Swedish authorities must conduct a swift and thorough investigation into the attack on Turkish journalist Abdullah Bozkurt and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in a press statement yesterday.
The authorities must “find the perpetrators and those who ordered the attack, and bring them to justice,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Swedish authorities must maximize their efforts to prevent such attacks and ensure that Bozkurt and other exiled journalists can work without fearing that their lives are at risk.”
Bozkurt, who is living in exile in Sweden, was attacked by three unidentified men near his home in Stockholm on September 24, at about 2:40 p.m. One of the men pulled him to the ground and then all three kicked him for several minutes before fleeing the scene, according to the journalist. He suffered scrapes and bruises to his face, arms and legs and was treated at a local hospital and then released.
The journalist filed a report with the police following the attack. He told CPJ that authorities have opened an investigation and found eyewitnesses to the incident.
Bozkurt said he believes the attackers were the same three unidentified men who, the day before the attack, had stood in the street outside his home and shouted for him to come outside because they “wanted to talk.” He refused to meet them and filmed a video of the men, which he said he turned over to police following the attack.
“I think this attack was targeted and is part of an intimidation campaign against exiled Turkish journalists with the clear message that we should stop speaking up against the Turkish government,” Bozkurt told CPJ.
Bozkurt and his team of journalists in Sweden run the Nordic Monitor news website, which provides exclusive and critical coverage on Turkey and exposes the clandestine activities of the notorious Turkish intelligence agency.
Bozkurt told CPJ that he regularly receives threats on social media over his coverage of Turkey, including threats to his and his family’s safety, but said they mainly came from people living in Turkey and that he had not received threats specifically relating to the attack in Sweden.
Bozkurt has a warrant out for his arrest in Turkey for his alleged membership in the Gülen movement, a religious group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen.
The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding a coup attempt in July 2016 and labels it a terrorist organization. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
Bozkurt was granted asylum in Sweden in 2016 after the Turkish government shuttered the pro-Gülen daily newspaper Zaman, where he worked, and the Muhabir news agency, which he co-founded, following the coup attempt.
In an email to CPJ, a Swedish police representative said that an investigation into the attack was ongoing, and that details could not be released until charges were filed against the suspected perpetrators.