Turkish journalist faces 18 years for covering press statement release

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Ruşen Takva, a freelance journalist based in Turkey’s eastern province of Van, has been indicted by a prosecutor for attending the release of a press statement in Van — where an official ban on demonstrations has been in effect since 2016 — with the prosecution seeking a prison sentence of up to 18 years, Deutsche Welle’s Turkish edition reported on Monday.

Takva was indicted on charges that include “contravening Law No. 2911 on assemblies and demonstrations” and “membership in an armed terrorist organization” after attending the release of a statement to the press on Jan. 8 by the pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP), DW said.

According to the report Takva was one of 15 journalists who covered the event, which saw the participation of nearly 600 people – including pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmakers and DBP representatives – in Van, where the governor’s office prohibited demonstrations on Nov. 21, 2016.

The Van Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office’s indictment of Takva was accepted by the Van 2nd High Criminal Court, and the trial of the journalist is expected to start in June.

Speaking to DW regarding the indictment, Takva said that we, as a country, were in a place where even the most dignified institutions had lost their seriousness.

“They prepared a [case] file of over 100 pages. … The only evidence against me is a half-page photo [showing Takva at the DBP event]. The remainder of the more than 100 pages include such documents as the DBP’s call to people and a report by the Mezopotamya news agency on that call, both of which have nothing to do with me,” the journalist said, adding that he faces terror charges solely for attending the release of a public statement.

According to DW, the prosecutor claimed in the indictment that Takva was the one who organized the banned demonstration in Van based on a photo showing him at the event that doesn’t provide any information as to how he might have done it. The indictment also doesn’t mention 10 other journalists who covered the event, DW said.

“Van authorities enforce their own kind of law on journalists, which puts a lot of pressure on them. … The journalists face investigations, cases filed against them merely for reporting the news. These methods of oppression targeting journalists in Van must be halted as soon as possible,” Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG) co-chair Serdar Altan told DW, adding that the trials of 12 journalists in the province were still ongoing.

Journalists Adnan Bilen, Cemil Uğur, Şehriban Abı and Nazan Sala, who had been arrested on Oct. 9 after they reported on a pair of villagers allegedly tortured and thrown from a military helicopter by Turkish soldiers in Van in September, were released at the first hearing of their trial on April 1.

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