Turkish translator indicted over translations of English-language news sources

The İstanbul 35th High Criminal Court on Wednesday accepted an indictment charging Turkish translator Sebla Küçük with disseminating “terrorist propaganda” in three of her tweets, which were translations of news bites from English-language media sources on Turkey’s Afrin offensive in northern Syria earlier this year.

“One of them is a translation of a Reuters news story, the other is from a journalist. In the third tweet, there is a mention of the [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK, but it’s again a Reuters breaking news story,” Küçük said, according to the Diken news website.

“In two of the tweets, the names of neither the PKK nor the YPG [Kurdish militants in Syria] were mentioned. It only says, ‘National Defense Forces backing the Syrian government’,” she added.

Küçük became a phenomenon on Twitter with her translations of the tweets and news bites of American journalists who had followed the trial of former Halkbank executive Mehmet Hakan Atilla, convicted by a New York federal court of conspiring to violate US sanctions on Iran and sentenced to 32 months in prison.

“Obviously [the prosecutor] was troubled by my translations concerning the Hakan Atilla trial, but since they couldn’t find anything about them, they filed a case with baseless evidence,” Küçük said.

The first hearing in her trial will be held on Nov. 22.

Adam Klasfeld, one of the American journalists who followed the trial of Mehmet Hakan Atilla, reported on Küçük’s case from his Twitter feed. “[President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan has proven himself repeatedly as not only an enemy of a free press, but a foe of freedom of speech, thought and conscience,” Klasfeld wrote. “Hello. I’m a translator and on trial,” Küçük tweeted on Wednesday.

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 242 journalists and media workers were in jail as of June 3, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 182 were under arrest pending trial while only 60 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 142 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 (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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