Turkey rains down lawsuits on gov’t critics

The chief public prosecutor’s office in Turkish capital Ankara has submitted an indictment against jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, demanding three years in prison for insulting the Ankara chief public prosecutor, daily Cumhuriyet reported on Wednesday.

Criticizing Chief Prosecutor Yüksel Kocaman’s visit to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan immediately after his wedding, Demirtaş sent a statement to his lawyer to be tweeted out from the lawyer’s account.

“Back in the day some prosecutors were gifted even armoured vehicles. The gift bags they put in your hands will not save you from prosecution,” Demirtaş said in his message.

The European Court of Human Rights issued a ruling for Demirtaş’s immediate release last year, but the politician remained in prison over terrorism charges. According to Cumhuriyet, Prosecutor Kocaman had held a meeting with Erdoğan on the night of the ECHR ruling, and launched a new investigation on Demirtaş soon after.

“Such allegations will be a medal of honour for Selahattin Demirtaş,” leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said in a televised interview on Wednesday. “Can’t a person criticize prosecutors or judges?”

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The Ankara chief public prosecutor’s office also demanded five to ten years in prison for OdaTV journalist Müyesser Yıldız and Tele1 Ankara correspondent İsmail Dükel in an indictment submitted to an Ankara court on Wednesday.

Yıldız has been in prison, waiting for an indictment, since June 12. The journalist is facing charges of revealing state secrets for two articles she wrote for OdaTV, titled “Who are the Turkish commanders who met with (Libyan General Khalifa Haftar)?” and “Which commander went to Libya … Who returned in his stead?” As part of the same investigation, an army officer was arrested alongside Yıldız, while Dükel was released on parole.

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A court in Diyarbakır sentenced journalist Yusuf Karataş to ten years in prison on charges of membership of a terrorist organisation, based on meetings of a pro-Kurdish organisation, the Democratic Society Congress (DTK).

Karataş had attended the meetings as a representative for Turkey’s Labour Party (EMEP), and said in his court testimony that several members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had also been involved in the same meetings.

DTK members often face accusations of membership of Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), an armed group fighting on Turkish soil for Kurdish autonomy since the 1980s that Turkey has designated a terrorist organisation.

The judge ruled to not shorten Karataş’s sentence on the grounds that he had “a criminal-leaning personality,” daily Evrensel reported.

“There are more than 100 journalists in prisons with similar injustices,” EMEP Chairwoman Selma Gürkan said in a statement.

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Columnist for daily Sözcü Çiğdem Toker is facing claims of non-material damages over her article detailing monetary support provided by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality to religious and non-religious foundations in Turkey’s megacity.

A municipal budget report had revealed that until 2018, a year before opposition candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu won the elections and took office as the mayor, “the municipality provided 74.3 million TL in support to TÜGVA, 51.6 million TL to TÜRGEV, 41.4 million TL to T3 Foundation, 29.8 million TL to Ensar Foundation,” Toker wrote in her article, advocacy group Press in Arrest said.

Toker had also mentioned the Turkish Technology Team Foundation (T3 Foundation), “known to be close to the government and some of which are managed by the President’s relatives,” PiA said. T3 filed a complaint against the columnist shortly after.

In its petition, T3 said it was necessary “to question the patriotism of the journalist who penned this article and the editors who published her article.” The foundation is demanding 80,000 liras ($10,400) in non-material compensation from Toker.