Jailed journalist: We were tortured and threatened with death

A jailed correspondent of the women's news agency JinNews, Habibe Eren, reports that they were tortured by the police and threatened with death.

On 25 October, Turkish police stormed the homes of Kurdish journalists and detained them on terror charges. Nine of the eleven detained journalists were remanded in custody in Ankara on 29 October as alleged members of a terrorist organisation. Those imprisoned are the editor-in-chief of the Mezopotamya News Agency (MA), Diren Yurtsever, MA correspondents Deniz Nazlım, Selman Güzelyüz, Berivan Altan, Hakan Yalçın, Emrullah Acar and Ceylan Şahinli, and JinNews correspondents Habibe Eren and Öznur Değer. MA reporter Zemo Ağgöz, who was arrested in the same trial, is on maternity leave and was placed under house arrest. Reporting requirements were imposed on former MA trainee Mehmet Günhan, who was also released.

30 police officers with long guns for five journalists

Habibe Eren is one of the journalists jailed on 29 October. She was arrested together with her colleagues Selman Güzelyüz and Öznur Değer. Eren spoke to Mezopotamya news agency about her arrest and said: "We had to sit in a row - with gaps in between. They did not allow us any contact. 30 police officers guarded us on the transport towards Ankara. In addition to the police officers who were armed with long guns, five members of the gendarmerie (military police) accompanied us. When we arrived in Urfa, we saw that they had brought with them Mezopotamya reporters Ceylan Şahinli and Emrullah Acar. We were handcuffed for about 15 hours, accompanied by an army of policemen. During this time, we were not allowed to speak or contact each other. The handcuffs were not removed except during a meal break and when we went to the toilet. We arrived in Ankara around morning and after a hospital check we were taken to the terror department of the Ankara police department. There we saw that it had been a very extensive arrest operation. (...) Many of our basic needs that we asked for were refused with the words, 'Is this a hotel here?'. With their treatment, they made us really feel, for the first time, where the order to arrest us had come from."

Torture and death threats

On the second day, the journalists were taken to another area to be fingerprinted. Eren stated that there, journalist Öznur Değer was kicked and abused by the police chief on the grounds that she was laughing: "When Öznur resisted, she was put face down on the floor, handcuffed behind her back and dragged down the stairs. When we protested with all our might and told them to their faces that they were torturers, we were threatened. When we told them that one day, they would be sentenced for this, the head of the terror department replied: 'I have seen many leftists, many governments, I have been here for 30 years, nothing will happen to me, I am the state'. When we demanded that the torture be recorded, we were told to 'write it on the walls'. As we continued to insist on a medical report for Öznur in the police vehicle, they pressed the accelerator and sped off. In the meantime, Öznur told us that she had been threatened with death. When we were taken back to the terror department, it continued in the same way."

Staging for the state press

Eren further reported that the authorities had prepared a staging for the state press such as the Anadolu news agency. At the prosecutor's office, everyone was paraded before the press in a row with their hands tied.

"Prosecution wrote down things we had not said"

Eren stated that nine different prosecutors started questioning the journalists at the same time in the courthouse: "The prosecutor that I gave my statement to asked me inadmissible questions in order to get an opinion and had some things written down in the minutes that I had not said at all. When my lawyer objected to this situation, the prosecutor called the police and had him removed from the room. The police put the handcuffs back on. In this way, I signed the report in handcuffs without reading it, and I had to stand for about one and three-quarters hours during the statement."

Arrest sentences dictated by terror police

Eren remarked that nine people, with the exception of one journalist, were later brought before the magistrate. At that time, it was already close to midnight. She said: "The last statement was made to the judge on duty at three in the morning. The judges pronounced the sentence after 10-15 minutes. Before the verdict was pronounced, three officers from the terror department went to the judge and instructed him. After the verdict, we were all led out of the courthouse in handcuffs. In the meantime, we were beaten, and our mouths were covered because we shouted the slogan 'Free Press will not be silenced'. When we were taken to the vehicle that was to take us to Sincan Prison, another guard said, 'Who made this victory sign?' ' When we said 'all of us', he said, 'Go and rot for 15 years' and closed the door."

Successful resistance

The journalists arrived at Sincan Women's Prison at around five o'clock. There they were strip-searched after being admitted. When the women resisted, the repressive measure was stopped. Eren added: "For two days we had to wait in the 'observation room' to come to the ward. For one and a half days, we were not given water. Although we told them that a friend of ours had kidney disease, there was no water. Only after a long struggle did we get 1.5 litres. When we were taken to the ward, we were told that the wing had been cleared two days before our arrest. For five days, we were held in an empty ward without any attention to our needs. Only after five days were our basic needs met after our repeated pleas and dozens of requests. Only after long protests and requests were we given a chair and a table. However, the prisoners are still deprived of many of the most basic necessities of daily life.”