Documentary filmmaker facing terrorism charges released on probation

Filmmaker Koray Kesik

A Turkish court has released from custody a documentary filmmaker who is facing terrorism charges due to a 2015 documentary on Kurdish militants after he was kept in detention for four days, the Turkish Minute news website reported, citing the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) reported on Monday.

Filmmaker Koray Kesik was detained during a raid in the western province of İzmir on the night of May 2 over allegations related to the 2015 documentary “Bakur” (North), which follows the lives of outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants in three camps in the Kurdish region that lies within Turkish borders.

Kesik was the documentary’s director of photography.

The PKK, which has been waging a bloody campaign in Turkey’s southeast since 1984, is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and its Western allies.

Kesik, who had been in custody since Thursday night, only completed his police questioning on Monday. He was referred to court for arrest by a prosecutor on charges of terrorist organization membership. A court in İzmir subsequently ruled for his release under judicial supervision, imposing a travel ban on him.

The documentary led to the conviction of journalist Ertuğrul Mavioğlu and director Çayan Demirel in December 2023. Both were sentenced to three years in prison for allegedly disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization. Last week, a regional appeals court in Gaziantep upheld the decision.

According to MLSA, the filmmaker was questioned about his work on “Bakur” during his interrogation, which lasted for hours.

A confidentiality order has been imposed on his case file.

MLSA lawyers challenged the search, detention order and seizure of materials found at Kesik’s home soon after his arrest.

Kesik’s family and friends, including author Ümit Kıvanç, academic and documentary filmmaker Can Candan, director of photography Mustafa Ünlü and the documentary’s producer Ayşe Çetinbaş and director Demirel, released a press statement about his detention in İstanbul’s central Taksim neighborhood over the weekend. They demanded the filmmaker’s release and called for solidarity.

Kesik’s friends also expressed their support for him on social media using the hashtags #belgeselçekmeksuçdeğildir (Filming a documentary is not a crime) and #KorayKesikserbestbırakılsın (Release Koray Kesik).

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