Jailed journalist Mustafa Ünal about Turkish gov’t: They are strong, I am right

Mustafa Ünal (50), a veteran journalist and former Ankara bureau chief for the shuttered Zaman daily, said in a letter from İstanbul’s notorious Silivri Prison, “There is no legal justification for ruling for the continuation of my imprisonment.”

Ünal, who was arrested after a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and has been held in Silivri Prison for more than 27 months, stated in his letter: “They are strong, I am right. They have the present, I have the future because I am innocent and oppressed. Righteousness, law, justice and conscience are on my side.”

Stating that “Journalism cannot be a crime in a country administered by the rule of law. Ideas and thoughts cannot be prosecuted/persecuted recklessly,” Ünal added: “The decision by the European Court of Human Rights [ECtHR] for Şahin Alpay was a pilot decision and is also valid in my case. In light of the this ECtHR ruling and the decision by the Turkish Constitutional Court for Mehmet Altan, even one day of detention is a violation of my rights.”

The full text of jailed veteran journalist Mustafa Ünal’s letter is as follow: 

“The decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) for Şahin Alpay is a pilot decision and also valid for my case. In the light of the this ECtHR ruling and the decision by the Turkish Constitutional Court for Mehmet Altan, even one day of my detention is a solid violation of rights. The files in my case are full of injustices.

What is oxygen for living things is justice the same for states? States can only breathe with justice. In our planet, oxygen, namely justice is about to run out. The alarm bells are ringing for the state. My detention is blocking the state’s trachea. Please pay attention, the state is drowning!

There is no legal justification for deciding the continuation of my imprisonment. Are those 9 articles which have contents that consists of only legal and clear words, solid evidence? No. The only reason for my imprisonment is ‘the political conjuncture.’ It’s not legal either. It’s even not political in the sense that we understand. The conjuncture could never be an excuse for my imprisonment in the Republic of Turkey which is a rule of law.

I’m an Ankara journalist. I’m a witness to history. I’m not a prisoner of any crime. I’m a victim of the conjuncture. I am observing the developments in Ankara with a great wonder ın the light of history from a dungeon of Silivri Prison. AK Party (The Justice and Development Party) is in power, my friends are ministers, deputies, and ombudsman… I am a prisoner. A prisoner who has been abandoned to live at the bottom of the blind well and between the four walls. 

They are strong, I am right. They have the present, I have the future. Because I am innocent and oppressed. Righteousness, law, justice, conscience are on my side. I’m a prisoner, but those who applauded the news about the closure case opened against AK Party are sharing the power. I am a Joseph who was thrown into a well by his own brothers. I am in the position of Joseph.

You handcuffed my hands which are holding only a pen. However, the conjunctures in this geography have always been temporary. As an Ankara journalist, I have witnessed these changes closely.

Journalism cannot be a crime in a country administered by rule of law. The ideas and thoughts cannot be prosecuted/persecuted recklessly. The outcome of this case is obvious. It’s as obvious as that this street has a dead end. I am asking you, does one have to walk to the end of the road to see this fact?

Although the prison conditions are terrible, my heart is in comfort, my conscience is peaceful, my faith is strong. Because I am innocent and I am oppressed. Only my body is a prisoner. I’m in the mood of great patience bestowed by God. I am fully confident that I will recapitulate the fruits of this patience.”

Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 237 journalists and media workers were in jail as of October 7, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 169 were under arrest pending trial while only 68 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 148 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

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