Turkish journalist under suicide risk re-arrested a few hours after release

Journalist Ayşenur Parıldak.

Ayşenur Parıldak, a 27-year old Turkish journalist, has been arrested again a few hours after an Ankara court released her from nine-months pre-trial detention in what is seen as a new form of repression against critical and independent journalists in Turkey.

The public prosecutor immediately moved to challenge the court decision that ruled for her release, saying a new evidence gathered within moments of her release order showed a strong suspicion of crime. Ankara  No.14 Criminal Court of Peace decided to re-arrest Parıldak before she even saw the light of the day outside of the prison.

During the trial hearing at the Ankara 14th High Criminal Court on May 2, journalist Parıldak questioned the authenticity of social media postings that are alleged by the prosecutor as criminal evidence against her. Prosecutor also claimed that the journalist used a smart-phone application called ByLock, a publicly available messaging software, to communicate.

She told judges at the hearing that she had thought of committing a suicide several times while in prison by putting a laundry clothesline to her neck, only to drop the idea later. She burst into tears when she heard the release decision pending trial.

The court ruled on Tuesday to release Parıldak pending trial considering that all evidence against her has already been collected, that she would have no opportunity to tamper with said evidence, that a travel ban had been imposed on her and that she would go to a police station every week to check in.

While Parıldak and her family were awaiting her release, a prosecutor from the Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office petitioned the court for her re-arrest, claiming that the Information Technologies and Communications Authority (BTK) was sending new evidence from her mobile phone. The court then ruled for Parıldak’s rearrest before she was even released from the prison.

Family members and friends were shocked at re-arrest decision of Parıldak who has already served nine months without a conviction. They remain concerned that this may worsen her psychological well-being which was already dealt with a blow by false charges prosecutor brought against her.

Parıldak was arrested on August 11, 2016 while attending to her exams in the law school, charged under Turkey’s abusive anti-terror laws based on her tweet messages. She was covering court stories for the now-closed Zaman daily and also a student at the law faculty of Ankara University. She was planning to graduate this summer and continue her career as a lawyer because she was fired by the trustees of the paper, which were appointed by the government.

Sending a letter to the Cumhuriyet daily from prison, Parıldak said in October of last year: “I was subjected to violence and sexual abuse. I was interrogated day and night for eight days. They [police officers] were questioning me while they were under the influence of alcohol and were not avoiding saying this. Then the court process began, and here I am. I stayed here in a ward for one month. Then 20 people were taken out of wards and placed in cells, which is solitary confinement. … I am afraid of being forgotten here.”

The prosecutor demanded 15 years prison sentence in the indictment. The court had ruled for continuation of the imprisonment of Parıldak on the first hearing on February 9, 2017.  SCF had published minutes of the hearing and how the so called evidence prosecutor submitted had nothing to do with charges.

Ayşenur Parıldak is not the first journalist who has been arrested immediately after release. On March 31, twenty-one journalists, who were released by an İstanbul court were re-detained in front of Silivri Prison by the police and 20 of them were re-arrested after long detention period. Three judges who decided to release 21 jailed journalists were suspended by the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) over alleged links with Gülen movement.

Similarly, in Antalya 3 journalist were also arrested a few days after the court ruled pending trial in April. Holding journalists in long pre-trial detentions on dubious charges and ordering their release only to be re-arrested on same charges have been a new pattern of abuse perpetrated by Turkey’s authorities against critical journalists.

In the days leading up the World Press Freedom Day on May 3, Turkey stands out from the crowd by a distant margin by holding a record number of 235 journalists and media workers behind bars, breaking an all time world record. More than half of the journalists who are in prison around the world are now located in Turkey, a member of the Council of Europe (CoE) and a candidate member for the European Union (EU).

Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has documented that 235 journalists are now in jails, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 214 are arrested pending trial, Only 21 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons.  An outstanding detention warrants remain for 103 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey. Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the coup attempt. (SCF with turkishminute.com) May 2, 2017

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