Sixteen Kurdish journalists who were put in pre-trial detention in southeastern Turkey in June are planning to file an application at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) due to the failure of prosecutors to draft an indictment for the six months they’ve been behind bars, Voice of America Turkish edition reported, citing their lawyer.
Turkish authorities arrested 16 journalists, including Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG) co-chair Serdar Altan, Mezopotamya news agency (MA) Editor-in-Chief Aziz Oruç and JinNews News Director Safiye Alagaş, on June 16, after they had been detained in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır on June 8, in a move that sparked outrage among opposition politicians, press members and rights activists.
The journalists, who are accused of membership in a terrorist organization, have not yet been officially charged in the six months that have elapsed since their detention.
The journalists’ lawyer, Resul Temur, told VOA that he had already filed petitions at the Constitutional Court on behalf of his clients on the grounds that their rights are being violated and that if the Constitutional Court does not rule on their applications soon, they plan to go to the ECtHR as a next step.
Tosun said the top court has not reviewed the journalists’ applications, despite the fact that they were filed four months ago.
Meanwhile, several press organizations in Turkey’s Southeast such as the Dicle Fırat Journalists Association and the Mezopotamya Women Journalists Platform staged a protest in front of the Diyarbakır Courthouse on Friday to mark the six months the journalists have spent behind bars.
Members of the press organizations, holding banners and posters of the jailed journalists, made a statement to the press in front of the courthouse.
Dicle Müftüoğlu, co-chairperson of the Dicle Fırat Journalists Association, lamented the delay in the drafting of the indictment against the journalists, claiming that the delay has been caused because the prosecutors can’t find any credible charges to file against the journalists.
Roza Metina, a member of the Mezopotamya Women Journalists Platform, told VOA that the prosecutors’ failure to draft an indictment poses a threat to human rights and the rule of law.
The journalists were arrested as part of an investigation conducted by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office into the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.
Kurdish journalists in Turkey frequently face legal harassment, stand trial and are given jail sentences for covering issues related to Kurds and the PKK, which has been waging a bloody campaign in Turkey’s southeast since 1984.
Rights groups routinely accuse the Turkish government of trying to keep the press under control by imprisoning journalists, eliminating media outlets, overseeing the purchase of media brands by pro-government conglomerates and using regulatory authorities to exert financial pressure, especially after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan survived a failed coup in July 2016.
Turkey, which is among the top jailers of journalists in the world, was ranked 149th among 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2022 World Press Freedom Index, released in early May.