Journalist covering suspicious death of 11-year-old girl flees Turkey fearing arrest

A Turkish journalist who this year drew the public’s attention to the suspicious death of an 11-year old girl said on Twitter on Tuesday that he had to flee the country as an investigation had been launched into his old social media posts.

Rabia Naz Vatan was found dead last April in Eynesil, a town in the northern Turkish province of Giresun. The police said the little girl had committed suicide by jumping from the roof terrace of her family home after becoming upset with her mother.

Journalist Metin Cihan became involved in the death of Rabia Naz, after the girl’s father, Şaban Vatan reached out to him in February.

With Cihan’s help, the story gathered public interest and Vatan was summoned to Ankara to meet Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu.

Vatan’s own efforts for furthering the investigation led to doubts that some politicians from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) might be involved in covering up the truth.

Cihan in May was asked to testify about an investigation into his social media posts he had shared during 2013 Gezi Protests and a 2016 coup attempt. Turkey’s pro-government Islamist daily Yeni Akit called Cihan a provocateur and criticised the authorities for not detaining the journalist.

“At times I was hopeful thinking that (the mystery over) Rabia Naz’s death would be unveiled, but unfortunately that did not happen. Instead they tried to acquit the father in a mental hospital, and launch an investigation against me,” Cihan said on Twitter on Tuesday.

“At the moment, I am outside the country, I have been going through difficult times and I want to explain everything I have experienced and know,” he added.

The journalist said that he received messages that the police had been investigating him while he was on vacation with his son. He said he had decided to leave the country as he did not wish for his son to see him in jail.

“I had to end our vacation. I was afraid that I would be detained while I was on holiday with my (7-year old) son, that I would make him experience a trauma. I decided to go abroad in order to see what will happen and decide what I am going to do,” Cihan said.

According to the journalist the investigation into his old social media posts are aimed at discrediting him in before the public, who are concerned about the death of Rabia Naz.

Cihan then explained the process in a long thread on Twitter.

“I don’t know what happened to Rabia Naz,” he said, adding that officials who are under suspicion, including the mayor of Eynesil and Nurettin Canikli, Turkey’s former Ministry of Defence and a senior figure of the AKP, had remained silent and been protected.

“Under such circumstances, I feel like I am not against a state, but against a mafia. I do not care much about the state, but I am afraid of the mafia,” he said.