Turkey seeks extradition of journalist in exile reporting on gov’t corruption

Exiled journalist Cevheri Güven Photo: Barbaros Kaya

Turkey’s Justice Ministry is seeking the extradition of an investigative journalist living in exile in Germany from where he reports extensively on the Turkish government’s corruption and murky relations with mafia and crime groups, Turkish Minute reported, citing the pro-government Sabah daily.

Journalist Cevheri Güven, who makes scandalous revelations about President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his close circle as well as some journalists and opposition figures in his YouTube videos, recently came to public attention after the Sabah daily on its Sept. 22 front page published secretly taken photos of him while walking on the street and revealed his address in a German city.

Sabah reported on Friday that Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and the Security Directorate General jointly found out Güven’s location in Germany and that the Justice Ministry sent a request in August to the German authorities seeking the journalist’s extradition based on arrest warrant issued by the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court.

Sabah’s Friday story contradicted its earlier report, which said the daily’s news coordinator Abdurrahman Şimşek secretly followed Güven for several months in Germany until he found out his address and took the photos of him and his house.

Güven told Turkish Minute at the time he believed MİT was behind the search for him and that it was due to one of his videos in early September in which he questioned MİT’s role in a failed coup in Turkey in July 2016 following which Erdoğan’s government launched a massive crackdown on outspoken journalists and non-loyalist citizens under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.

German media outlets also earlier reported that there were thousands of MİT agents operating in the country spying on Turkish dissidents who fled Turkey and took refuge in Germany in the aftermath of the coup attempt.

According to Sabah, Turkey is seeking Güven’s extradition on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, namely the Gülen movement.

The Gülen movement, inspired by the views of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, a resident of the US, is accused by the Turkish government and President Erdoğan of masterminding the failed coup on July 15, 2016 and is labeled a “terrorist organization,” although the movement denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Güven is also accused of having downloaded the ByLock and Tango smart phone applications, which are considered by Turkish authorities to be secret tools of communication among Gülen followers, in addition to depositing money in Islamic lender Bank Asya, which was closed down by the government following the coup attempt due to its affiliation with the Gülen movement, according to Sabah.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in July 2021 in the case of a former police officer that use of the ByLock application is not an offense in itself and does not constitute sufficient evidence for an arrest.

Turkish authorities also consider acts such as subscribing to a Gülen-linked newspaper, having sent children to a Gülen-affiliated school or having worked at an organization associated with Gülen to be evidence of terrorist organization membership.

Güven has recently been facing growing pressure and threats from pro-government circles in Turkey as his videos continue to reach a large audience, even attracting more viewers than some mainstream news outlets in Turkey.

He fled Turkey following the coup attempt like thousands of other people to avoid the government’s post-coup crackdown as a part of which thousands of people have been sent to jail on bogus terrorism or coup charges.

Journalists who fled Turkey following the coup attempt such as Güven have established their own news outlets and have become the major source of news for some Turks in a country where 90 percent of the national media is owned by pro-government businessmen who toe the official line, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Güven, a former editor of the now-defunct Nokta magazine, along with the magazine’s managing editor, Murat Çapan, was handed down a prison sentence of 22 years, six months in 2017 on charges of “inciting people to armed revolt against the Turkish government.”

The journalists were sentenced to prison due to two cover stories in Nokta that criticized Erdoğan for “capitalizing” on the death of soldiers in Turkey’s fight against terrorism.

Meanwhile, Turkey is also seeking the extradition of journalists and political dissidents who are living in exile in Sweden and Finland. Turkey is threatening to torpedo Sweden and Finland’s attempts to join Western defense alliance NATO unless these countries extradite dozens of people Ankara accuses of “terrorism.”

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