Harlem Désir, the Representative on Freedom of the Media at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), has reacted the maltreatment of Fevzi Yazıcı, who is jailed art director of now-closed Zaman daily, on Tuesday and urged Turkish government to release all journalists in prison.
Posting a message on his official Twitter account, Désir has stated that “I am concerned about media reports that former art director of Zaman daily @fevziyazici, imprisoned since July of this year, was placed in solitary confinement and reportedly threatened at police headquarters. I urge #Turkey to release all journalists in prison.”
New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has also posted a twitter message and expressed its concerns about solitary confinement of Fevzi Yazıcı and said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan must stop imprisonment and harassment of media and journalists in Turkey.
The message shared from the official account of CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia Program (@CPJ_Eurasia) has stated that “Very concerning development
#journalist #FevziYazici. @RT_Erdogan must stop imprisonment & harassment of #media & #journalists in #Turkey.
Fevzi Yazıcı, the jailed media designer and the art director of the now-closed-down Zaman daily, was threatened at police headquarters to admit having carried a fabricated letter that was submitted to a New York court allegedly written by US-based Turkish Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen ordering judges in Turkey to release several police officers in 2015.
According to information obtained from family members, Yazıcı was taken on Dec. 8 to İstanbul police headquarters from Silivri Prison, where he has been in pretrial detention since July 27, 2016. He was not informed of the accusations leveled against him and was not allowed to meet with his lawyers until Dec. 15.
During the interrogation Yazıcı did not admit to having put a letter on his USB or to have brought it from the US. Yazıcı said he visited the US to participate in a meeting of the Society for News Design (SND).
According to sources the İstanbul chief prosecutor personally participated in the interrogation of Yazıcı and threatened to keep him in detention for 30 days if he did not admit to the accusation about the letter. Yazıcı was taken to Silivri Prison on Dec. 17 and put in solitary confinement with a threat that he would stay there until he admitted to the accusation about the letter. Journalist Yazıcı was not given any medication despite the fact that he became ill during the detention period.
The letter that was publicized 17 months after Yazıcı was arrested was also not mentioned in his current indictment in which he faces three consecutive life sentences for participating in a meeting about a Zaman daily advertisement a year before the coup. He and some other media workers were accused of sending subliminal messages to the military regarding a coup attempt by means of the advertisement.
İstanbul Chief Prosecutor İrfan Fidan presented the letter to reporters as “concrete evidence” of a 2015 plot to free some Gülen movement members from prison.
Lawyers of Fethullah Gülen denied the claims about the letter, calling it “complete nonsense invented and fabricated” for further false allegations against their client. News website TR724 says the letterhead and signature parts of the letter were copied from another letter of Gülen and that the letter includes many spelling and terminology mistakes in addition to expressions not used by Gülen.
The authenticity of the letter in terms of wording and signature aside, critics pointed to some important contradictions between the statement of the prosecutor and the chronology of events.
According to Fidan’s statement, Yazıcı travelled to the US on April 8, 2015 and returned to Turkey on April 18, 2015 with the digital format of the letter allegedly written by Gülen on a USB that was seized by police at his home. But the letter was dated April 19, 2015 and the save date on the USB is April 26, 2016. Judges Mustafa Başer and Metin Özçelik, who were claimed to have received orders by means of the letter, released 75 jailed Gülen movement members including media members and police officers on April 25, 2015, a day before the letter was recorded on the USB that was allegedly brought by Yazıcı from the US on April 18.
The 10th Penal Court of First Instance in Istanbul ruled against the release order that same night and stopped the 75 people including Samanyolu Broadcasting Group General Manager Hidayet Karaca and former police officers Ali Fuat Yılmazer, Nazmi Ardıç, Yurt Atayün, Ömer Köse, Yasin Topçu and Hüseyin Korkmaz from being freed.
Korkmaz is a former İstanbul police officer who was arrested by the Erdoğan regime in the aftermath of corruption operations in late 2013 in which Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab and the inner circle of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan were implicated.
Korkmaz became one of the witnesses along with Zarrab in a New York court where Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an executive of Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank, is being tried for violating US sanctions on Iran.
Korkmaz called then-Prime Minister and current autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan the “No. 1” target in a group that also included Mehmet Zafer Çağlayan, the former economy minister, and Süleyman Aslan, a former chief executive at Halkbank, a large Turkish state-owned bank that was central to the sanction-busting scheme.
Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 248 journalists and media workers are in jails as of December 19, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 221 are arrested pending trial, only 27 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 139 journalists who live 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 more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt.