German TV documentary focuses on Erdoğan’s pursuit of dissident journalists in exile

A documentary aired on Germany’s state-run television station ZDF earlier this week tells the stories of journalists living in exile who have been added to Turkey’s “Terrorist Wanted List” by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, mainly focusing on 61-year-old journalist and author Can Dündar, Turkish Minute reported.

Prepared jointly by Dündar and Hauke Wendler, a documentary filmmaker, journalist and executive producer, the 43-minute documentary, titled “Erdoğan’s Terror List – How the Turkish Government Hunts Critics Worldwide,” was released on ZDF’s website and YouTube channel on May 9.

According to the film, anyone who criticizes Erdoğan, like Dündar, is labeled a “terrorist” and put on the Turkish government’s wanted list.

Dündar points out his name on Turkey’s “Terrorist Wanted List” and says, “Like in the Wild West, they put a bounty on my head.”

The journalist stood trial in Turkey for reporting in May 2015 on National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks that were allegedly carrying weapons to jihadist groups in Syria and was sentenced to 27 years on various charges including espionage.

Dündar had to leave Turkey following an attack in front of the Çağlayan Courthouse in İstanbul on May 6, 2016 and has lived in exile in Germany ever since.

“Erdoğan instilled this hatred in people: Either you’re with me or you’re with the enemy. … Polarization in Turkey is directly mirrored in Germany,” Dündar says.

Dündar met with Cevheri Güven, 46, a journalist and blogger also in exile in Germany whose videos on the Turkish government’s corruption and shady relations with mafia and crime groups have been watched by millions of people on YouTube in both Germany and Turkey, for an interview about his ordeal.

It is said in the documentary that Dündar and Güven, who were in the same prison in Turkey, were “honest journalists, according to the opposition, and terrorists, according to the Erdoğan government.”

Güven, a former editor of the now-defunct Nokta magazine, along with the magazine’s managing editor, Murat Çapan, was handed down a prison sentence of 22 years in 2017 on charges of “inciting people to armed revolt against the Turkish government.”

The journalists were sentenced to prison due to two cover stories in Nokta that criticized Erdoğan for “capitalizing” on the death of soldiers in Turkey’s fight against terrorism.

On Sept. 22 the pro-government Sabah daily published on its front page secretly taken photos of Güven while walking on the street and revealed his address in a German city. He was also added to the “Terrorist Wanted List” a few months ago.

“Erdoğan has a few red lines. If anyone crosses these red lines, they get into trouble. … I have become a target for fanatics in the country. There is a great deal of pressure on us. Our lives and our children’s lives are in danger,” Güven says.

Dündar also spoke to Ahmet Dönmez, a Turkish journalist known for his reports on mafia groups associated with Turkish government officials including Erdoğan who has been living in exile in Sweden.

Dönmez was brutally attacked by two men in Stockholm in March 2022 in front of his 6-year-old daughter. Losing consciousness after the attack, the journalist was treated in intensive care due to an injury to his head.

When asked why he was added to the terror list in early 2023, Dönmez said it was due to his articles critical of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and a book about corruption during the Erdoğan era.

The documentary also mentioned the story of Nuri Gökhan Bozkır, a former military officer who was rendered from Ukraine by MİT in late January 2022 and arrested by a court the next month. He is accused by the Turkish government of the unsolved murder of academic Necip Hablemitoğlu, who was killed on Jan. 18, 2002, in front of his house in Ankara.

It was said that more than 100 people like Bozkır have been “abducted by the Erdoğan government” from 21 countries since 2016.

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