In Turkey / Türkiye

Today’s Zaman, March 2, 2016

Journalist and Cumhuriyet editor Can Dundar (photo by Cihan)

Journalist and Cumhuriyet editor Can Dundar (photo by Cihan)

Cumhuriyet daily’s Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar, who was freed on Friday [Feb 26] after 92 days in jail following a Constitutional Court ruling, has said his release is a “clear defeat” for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, even as the pro-government Yenisafak daily has claimed that Dündar will be summoned to testify as part of another investigation into him.

Dündar and the newspaper’s Ankara representative Erdem Gül were arrested last November for a report on alleged illegal arms transfers to Syria. Both were freed on Friday.

Speaking at a news conference in Istanbul, Dündar said he would defy an order to surrender his passport and would attempt to travel overseas.

Update: Turkish journalist Can Dündar jailed after surviving gun attack, The Guardian, May 6, 2016
Newspaper editor sentenced to more than five years for state secrets offence on same day man tried to shoot him outside court

According to Yenisafak, Istanbul Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor Irfan Fidan, who is overseeing the probe into the report on the alleged arms transfer to Syria, has launched a separate investigation into Cumhuriyet‘s report. The daily claims that there are allegations that Dündar sold his house, which is worth TL 1.5 million, for TL 5 million, as a type of bribe in order to publish the report on the Syria-bound trucks.

The daily also claimed that lawyers Tarik Çilekçi, Bekir Mustafa Yilmaz and Sönmez Ahi, who purchased Dündar’s house, were detained and then arrested.

Yenisafak also maintained that the prosecutor will summon Dündar to testify in the upcoming days to ask about the allegations about his house.

Despite their release from prison, Dündar and Gül are still facing possible life sentences in an ongoing trial, the first hearing of which will be held on March 25. The indictment in that case, which was prepared by Fidan against the two journalists, seeks an aggravated life sentence, a life sentence and 30 years of imprisonment on separate charges, including “obtaining and revealing secret information pertaining to the security of the state for espionage purposes,” “seeking to overthrow the Turkish government” and “aiding an armed terrorist organization.”

Dündar also held a meeting with members of the foreign press and embassy officials from various foreign countries in Istanbul’s Taksim neighborhood on Wednesday. Highlighting Erdogan’s criticism of the top court, Dündar said that prior to President Erdogan, he had never seen a president who did not recognize the Constitutional Court.

Erdogan said on Sunday that he will not obey or respect the decision by the Constitutional Court that declared that the imprisonment of the journalists amounted to a violation of their rights.

“Erdogan is having trouble accepting the ruling because this was a clear defeat for him. We have a president who is not accustomed to defeat,” Dundar said at the news conference.

“Looking at what is being written in the foreign press, it is hard for Europe to believe in Erdogan’s attitude. Actually, we have never before seen a president who said ‘I don’t recognize or implement the decisions of the Constitutional Court.’ If we are astonished, then Europe is five times more astonished,” Dündar said.

Dündar: ‘Dirty bargaining’ ongoing with EU

Dündar chided the EU for failing to press Turkey over basic rights such as free speech, saying Brussels was too focused on securing Ankara’s cooperation in stemming the flow of migrants from the Middle East to Europe.

“While we were in prison, there was bargaining going on over money for refugees. We see this as dirty bargaining to keep refugees off of European territory,” he said. “It appears Europe is willing to concede its long-term principles for short-term gains.”

Dündar said his newspaper would continue to pursue the story that had landed him in trouble.

Accusing Erdogan of trying to create a crisis in the state’s administration, the journalist spoke about Erdogan’s advisor Mustafa Akis’s remarks that Erdogan made his criticism of the Constitutional Court as “the head of state and the government,” contradicting earlier claims by the government that the comments were the president’s personal opinion. Dündar said: “Erdogan’s advisors have come to a point where they are even challenging the government. I think there is a disagreement [between the government and the presidency]. We hope this disagreement will be beneficial.”

The top court said the journalists’ right to freedom and security, the right to express their thoughts and freedom of the press, under Articles 19, 26 and 28 of the Constitution respectively, were violated. The Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court, which will hear Dündar and Gül’s trial, ordered their release early on Friday.

