A high criminal court in southeastern Turkey has accepted an indictment of 21 people, the vast majority of whom are Kurdish journalists who have been in pre-trial detention since June 2022, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA).
The first hearing in the trial will be held at the Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court on July 11, more than a year after they were jailed on terrorism-related charges.
MLSA co-director and lawyer Veysel Ok tweeted that the delayed preparation of indictments is a way of punishing defendants. He said the journalists will have already spent one year in jail before appearing in court, adding that they should be released immediately since they’ve been unjustly deprived of their freedom for months.
Sixteen of the 21 detainees, including Serdar Altan, co-chair of the Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG), Mezopotamya news agency (MA) Editor-in-Chief Aziz Oruç and JinNews News Director Safiye Alagaş, were arrested by a court on June 16, 2022 after they had been held in custody for eight days, in a move that sparked outrage among opposition politicians, members of the press and rights activists.
The Kurdish journalists, who had been detained as part of an operation overseen by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, were arrested on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, a charge included in the indictment.
Kurdish journalists in Turkey frequently face legal harassment, stand trial and are given jail sentences for covering issues related to Kurds and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging a bloody campaign in Turkey’s southeast since 1984 and is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.
Rights groups routinely accuse Turkey of undermining media freedom by arresting journalists and shutting down critical media outlets, especially since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan survived a failed coup in July 2016.
Turkey, which is one of the top jailers of journalists in the world, was ranked 149th among 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2022 World Press Freedom Index, released in May.