Turkish journalist Erdoğdu appeals for help as new abduction list appears in Ukrainian media

Yunus Erdoğdu, a Kiev-based Turkish journalist, has called for help as a list of 10 people including him was published in the Ukrainian media following the abduction of two Turkish citizens by Turkey’s notorious National Intelligence Organization (MİT).

Turkish journalist Yusuf İnan and businessman Salih Zeki Yiğit were recently rendered to Turkey by MİT as part of global man hunt targeting members of the faith-based Gülen movement.

“I do not feel safe here any more. I have not slept for the last five days due to fear of an operation by the Turkish intelligence agency,” Erdoğdu told Turkish Minute, recalling a target list of the 10 Turkish citizens including journalists, teachers and businessmen that was published by the Strana.ua Ukrainian news website based on security sources.

Erdoğdu is calling on Ukrainian authorities to confirm or deny the list published by the Strana.ua.

Underlining the contradictory statements made by Ukrainian authorities about the abduction of the two Turkish citizens, Erdoğdu said, “If they confirm the list, I’ll ask them based on which law and what evidence are they cooperating with the Turkish intelligence agency in abductions.”

Spokespersons for SBU, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the State Migration Service and State Border Service first told the Kyiv Post that they had no information about the arrest of Inan or Yigit. But several days after the abductions, Andriy Lysenko, speaking for the General Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine, confirmed that the cases were the result of cooperation between the two countries.

The Turkish Embassy also called the arrests and extraditions “a part of ongoing security cooperation between Turkey and Ukraine,” the Kyiv Post reported.

Erdoğdu, founder of the first Turkish language news website ukraynahaber.com and currently chief Turkish language editor at the Vector News Agency, has been working in Ukraine since 2005.

Meanwhile, Rebecca Harms, spokeswoman for foreign affairs and expert on Turkey in the European Parliament’s Greens/EFA group, on Sunday called on the Ukrainian government to stop the abduction of Turkish citizens by MİT in Ukraine, expressing her solidarity with journalist Erdoğdu.

“Don’t leave Yunus alone. Stop Turkish secret service kidnapping Turks abroad. Respect rule of law and #HumanRights in #Ukraine and everywhere,” Harms tweeted, mentioning the Twitter accounts of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Minister for Foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin and Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Ivanna Klympush.

The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ-EFJ) has also called on the Ukrainian government to take urgent action to protect Erdoğdu. “After last events of kidnapping of Turkish citizens I don’t feel myself in safety. I can’t ask for help from local police or security services because I understand that Turkish and Ukrainian services are in cooperation,” Erdoğdu told the IFJ, adding that he has done “nothing illegal but writing truth and objective articles about the situation in Turkey and Ukraine.”

Erdoğdu, who has an IFJ Press Card, has raised an international call asking for help as neither Ukrainian authorities nor the Turkish Embassy in Kiev has denied the list and have both confirmed that the “detentions are part of ongoing security cooperation between Turkey and Ukraine.”

“For international partners of the NSJU, in particular the International and European Federation of Journalists, it is of fundamental importance for the Ukrainian authorities to respect the rights of opposition foreign journalists,” said Sergei Tomilenko, chairman of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine (NSJU).

OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir on July 19 expressed great concern in a letter to Ukrainian authorities following the detention and extradition of Inan to Turkey.

“Journalists should not be prosecuted for expressing their opinions and it is of concern that a critical journalist was extradited to Turkey. I ask the Ukrainian authorities to clarify whether his freedom of expression and right to appeal were taken into consideration,” Désir said, noting that Inan has been accused in Turkey of being a member of the Gülen movement.

On July 12, Inan, editor-in-chief of online news outlet News2023.com and former editor-in-chief of the Yerel Gündem newspaper and its website, was detained by Ukrainian authorities in Mykolayiv and extradited to Turkey.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on July 16, 2018 that over 100 alleged members of the Gülen movement have been abducted abroad by MİT and brought back to Turkey as part of the Turkish government’s global manhunt.

“We have been watching these traitors for two years and have brought the leading figures of FETÖ to our country. Some of these cases were covered by press, while others weren’t at the request of the countries involved. I can frankly say that more than 100 FETÖ-affiliated people have been brought to Turkey,” Çavuşoğlu said in an interview with Turkey’s pro-government CNN Türk on Sunday evening.

“FETÖ” is a derogatory term coined by ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to refer to the Gülen movement.

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 240 journalists and media workers were in jail as of July 21, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 179 were under arrest pending trial while only 61 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 144 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. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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