Turkish court upholds travel ban for Turkish-German journalist Tolu

Meşale Tolu.

Turkish-German journalist Meşale Tolu will not be allowed to leave Turkey, where she faces charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda, a Turkish court has decided.

The “political decision” leaves the 33-year-old facing an uncertain future, according to a report by Deutsche Welle (DW) on Thursday.

Tolu said the decision was “politically motivated” and announced she would appeal. She also decried “harassment” by the Turkish judiciary, according to the report. “As soon as I start working as a journalist, I once again face danger to go to jail or be detained by the police,” she was quoted as saying by DW.

“The judge and the prosecutors are not really doing anything to speed up or conclude this case,” Tolu added. “This means the process would take years.” The trial against Tolu, her Turkish husband Suat Çorlu, and 25 other defendants is set to continue in mid-October.

Tolu, who was born to Turkish parents in Germany, moved to İstanbul in 2014 to work as a reporter and translator. Her articles were mostly published by leftist outlets seen as having pro-Kurdish leanings, and she also worked for Özgür Radyo, which was shut down by the Turkish government.

Turkish police arrested Tolu in April 2017 on suspicion of spreading “terrorist propaganda.” She is also charged with membership in a terror organization over her presumed links with the far-left Marxist-Leninist Communist Party. She was released in December after spending eight months in jail; however, authorities banned her from leaving Turkey, with Thursday’s court ruling reaffirming the travel ban.

Senior German Left party lawmaker Heike Hänsel attended the İstanbul hearing on Thursday. Following the ruling, Hänsel called on the German government to increase pressure for Tolu’s release, citing the examples of reporter Deniz Yücel and activist Peter Steudtner. The two men were allowed to return to Germany after a period of time spent in Turkish prisons.

“It is beyond comprehension that Deniz Yücel and Peter Steudtner can travel — rightly so — and Meşale Tolu still cannot,” she said.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Germany and the EU should “think very carefully” about whether they should normalize their ties with Ankara. “As long as Tolu cannot leave the country, she remains a political hostage of the Turkish government,” said Christian Mihr, RSF managing director for Germany.

Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Wednesday. 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 257 journalists and media workers were in jail as of April 25, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 198 were under arrest pending trial while only 59 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 141 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 about 200 media outlets after a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

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