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CPJ calls on Spain to release journalist arrested on Turkish warrant

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The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Spanish authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Hamza Yalçın, a writer for the leftist Turkish magazine Odak Dergisi.

Police arrested Yalçın, who has dual citizenship in Turkey and Sweden, at Barcelona’s El Prat airport on Aug. 3 and detained him pending an extradition hearing on charges of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and maintaining “terrorist links” with the banned Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C).

“Turkish authorities have detained so many journalists and closed so many media outlets on bogus terrorism charges that nobody but the government’s most fervent supporters believes them anymore,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Spain should not make itself an accomplice to the injustices Turkey’s thin-skinned government daily perpetrates against the press, and should release Hamza Yalçın without any further delay. Deporting Yalçın would set a terrible precedent for those Turkish journalists who have escaped Turkey for the relative freedom of the European Union.”

Yalçın has written for Odak Dergisi, which is often critical of the Turkish government, since immigrating to Sweden in 1984, according to The Associated Press.

The Spanish Interior Ministry did not immediately reply to CPJ’s email requesting comment.

Yalçın was arrested in Turkey in 1979 for being a member of the ultra-left Turkish Peoples Liberation Party/Front (THKP-C). He escaped from prison after serving six months and applied for asylum in Sweden in 1984. He later returned to Turkey and served three years in prison from 1990 to 1994. He then returned to Sweden again.

In December 2016, when CPJ last conducted its annual census of journalists jailed around the world, Turkey had imprisoned at least 81 journalists for their work — more than any other country at any time in the 25 years CPJ has kept detailed records.

On Thursday, detention warrants were issued for 35 Turkish journalists over the use of a smart phone application known as ByLock.

According to the P24 website, 163 journalists are currently in prison in Turkey.

Turkey is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2017 World Press Freedom Index. The situation of media in Turkey has become critical under the state of emergency proclaimed after a coup attempt last July.

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