Turkish journalist Yusuf Inan’s forced return from Ukraine to Turkey is worrisome, Sergei Tomilenko, chairman of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine (NSJU), said in a statement.
İnan, the editor-in-chief of online news outlet News2023.com and the former editor-in-chief of the Yerel Gündem newspaper, was detained by Ukrainian authorities in Mykolayiv and extradited to Turkey on July 12. İnan is reportedly wanted on accusations of membership in the Gülen movement.
“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,” Tomilenko wrote on his Facebook account 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 238 journalists and media workers were in jail as of July 18, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 177 were under arrest pending trial while only 61 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 143 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.
Following İnan’s deportation, Ukranian media revealed that the Turkish government has asked Ukraine to deport five other suspected followers of the movement, among them a journalist.
Meanwhile, Salih Zeki Yiğit, an alleged follower of the Gülen movement who was also abducted from Ukraine by agents of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation (MİT), said he fears torture in Turkey.
“People say there is torture in Turkey,” Yiğit told journalists who asked him why he failed to return to Turkey voluntarily. Yiğit was put in pre-trial detention in the southern province of Mersin.
Ukrainian-based Turkish journalist Yunus Erdoğdu told media that two Turkish officials forced Yiğit into a car and put a sack over his head in broad daylight in Odessa a day before his rendition to Turkey.
MİT agents abducted two overseas followers of the Gülen movement and took them back to Turkey last week in the latest of such forced returns by the organization. The abductees were identified as İsa Ozdemir and Yiğit, who were transported in a private jet operated by MİT from Azerbaijan and Ukraine, respectively.
So far, a number of countries like Saudi Arabia, Kosovo, Gabon, Malaysia, Georgia, Sudan, Pakistan and Myanmar have handed over academics, businessmen and school principals upon the Turkish government’s request despite the fact that some of those victims already had refugee status with the United Nations.
According to the Turkish government narrative, MİT conducts such operations on its own in some countries and brings the suspects back without the involvement of any foreign law enforcement agencies.
Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.
Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.
Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement. (SCF with turkeypurge.com)