Jailed Turkish-Dutch journalist released after eight years

Jailed Turkish-Dutch journalist released after eight years

Turkish-Dutch journalist Füsun Erdoğan (Photo: DHA)

May 09, 2014, Friday/ 19:07:46/ TODAYSZAMAN.COM / ISTANBUL
Turkish-Dutch journalist Füsun Erdoğan, the former general coordinator of Özgür Radyo who was jailed in the trial into the outlawed Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) on Sept. 8 2006, was released on Thursday along with six other suspects in the case.

The İstanbul 20th High Criminal Court had decided to release Erdoğan and six others in the MLKP case, including two other journalists.

A number of international and Dutch press advocacy groups launched a social campaign on World Press Freedom Day on May 3 to demand the release of Erdoğan.

Erdoğan, who established the Turkish leftist radio station Özgür Radyo (Free Radio) in 1995, was arrested in 2006. She was charged with being a member of an illegal organization and after years of hearings was finally sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole plus 300 years on Nov. 4 for “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order by means of violence” and being a leader of the outlawed MLKP, which is listed among the active terrorist organizations in Turkey by the government. The MLKP claimed responsibility for two bombings that were committed at a police station and a local office of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in İstanbul in the summer of 2012.

Following the sentencing, international human rights groups and press organizations called for an immediate retrial. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called attention to some of the trial's flaws. “Key defense requests were ignored,” according to RSF. “Why did the court always refuse to allow expert examination of the prosecution's main evidence, documents provided by the police, in order to verify their authenticity? Why were the police unable to support their account of the interrogations, which the defendants disputed?” it questioned.

After the coup of 1980, Erdoğan migrated with her husband to the Netherlands. She lived for years in Rotterdam, where her son was born. In 1989 she returned to Turkey, where she worked as a journalist in İstanbul until her arrest.

The 51-year-old Erdoğan denies all allegations against her. “None of this so-called ‘evidence' is proven to be linked to me,” she wrote in a letter which was published last year by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). “I have studied every single folder (about 40 dossiers and thousands of pages). However, I did not find any single concrete [piece of] evidence against me. In the entire 300-page indictment there wasn't any tangible evidence against me either,” she said.

Because of a “classified” clause in her file, no information was shared by the court with Erdoğan until the summer of 2007. “Neither my lawyer nor I could obtain any information about accusations. […] I was kept in prison for exactly two years without knowing why I was arrested,” she wrote.

According to Erdoğan, in reality there was only one real reason for her arrest: "Police were trying to intimidate members of the progressive, independent, democratic and alternative media."

According to the CPJ, Turkey is the world's biggest jailer of journalists. International human rights groups stress that so many journalists are ending up behind bars in Turkey because of the country's strict, broadly defined Counterterrorism Law (TMK). The law went into effect in 1991 to counter the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). But concerns have been growing that the law is increasingly used to target critics of the government. The US-based NGO Freedom House claims the law “effectively makes many types of investigative or critical journalism tantamount to terrorist activity.” Last year the Ministry of Justice revealed that 20,000 people have been convicted under the TMK during the last four years, including 8,000 between 2012 and 2013.