“The Constitutional Court may have reached such a verdict. I will remain silent. I am not in a position to accept it,” Erdogan told reporters before departing for a visit to some West African countries. “I do not obey it nor do I respect it,” Erdogan maintained.

Dündar and Gül were arrested on charges of espionage and aiding a terrorist organization in November after the publication of video footage purporting to show Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) helping to send weapons to Syria when they were intercepted in 2014 by gendarmerie forces. The arrest drew international condemnation and revived concern about media freedom in Turkey.

Erdogan, who had described the interception of the MIT trucks as an act of espionage aimed at undermining Turkey internationally, vowed that Dündar and the newspaper would pay a “heavy price” for reporting on the incident. “I will not let him go [unpunished],” he said back in November.

“The media cannot have unlimited freedom. These reports are an attack on the current president of this country,” Erdogan said on Sunday. “This has nothing to do with freedom of expression at all. This is an espionage case.”

He also said the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court, which is overseeing the two journalists’ trial and ruled for their release in line with the decision of the Constitutional Court, could have resisted the top court’s ruling and refused to free them.

Read also:
Turkey frees two journalists from jail after High Court ruling, by Associated Press, Feb 26, 2016

Turkish PM says case of journalists who reported on Syria trucks not free speech issue, Today’s Zaman, March 2, 2016

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said a court case against journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül cannot be viewed as an issue of freedom of speech, insisting that their coverage of an alleged illegal arms transfer to Syria in 2014 was a matter of “espionage.” …

Journalist Ahmet Altan testifies to prosecutors in Erdogan insult case, Today’s Zaman, March 2, 2016

The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into Haberdar news portal columnist Ahmet Altan on the charge of insulting President Erdoğan late last year  over a column published on Nov. 25, 2015. Altan criticized Erdoğan’s policies in the column that was about Turkey’s downing of a Russian plane near the Turkey-Syria border that same month…

1,845 cases of ‘insulting’ Erdogan await prosecution: Justice Minister, Hurriyet Daily News, March 2, 2016

Erdoğan calls on prosecutors to take action against call by HDP’s Demirtaş to march to Sur, Today’s Zaman, Wednesday, March 2, 2016

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on prosecutors to take action against Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtas over his call for people to march to the Sur district of the city of Diyarbakir in eastern Turkey which has been a flashpoint of conflict between security forces and the terrorist [sic] Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).

“It’s not normal that a war has been ongoing in the center of [Diyarbakir] province for three months. All the people of Diyarbakır should make a stand to lift the blockade in Sur,” Demirtaş said. He called on everyone to attend the march planned to be held in Sur at 4 p.m. (2 p.m. GMT) on March 2.

“I think prosecutors have to fulfill their duties because nobody has the right to create chaos and disturb the peace in my country,” Erdogan said during a joint press conference with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in Nigeria on Wednesday.

Speaking on Monday, Demirtas called on people to march on Wednesday to protest the more than 90-day-long curfew in Diyarbakir’s Sur district…

Tens of thousands marching to Sur district of city of Diyarbakir (Amed) amid police crackdown, ANF News, March 2, 2016

Thousands of people in Amed have started a march the central Sur district in order to break the siege ongoing for 92 uninterrupted days.

Demonstrators carrying photos of Cizre victims and chanting slogans “Long Live Sur Resistance”, “Fascist Turkey, out of Kurdistan”, “We will resist to victory” started to march to Sur from 13 various locations in Baglar, Yenisehir and Kayapinar districts.


Hundreds gathered outside HDP and DBP offices in Baglar district while masses from surrounding villages continue flocking to the area. People will soon start to march to Sur.


In Yenisehir district, hundreds gathered outside the DTK office before starting the march to Sur district, chanting slogans “Long Live Sur Resistance”, “Long Live Leader Apo”. Police forces attacked the mass with water cannons and tear gas, to which demonstrators responded with stones. Clashes are ongoing in the district.


In Kayapinar district, hundreds have gathered in Rojava Park which was therewith surrounded by dozens of anti-riot vehicles. People have started to march to Sur through Dicle Kent Boulevard. Those gathering outside Gaziler People’s Assembly office have also started to walk towards Park Orman where they will join others to march to Sur together.

Despite the police crackdown, people are not leaving the streets as they keep advancing towards Sur. Demonstrators have removed the barricades built up by police around the central Dagkapi Square.


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