Turkish police detain 4 journalists of seized Özgürlükçü Demokrasi in house raids

Turkish police detained four Kurdish journalists during raids on Wednesday on the homes of employees of the Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper.

According to a report by the pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency (ANF), Turkish police, after raiding the offices of Özgürlükçü Demokrasi and the Gün Printing House in İstanbul last week and detaining 25 employees, carried out a raid on the apartments of newspaper employees last night and detained journalists Reyhan Hacıoğlu, Pınar Tarlak and Hicran Ürün and Mehmet Beyazıt, a former employee of the daily.

Also on Wednesday the father of pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya news agency reporter Berzan Güneş, for whom a detention warrant has been issued in Iğdır province, was detained by police. According to a report by Mezopotamya, the police carried out a raid on the home of Berzan Güneş, where they detained her father, Ahmet Güneş (68), giving some books found in the search as justification.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 245 journalists and media workers were in jail as of April 4, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 188 were under arrest pending trial while only 57 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 140 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.

Turkish police have also carried out house raids and detained 15 people in th eBulanık district of Muş province. While the reason for detentions was not immediately clear, the detainees were taken to the Muş police headquarters.

Moreover, five people who were in the village of Amara in Şanlıurfa province to celebrate the birthday of Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), were detained in the house of his brother on Tuesday night.

According to ANF, people staying in the home of the Kurdish leader’s brother, Mehmet Öcalan, were ordered by gendarmerie forces to exit the house. When they refused, gendarmes raided the house and detained five people, including the Democratic Regions’ Party’s (DBP) Şanlıurfa Co-chair Bekir Karakeçili and journalist Hacı Yusuf Topaloğlu.

Late Tuesday evening, four executives of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the Bozova district of Şanlıurfa were also detained in Amara. Efforts made by HDP deputy Dilek Öcalan, niece of the PKK leader, for the release of the detainees reportedly yielded no results.

The Turkish government’s crackdown on the Kurdish political movement began in late 2016 with the arrest of high profile politicians, including the party’s then co-chairs, Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş, which led to the detention of at least 5,000 members of the HDP, including 80 mayors.

Trustees have been appointed to dozens of municipalities in the country’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast. There are currently 10 HDP deputies behind bars. The developments have attracted widespread criticism from the region and Western countries.

Turkish authorities had conducted direct talks with Abdullah Öcalan, jailed leader of the outlawed PKK for several years until a truce in effect collapsed in the summer of 2015. Since then, there have been heavy clashes between the PKK and Turkish security forces.

More than 40,000 people, including 5,500 security force members, have been killed in four decades of fighting between the Turkish state and the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU. Over 1,200 Turkish security personnel and civilians, including a number of women and children, have been killed since July 2015 alone, when the Turkish government and the PKK resumed the armed struggle.

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