“As soon as I entered journalism, I ran into the fist of the state”
Journalist Nedim Türfent has been in prison for 554 days on charges relating to his reporting with the Kurdish news agency DİHA, which was shut down by the government in October 2016. On Nov. 17, he is expected to face a judge for the third time.
Türfent’s attorney Barış Oflas talked to Ahval about Türfent’s experiences during his arrest and detention. According to Oflas, Türfent is on trial on false charges of being a member of a terrorist organization and spreading terrorist propaganda, for which he could be imprisoned for up to 22 years.
“The goal is to condemn journalism. His case is the height of unlawfulness,” Oflas said, adding that Türfent’s indictment was full of statements obtained from anonymous witnesses, whom he said were tortured and threatened with death if they did not sign statements against Türfent.
Most of those witnesses later recanted their statements, Oflas says, and he hopes to bring the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
Türfent, who answered questions for Ahval through his lawyer, says that he felt pressure from the state from the first day he began working as a reporter 6 years ago. He has been held in solitary confinement for nearly 19 months, and claims that attempts have been made to extract false evidence from him to be used against others.
“If they want to make us pay for simply stating the truth, we won’t deny the truth,” he said. “We are taking a moral stance by not betraying journalism.”
From day one, he was threatened multiple times for his work, Türfent said, as he has been reporting from some of the towns that have been worst hit by the conflict between the Turkish state and the Kurdish separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Even though Türfent is being held in Van, his trial is taking place in Hakkari, 66 miles (107 km) away. He will not be physically present at his trial. Instead, a new audio-visual system will be used to allow him to attend his trial remotely. This system often makes it difficult for defendants to hear the judge, prosecutors, and witnesses, Oflas said.
Türfent also discussed the conditions of his detention, where he has been kept in a three-by-four-meter cell that is locked from 4.30pm until 7.00am. Books from the outside are not allowed, and letters frequently go missing. Türfent’s cell is searched every time he goes into the corridor. “If we criticize anything, even ironically, our letters are taken,” he said.
He spends his days reading, researching, and writing poetry, and he says that if he were not in prison, he would be doing a story on human trafficking on the Iran-Iraq border.
When asked if he would continue as a journalist when he gets out, Türfent joked, “I won’t even get a camera phone.”
In fact, he plans to keep writing, saying that if a free press had not informed the public about the deaths of 34 villagers in an airstrike near the Kurdish village of Uludere (Roboski) in 2011, it would have been reported simply as terrorists being “neutralised” on the border.