Turkish gov’t detains T24 columnist Baysal and more journalists over critical social media posts on Afrin

Journalist and writer Nurcan Baysal, who is a clolumnist for online news portal T24, was detained by Turkish police after midnight over her critical posts in her twitter account over Turkish military’s operation targeting the Afrin province of Syria.

Baysal’s lawyer Reyhan Baydemir stated that “My client was detained by police this morning around 00:10 a.m. by breaking his house’s door. She has still been held in police’s anti-terror unit. I met with her this morning. Her posts over Afrin operation (in social media) was showed as reason for her detention. We are planning to meet with the prosecutor today.”

Nesrin Nas, the former chairperson of the Motherland Party (Anavatan Partisi), has criticised the detention of journalist Baysal and stated in her Twitter account on Monday that “The arrest of Nurcan… who is doing everything so that nobody does bleed.”

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Meral Danış Bektaş has also reacted to detention of Baysal and stated that “The detention of even an writer because of her stance against war and social media posts shows the righteousness of being against the war.”

Baysal’s most recent Twitter post came out strongly against those supporting the war. “Racist fascists touting war! I am against war, I am Kurdish, I am a Gypsy, I am a Jew, I am an Arab, I am LGBT, I am Armenian, I am Yezidi… In short, I am everything you hate. Do not follow me!” she posted.

Also a Kurdish journalist, İdris Yılmaz, who wrote “civilians are being killed in Afrin” in his social media, was detained by Turkish police in Van  province on Saturday. He was arrested by a Turkish court on Monday and put behind the bars. Van Criminal Court said Yılmaz was making “propaganda for a terrorist organization” and decided for his arrest. Yılmaz was sent to prison after a brief court session.

Yet another Kurdish journalist and writer İshak Karakaş, who is the editor-in-chief of Halkın Nabzı (Pulse of the People) newspaper and a columnist for Germany-based critical online news portal Artı Gerçek, was also reportedly detained by Turkish police on Monday over his critical posts on Twitter over Turkish military’s operation targeting the Afrin province of Syria.

A legal investigation has also been launched into HDP deputy Alican Önlü over an English-language Twitter post criticising the Afrin operation, Marxist news website SoL reported. Public prosecutors announced that the post and attached photograph were being investigated over the crime of insulting the Turkish people, the state of the Turkish republic, the Turkish parliament and the Turkish government, the online news outlet said.

Ferhat Kut, the HDP’s local co-chair of Mardin’s Nusaybin district was also detained during a police raid on his home. Kut was reportedly detained on Monday morning for attending a press conference in protest at Turkey’s invasion operation against Afrin. On the other hand, HDP member Remziye Saygın Mengüç was also detained by the police while on her way to her home in Diyarbakır’s Bağlar district.

The Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office earlier on Sunday announced in a statement that investigations had been launched into individuals who have called on people to take to the streets to protest Turkey’s operations targeting Afrin. The same office on Sunday launched an investigation into HDP deputies Ayhan Bilgen and Nadir Yıldırım for “incitement of hatred and hostility” through their critical messages on Twitter over Turkish military operation in Afrin.

Turkish security forces have detained 24 people on terror charges for sharing social media posts about the Turkish military operation against Afrin, the Turkish Interior Ministry said on Monday. The ministry also said that 12 members of terrorist organisations had been killed by security forces and that there had been 823 terror operations carried out across the country over the last week.

Seventeen of the 24 social media arrests were made in the majority-Kurdish city of Diyarbakır, the ministry said, over users sharing false information that contained terrorist propaganda or making provocative calls for action over Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch in the Syrian province of Afrin, which began on Saturday.

On Monday, Ankara governor’s office said it banned all rallies, protests, meetings, concerts and similar organisations across the capital, for as long as the “Operation Olive Branch” is underway. “Intelligence reports are being received that such activities could lead to unwanted incidents (…) and that bombings could be carried out by terrorist organisations against participants and our citizens during these activities,” it said in a statement.

Moreover, an angry crowd smashed the windows of Afrika, a Turkish Cypriot newspaper, after it published an article calling Turkey’s offensive against Afrin “another Turkish occupation” and comparing it to the Turkey’s occupation of northern Cyprus, Greek Cypriot newspaper The Cyprus Mail reported .

The anti-war article published in the newspaper had prompted a reaction from Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who had said: “I call on my brothers in north Cyprus to give the necessary response” and from Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu, who said the article was a “threat” to relations with Ankara.

“Some in the crowd threw stones and eggs at the building, breaking windows and tried to enter the newspaper, forcing those inside to barricade themselves in,” The Cyprus Mail said. “Protesters could be seen climbing up to the balcony of the building and attempting to pull down the newspaper’s sign.”

After riot police dispersed the crowds, they reassembled at the Turkish Cypriot parliament, where two men managed to climb onto the building to wave Turkish and Turkish Cypriot flags.

“Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı turned up at the demonstration, but was reportedly booed away by the crowd,” the report said, as he had asked people not to attend the protest. The Union of Cyprus Journalists called the demonstration an “insult to freedom of the press, freedom of expression and every concept of democracy”, The Cyprus Mail said.

Afrika’s editor-in-chief Şener Levent said that they are in a mood similar to Madımak massacre in Sivas in July 2, 1993 which resulted in the killing of 35 people, mostly Alevi intellectuals, and two hotel employees. Saying that as many as 200-300 people gathered in front of the building and broke the windows with stones, Şener Levent stated they heard that groups from neighboring villages started to head towards the building. Levent added that the police in front of the building are standing inefficient.

Erdoğan on Sunday also warned the pro-Kurdish HDP not to take to the streets to protest the operation in Afrin: “You are being closely followed. If you try to take to the streets, know that our security forces will be at your neck.” “If anyone is in the streets upon calls [from the HDP], they will pay dearly for it. This is a national fight, and whoever opposes us will be crushed.” Erdoğan added.

The Turkish Armed Forces backed by armored vehicles, special forces and infantry regiments have advanced five kilometers inside Afrin, which is controlled by the PYD. Turkey views the PYD as the Syrian extension of the outlawed PKK.

Haydar Ergül, editor of the quarterly magazine Demokratik Modernite, was detained at the airport in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır 6 days ago, according to Susma 24. Ergül was brought to İstanbul after his  detention and is being held at the İstanbul Police Department. No information was made available about the investigation. Ergül is expected to appear in court on Tuesday. The political magazine’s publication started in 2012 and focuses on Kurdish matters and minorities.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 242 journalists and media workers are in jails as of January 4, 2018, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 215 are arrested pending trial, only 27 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 138 journalists who live 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 more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt.

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