Police on Thursday detained a prominent investigative journalist for questioning over a series of social media postings, while a novelist and eight of her former colleagues at a now-defunct newspaper went on trial over terror-related charges.
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Ahmet Sik, a strong government critic, was detained in Istanbul on suspicion that he “denigrated” the Turkish state, its military and police and engaged in “errorist propaganda”on Twitter, according to state-run Anadolu Agency. The journalist tweeted as he was being taken away: ” I’m being taken before a prosecutor for a tweet.”
Meanwhile in Istanbul, the trial opened for novelist Asli Erdogan, writer Necmiye Alpay and seven other editors or senior employees of the pro-Kurdish newspaper Ozgur Gundem. They are accused of membership in the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, of threatening Turkey’s unity and engaging in terrorist propaganda. They were arrested for their connection to the newspaper, which was closed down in October and which authorities accuse of being a mouthpiece of the PKK.
The defendants have rejected the charges. They face life terms in prison if found guilty.
“I have never taken orders from anyone. I am just a writer,” Haber Turk newspaper quoted Erdogan who is not related to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as telling the court.
The court later decided to release Erdogan, Alpay and editor Zana Bilir Kaya from jail, pending the outcome of the trial.
Arrests and prosecutions of writers and journalists have added to concerns over the deteriorating state of rights and freedoms in Turkey. Asli Erdogan’s arrest in August also increased fears that the government was using emergency powers meant to deal with the perpetrators of a failed military coup in July to go after all government critics.
Turkish authorities have arrested 1,656 people in the past six months for allegedly supporting terrorist organizations or insulting officials on social media, and are investigating 10,000 more people, according to government figures.
“As we come here to watch the trial of Asli Erdogan, Necmiye Alpay, Inan Kizilkaya and other journalist friends, we have learnt that another journalist friend of ours, Ahmet Sik, has been taken away,” opposition legislator Baris Yarkadas told reporters outside the Istanbul courthouse.
He said: “Even though we woke with the hope that Asli Erdogan, Necmiye Alpay, Inan Kizilkaya and other journalist friends will find freedom, we are still seeing journalists being targeted, apprehended and intimidated.”