to a new record with currently 231 languishing in Turkish jails, most without a trial and convictions. Of these journalists, 210 are arrested pending trial and without a conviction.

Most of the journalists do not even know what the charges are or what evidence, if any, the government has because the indictments were not filed yet. Also 100 journalists are wanted and 839 have been charged in Turkey. (SCF with turkishminute.com & turkeypurge.com) April 20, 2017

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