Switzerland jails a journalist who fled Turkey and applied for asylum

Switzerland has denied the right of asylum to Mustafa Mamay, a Kurdish-Turkish journalist who was sentenced to six years in prison by the Turkish government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and instead sentenced him to 30 days in jail due to his attempt to enter the country on a fake passport.

According to a report by online news outlet Ahval, a Swiss prosecutor ordered Mamay to spend 30 days in jail before examining his asylum application. Lawyers in Switzerland are displeased with the ruling.

Ahval reported that Mamay came to Switzerland via South Africa. On the grounds that South Africa is accepted as a safe country by Switzerland, Swiss authorities denied the journalist’s right to apply for asylum. Instead, he was detained at the Zurich airport.

“These people are refugees. They must either risk drowning or come illegally with a fake passport. You can’t fly like a bird, can you?” said Nesrin Ulu, Mamay’s lawyer in Zurich. According to Ulu, the prison sentence contravened international law, and she said would appeal the verdict.

“They are pressuring on me to leave Switzerland. Without examining my file, they claim that South Africa is safe and are forcing me to seek asylum there,” Mamay told Ahval.

The punishment of journalists in countries like Turkey where there is enormous pressure on press freedom is understandable. But when it happens in countries like Switzerland, it is worrisome,” Mamay added.

Mamay received six years, three months’ imprisonment after he participated in a press statement of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) while he was a university student in the southern city of Adana.

When the Supreme Court of Appeals approved the verdict, he fled to northern Syria, also known as Rojava. He lived there for about three years and reported news from the region during that time.

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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