Turkey releases writer imprisoned over solidarity with Kurdish daily

Renowned writer and activist Celaletttin Can

Imprisoned writer, activist and journalist Celalettin Can has been released from prison in northwest Turkey where he has been incarcerated for more than three months for showing solidarity with a now-closed Kurdish daily, the Evrensel newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Can’s release was announced on social media by prominent human rights advocate Eren Keskin, who wrote. “All prisoners locked up over their political views should be released. Particularly those who are sick!”

“I got my freedom today, yet a part of me remains bitter,” Can said, speaking outside the prison. “I have left hundreds of fellow prisoners inside whose condition is like mine or even worse.”

Can was sent to prison on September 2 after his sentence of more than one year was upheld. He was convicted in April 2019 on charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda and for acting as the symbolic editor-in-chief of Özgür Gündem, a pro-Kurdish daily closed by government decree after a failed coup gave President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vast authority under a subsequent state of emergency.

Rights groups had been calling for his release due to health problems.

Along with Can, dozens of journalists, writers and activists have been convicted of terrorism-related charges for supporting Özgür Gündem.

Following the coup attempt in July 2016, the Turkish government summarily shut down by executive decree nearly 200 media outlets for alleged ties to terrorism. Many of the shuttered outlets were part of the Kurdish media, accused of spreading propaganda on behalf of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an insurgent group designated as a terrorist organization.

Turkey is often described as one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists, and it was ranked 165th out of 180 countries in the 2023 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

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