Journalists gathered before the Istanbul courthouse to attest for their colleagues behind bars, Çağdaş Kaplan, Mustafa Balbay, Naciye Yavuz, Ömer Faruk Çalışkan and Sultan Şaman, as the "Witness Days" launched by the GÖP entered its second day.
The journalists, their co-workers and their families will meet at 12:00 on every weekday until June 28 for their arrested colleagues to be released and to voice their motto: "We bear witnesses to injustice; we bear witness to their imprisonment for their journalistic activities."
"Kurdish mother's call for peace included in the indictment"
Journalists are deemed as terrorists for their journalistic activities, while the length of their detention periods have been progressively increasing, Orhan Erinç, the head of the Turkish Journalists Society (TGC,) said when he took the floor during the demonstration, just as the protesters were chanting "Free press cannot be silenced."
Erinç's remarks come in wake of certain government officials' claims that almost no journalist has been put behind bars in Turkey due to their journalistic activities.
Erinç also touched upon the third judicial package pending in Parliament and issued a call for the re-definition of terrorism related charges so as to leave no room for interpretation as well as for the abolition of specially authorized courts.
Among those journalists in prison is Çağdaş Kaplan, a reporter for the Dicle News Agency (DİHA) since 2008. Law enforcement officials raided his home on Dec. 20, 2011 and took him under custody. Kaplan has been held in the Kocaeli Kandıra No. 2 F-Type Prison for five and a half months, while he still continues to write his news stories from behind bars.
The indictment in the Kurdistan Communities' Union (KCK) trials pertaining to journalists includes 16 news stories penned down by Kaplan, as well as the phone calls he had made for his stories. It also refers as elements of crime to even news pieces that include a peace call raised by a Kurdish mother who had lost her son, as well as stories about the demands of human rights advocates. The indictment then goes even further to claim that the indictments of trials Kaplan was following and which were found in his home indicate the existence of a link between him and terrorist activities.
A journalist would only be targeted if he writes the truth, and this is precisely the reason why Kaplan landed in jail, his father Nesim Kaplan said and relayed his son's greetings from Kandıralı.
DİHA reporter Güler Can also said Kaplan was an excellent court reporter, adding that all the journalists in the demonstration could act as witnesses on his behalf. "Çağdaş will arrive on Sept. 10 in the courtroom where he used to come for news," he said.
"Solitary confinement for a whole year"
Mustafa Balbay became the Ankara representative of the daily Cumhuriyet in 1993, after he spent long years working in the paper's offices in the Aegean province of İzmir since 1980. He was arrested on March 6, 2009 on the charge of "membership in an armed terrorist organization" within the scope of the ongoing Ergenekon trials. An International Press Card owner, Balbay has remained in jail for over three years in the Silivri Prison. He was elected as a deputy to Parliament in the general elections of 2011 and spent an entire year of his arrest in solitary confinement in Silivri.
"We found Balbay behind bars as a symbol of the civilian coup de tat. He continued his work by preserving his [identity as a] journalist, as well as his mental stability. Through the writings he penned from prison, he also acted as a voice for his other friends in relating the extraordinary circumstances of this country and the Silivri 'House of Cruelty' to the world and to Turkey," said Şükran Soner, a writer for the daily Cumhuriyet who acted as Balbay's witness.
Another point that causes my heart to sink is that this society fails to understand how the lives of our friends have fallen apart as they have been propelled from "thought criminals" to "terrorists," he added.
Other imprisoned journalists attested by the protesters go as follows:
Naciye Yavuz (Yürüyüş Magazine): A reporter for the Yürüyüş ("March") magazine, Naciye Yavuz was arrested in Ankara on Dec. 24, 2010. Yavuz had to wait for a staggering 13 months in the Sincan Closed Women's Prison to attend her first hearing. Yavuz stands accused of "being a member of the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C)" with a demand for ten years of imprisonment. Authorities have cited her fingerprints on the Yürüyüş magazines at her workplace as evidence against her. Other bits of "evidence" presented in the trial include her attendance at the May 1 and May 8 demonstrations, her efforts to sell the Yürüyüş magazine, her following press releases and demonstrations to publish them as news, as well as her participation in Güler Zere's funeral and resisting her arrest. Naciye Yavuz and her friends' third hearing is set to take place in the Ankara 11th Court for Serious Crimes on Tuesday June 12.
Ömer Faruk Çalışkan (Özgür Halk Magazine): Ömer Faruk, the managing editor of the Özgür Halk (Free People) magazine, was born in Islahiye in the southeastern province of Gaziantep in 1985. Arrested on July 19, 2008, Çalışkan was sentenced to six years and three months in prison. The Supreme Court of Appeals later ratified his sentence, while another suit filed against him on the charge of "membership in a terrorist organization" is still underway in the Istanbul 10th Court for Serious Crimes. Çalışkan is serving his sentence in the Kocaeli Kandıra No. 1 F-Type Prison.
Sultan Şaman (Heviya Jine Magazine): An editor for Heviya Jine, the sole women's magazine that is published in both Turkish and Kurdish, Sultan Şaman was arrested on Feb. 4, 2012 in the district of Nusaybin in the southeastern province of Mardin. Şaman was arrested on the charge of "being a member of a terrorist organization" on Feb. 7 by order of the court. Şaman is still under arrest in an M-Type Prison in the southeastern province of Batman. (NV)