Journalist Dündar calls attention to Turkey’s political prisoners via replica of prison cell in Berlin

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Journalist Can Dündar, former editor-in-chief of Turkey’s critical Cumhuriyet daily who lives in exile in Berlin, has made a bid to attract public attention to political imprisonment in Turkey with the adaptation of a prison cell in the garden of Berlin’s Maxim Gorki Theater, Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported on Thursday.

“This is a replica of a cell in the [high-security] Silivri Prison, which is known as the largest journalist jail in the world,” Dündar told DW Turkish, describing the room furnished with concrete-colored objects and optically insulated with mirror film.

“Among those who have been kept in there are politicians, journalists, academics and artists — a lot of people whose only crime was telling the truth — and some of them are still behind bars. I wanted to make their voices heard,” he said.

“It’s a kind of human rights campaign, and I hope it draws public attention to political prisoners in Turkey,” Dündar said, referring to his installation for the theatre that he calls the “Prison of Thoughts.”

In addition to the replica of the prison cell in the garden is another installation curated by Dündar that he named the “Museum of Little Things.” It includes items from the everyday lives of 12 prisoners exhibited in a darkened room, where spotlights shine on pedestals holding the items. In the video installation, texts from Dündar are projected on objects that tell the stories of political prisoners in Turkey.

As soon as COVID-19 conditions allow, the exhibition will also be accessible next to the prison cell, DW Turkish said.

Dündar, who was arrested in November 2015 and released following a Constitutional Court ruling of “rights violation” in late February 2016, was handed down a 27-year, six-month prison sentence in a trial concerning a news report on National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks transporting arms to rebels in Syria.

The story, which was published on May 29, 2015 and headlined “Here are the weapons Erdoğan said don’t exist,” in reference to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, sparked a political firestorm in Turkey about the role of the Turkish spy agency in arming rebel factions in Syria.

A Turkish court also ruled to seize the exiled journalist’s assets and declared him a fugitive in October.

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