First hearing of 11 journalists arrested 7 months ago opens today in Ankara

The first hearing of the trial of 11 journalists arrested 7 months ago opens today in Ankara.

On 8 February, the Ankara chief prosecutor’s office indicted 10 Kurdish journalists, nine of whom have been under pretrial arrest since late October, on the charge of membership in a terrorist organization. The indictment was made available to the journalists’ lawyers on 17 February, after it was approved by the court. The trial opens today in Ankara.

Those indicted are: Mezopotamya News Agency editor Diren Yurtsever; Mezopotamya reporters Berivan Altan, Ceylan Şahinli, Deniz Nazlım, Emrullah Acar, Hakan Yalçın, Salman Güzelyüz, and Zemo Ağgöz Yiğitsoy, freelance journalist Öznur Değer; pro-Kurdish news website JİNNEWS reporter Ümmü Habibe Eren; and former Mezopotamya reporting intern Mehmet Günhan.

There have been two mass arrests of journalists in Turkey in the past year, once in June and once in October. On 8 June, 20 Kurdish media workers were arrested by order of the Diyarbakir (Amed) Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, 16 of whom remain in pre-trial detention without charge. In a second raid on 25 October, 11 more Kurdish media workers were arrested, nine of whom are in the Sincan Prison in Ankara.

MA reporter Zemo Ağgöz is on maternity leave and has been released. Reporting requirements were imposed on former MA trainee Mehmet Günhan, who was also released.

These eleven journalists have been accused of "membership of the PKK/KCK". The indictment of the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office consists of 210 pages, mainly containing reports published by MA, a total of 149 articles. Twelve pages are devoted to statements by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK). Seized storage media and wiretap protocols are presented as evidence. According to these, the defendants' communications were monitored in the period between February and September 2021. In addition, the testimony of a secret witness is listed with the code "k8ç4b3l1t5". However, the testimony only states that the accused worked for MA and JinNews.

The Chief Public Prosecutor's Office is demanding a prison sentence of between seven and a half and fifteen years for all the accused.