Turkish appeals court upholds sentence of photojournalist who captured murder of Kurdish student in 2017

A Turkish appellate court on Thursday upheld the conviction of photojournalist Abdurrahman Gök, who took pictures of a university student being shot to death by a police officer in southeastern Turkey in 2017, on charges of “disseminating terrorist propaganda.”

According to a report by the Mezopotamya news agency, the 9th Criminal Chamber of the Diyarbakır Regional Court found the one-and-a-half year prison sentence imposed on Gök “justified” and upheld it.

”The appellate court upheld the sentence of one year, six months and 22 days for my professional activities. And for no reason! I will continue my work,” Gök said on Twitter.

Gök’s lawyer, Resul Temur, said they will appeal the verdict at the Supreme Court of Appeals.

In 2017 Gök took a series of photographs showing Kemal Kurkut, a Kurdish university student, being shot to death by a police officer during Nevruz celebrations in Diyarbakır and faced an investigation a month later. In 2018 after a decision of non-prosecution was issued, Gök was the subject of another investigation and was interrogated by the police, when he learned that his communications had been monitored by law enforcement for a period of time.

Gök was detained a week after the interrogation and was released pending trial.

Seeing that the charges against him are based on journalistic material he shared with his colleagues, Gök reasons that the investigation is really about the photos he took at the 2017 Nevruz celebrations.

Facing more than 20 years in prison on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “disseminating terrorist propaganda,” Gök was handed down just over one-and-a-half years behind bars on the terrorist propaganda charges by the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court in June 2022.

Gök previously underlined in his written defense that the photos taken from his Instagram and Twitter accounts, which the prosecution claims to have constituted a crime, are the ones he took for news purposes while he was working as a photojournalist in conflict zones.

The photos from Gök’s camera were crucial in refuting claims made by the Diyarbakır Governor’s Office following the incident that Kurkut had been shot on suspicion of wearing a suicide vest.

They showed a bare-chested Kurkut approaching a police checkpoint with a knife and a water bottle in his hands, then running past police barricades with several officers chasing after him before finally getting shot in the back and falling to the ground.

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