Turkish prosecutor investigates journalist for calling Iranian regime ‘bloody’

Mehmet Sanrı, a correspondent in İstanbul who works for the Erbil-based Kurdistan TV, found himself the target of a Turkish prosecutor for calling the Iran regime “bloody,” according to a report by Kurdistan 24 on Monday.

The report said journalist Sanrı was criticizing the Tehran regime’s hanging of political prisoners and deadly missile attacks last month on Kurdish opposition headquarters inside the Kurdistan Region in Iraq. An İstanbul prosecutor accused Sanrı of “inciting public hatred and enmity” for a tweet he posted, the journalist told Kurdistan 24 over the phone from İstanbul on Monday.

“PDK-I, PAK, and PSK are tomorrow holding a condolences ceremony for the Koya martyrs of KDP-I and PDKI, as well as Panahi and other Kurdish youth who were hanged by the bloody Islamic Republic of Iran,” he wrote on Twitter on Sept. 10 in Turkish.

Attached, he shared a screenshot of an invitation he had received from PAK and PSK, two small Kurdish factions in Turkey.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard launched missiles at the headquarters of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) and Kurdistan Democratic Party – Iran (KDPI) near the town of Koya, southeast of Erbil two days earlier. A barrage of rockets fired from inside Iran killed at least 17 fighters and civilians in Koya while wounding 45 others.

Ramin Hossein Panahi, who Sanrı mentioned in his tweet, was a Kurdish political prisoner Iran hanged along with two other activists, Loghman and Zaniar Moradi, the same morning of the attacks.

“I believe the word ‘bloody’ triggered the lawsuit against me. The prosecutor must have been offended by my description of the Islamic Republic as a murderous regime. But I am not the only one saying this, the whole world sees it this way,” Sanrı told Kurdistan 24.

He stated what he wrote in the tweet was merely informational and the only thing containing a subjective view was the word “bloody.” “There is no legitimacy that can be given to the Iranian regime for its domestic oppression, attacks in the region, and its violations of international norms,” he added.

“The way I express my opinions about Iran is up to me, and I am not going to shy away from saying them.”

Earlier this month, two police officers tasked by the “media crimes bureau” of the İstanbul public prosecutor’s office interrogated Sanrı.

“In short, this is the state of Erdoğan’s democracy in Turkey. There are hundreds of people in Turkish jails merely for reasons like this,” he said separately in a statement, referring to an ongoing crackdown on freedom of media and expression under the rule of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. If a court finds him guilty, Sanri could face up to three years in prison.

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 237 journalists and media workers were in jail as of October 17, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 169 were under arrest pending trial while only 68 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 148 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.

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