Turkish court arrests former CHP deputy, journalist Eren Erdem on terrorism charges

Journalist Eren Erdem, a former deputy of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) who was detained by police on Friday on terrorism charges, was sent to pretrial detention the same day by the İstanbul 35th High Criminal Court.

According to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, Erdem was detained in Ankara after the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued a warrant for him on charges of “membership in an armed terrorist organization.”

The detention comes after the CHP’s Party Caucus on Thursday, during which the issue of referring some party members to the disciplinary commission was discussed. Erdem was also among the list of members facing disciplinary action, but the party took no action against him.

Erdem was previously also detained by police claiming that he tried to leave Turkey after his party failed to re-nominate him for Parliament in the June 24 elections, which will result in him losing his immunity from prosecution. Security officials at the airport had notified him about an order from an İstanbul court banning him from leaving the country.

Erdem faces charges connected to reports in the critical Karşı daily where he had been editor-in-chief, about a corruption investigation related to the bribery and graft scandal of then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his family members and some cabinet ministers on Dec. 17/25, 2013. He has also been charged with violating the confidentiality of an investigation, membership in an armed group and exposing the identity of a secret witness.

Erdem announced the detention on his Twitter account, saying: “I am in custody as of this moment. I have been detained by police in front of my home.”

The İstanbul 35th High Criminal Court accepted an indictment charging that Erdem had aided “FETÖ.” It decided that the first hearing of the trial would be held on September 19 and that an international travel ban was to be imposed on Erdem, who faces 22 years in prison.

The Islamist government of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has labeled the Gülen movement as “FETÖ,” a derogatory term and acronym for the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization.”

In response to the detention CHP deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu tweeted: “Eren Erdem was detained as per the İstanbul 35th High Criminal Court’s warrant, and he will be taken to İstanbul. It seems that the judiciary quickly issued a warrant after the international travel ban was imposed. What is being exercised is enemy penal law.”

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 243 journalists and media workers were in jail as of June 27, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 184 were under arrest pending trial while only 59 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 143 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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