Turkish gov’t sentences journalist Türfent to 8 years and 9 months in prison

Journalist Nedim Türfent received threats of execution during the period of the curfews and has been in prison for 19 months for his journalistic activity in Yüksekove district of Hakkari province. Türfent was sentenced by a local Turkish court, which is under the total control of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government ruled by autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to 8 years and 9 months in prison on Friday.

According to a report by pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency, journalist Nedim Türfent received threats of executions from social media accounts for the news he authored on the human rights violations during the “curfew” declared in Hakkari’s Yüksekova district in 2015-2016, and was arrested on May 13, 2016 in Van province where he was visiting and was put in a solitary cell. Dicle News Agency, DİHA, the agency he worked for, was shut down with a government decree later, and a lawsuit was filed against Türfent demanding 22,5 years in prison.

The indictment prepared by the Hakkari Chief Prosecutor’s Office and accepted by the Hakkari 2nd High Criminal Court has accused Türfent of “membership to a terrorist organization” and “terrorist propaganda.” The prosecutor included some 17 pages of news stories and photographs published in pro-Kurdish newspapers deemed close to outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The statements included in the indictment say Türfent is a journalist in Hakkari, he works for the DİHA news agency, and he was seen capturing footage with his camera and video camera. Social media posts allegedly belonging to Türfent are also criminalized in the indictment which lists sharing and commenting on news stories, photographs and video footage on clashes, human rights violations and the destruction in cities as criminal evidence.

Fifth hearing in the case was held on Friday and the court ruled continuation of imprisonment, and 8 years and 9 months prison sentence for Türfent. Whereas, during the first hearing of the case, 13 out of 24 witnesses had confessed that they had been forced to give a statement against Türfent after they were subjected to torture. Out of the remaining 11 witnesses, one being secret, 4 also stated later on that they had been forced to sign a paper of statement against Türfent under torture.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 252 journalists and media workers are in jails as of December 15, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 226 are arrested pending trial, only 26 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 139 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.

Meanwhile, the 9th edition of the “Which Human Rights Film Festival” organized by ‘Documentarist’ as part of Human Rights Week was scheduled to kick off in Diyarbakır on Friday. The festival supported by Human Rights Association (İHD) was set to take place at Diyarbakır City Theater on December 15-17.

Policemen notified the İHD that the films planned to be screened in the festival have been banned, without putting forward any justification. The films planned to be screened are: Radio Kobanê, Elif, Taste of Cement, Geographies, Stone, Return, Gift, Turkey at the Edge of the Abyss, Sorry for I Drowned, Meryem (Mary), KHK (Statutory Decree) of a City.

As many as 40 films in various themes are  planned to be displayed in the festival that is organized by Documentarist in Diyarbakır. Besides the movies on rights violations and struggles from around the world, the festival also hosts interviews and forums on various current issues.

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