Turkish court decides continuation of journalist Parıldak’s pre-trial imprisonment

Journalist Ayşenur Parıldak.

An Ankara court has decided on Tuesday for the continuation of the imprisonment of journalist Ayşenur Parıldak, a former reporter from the now-closed Zaman daily, who is among dozens of journalists jailed after a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 in Turkey.

Journalist Parıldak and her lawyer were present during the hearing before Ankara’s 14th High Criminal Court with the participation of her family members. Parıldak was accused of having alleged links to the Gülen movement and allegedly using mobile phone messaging app ByLock.

Journalist Parıldak has demanded her release from the prison from the court by stating that she has never used ByLock and she has no opportunity to blacken any evidences. However, the prosecutor has insisted that a report submitted by Turkey’s Institute of Information Technologies (BTK) to the court shows that ByLock was downloaded to her mobile phone and demanded the court to decide the continuation of her imprisonment.

Turkish authorities believe using ByLock is a sign of being a Gülen follower as they see the mobile phone application as the top communication tool among the sympathizers of the movement. Tens of thousands of civil servants, police officers and businessmen have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since the failed coup attempt in 2016.

The court decided for continuation of her imprisonment and postponed the trial to October 10, 2017.

Journalist Parıldak had been released by the court on May 2, 2017 but was rearrested by the same court before being freed after a prosecutor objected to the initial ruling. 27-year old journalist had been arrested again a few hours after the court released her from nine-months pre-trial detention in what is seen as a new form of repression against critical and independent journalists in Turkey.

The public prosecutor immediately moved to challenge the court decision that ruled for her release, saying a new evidence gathered within moments of her release order showed a strong suspicion of crime. Ankara’s 14th High Criminal Court decided to re-arrest Parıldak before she even saw the light of the day outside of the prison.

Parıldak was arrested on Aug. 11, 2016 after spending eight days in detention. She was covering court stories for the Zaman daily and also a student at the law faculty of Ankara University. She was planning to graduate this summer and continue her career as a lawyer because she was fired by the new administration of Zaman daily, which was appointed by the government.

Sending a letter to the Cumhuriyet daily from prison, Parıldak said in October of last year: “I was subjected to violence and sexual abuse. I was interrogated day and night for eight days. They [police officers] were questioning me while they were under the influence of alcohol and were not avoiding saying this. Then the court process began, and here I am. I stayed here in a ward for one month. Then 20 people were taken out of wards and placed in cells, which is solitary confinement. … I am afraid of being forgotten here.”

The prosecutor demanded 15 years prison sentence in the indictment. The court had ruled for continuation of the imprisonment of Parıldak on the first hearing on February 9, 2017.  SCF had published minutes of the hearing and how the so called evidence prosecutor submitted had nothing to do with charges.

Turkey is the leading jailer of journalists in the world. The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has documented that 264 journalists are now in jails as of July 18, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 240 are arrested pending trial, only 24 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 109 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt.

July 19, 2017

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