First Published: 2017-01-11

Turkey press rights campaigner in court for 'terror propaganda'
Erol Onderoglu, representative for Reporters Without Borders, two other campaigners in court charged with aiding Kurdish separatist militants.
Middle East Online

People demonstrate in support of Erol Onderoglu

ISTANBUL - The Turkey representative for Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and two other campaigners appeared in court Wednesday, risking years in jail in a high-profile trial charged with aiding Kurdish militants.

The trial has sparked international howls of protest from press rights' defenders who claim the climate for press freedom in Turkey has deteriorated sharply under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

RSF representative Erol Onderoglu, rights activist Sebnem Korur Fincanci and journalist Ahmet Nesin have been charged with making "terror propaganda" on behalf of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) after guest-editing pro-Kurdish Turkish newspaper Ozgur Gundem.

Onderoglu told reporters outside the court they risked 14 years and six months in jail if convicted.

Turkey ranked 151st of 180 countries in the 2016 World Press Freedom index published by RSF.

"Since then, the situation has been getting worse every day," Christophe Deloire, RSF secretary general, told reporters outside the court.

"Pluralism is almost totally dead in this country, there is no independent TV, there are only two or three newspapers that try to resist as they can," he said.

Ozgur Gundem had invited guest editors to take control of the paper in a campaign of solidarity as it faced pressure from authorities.

Onderoglu and the others were initially arrested in June but then freed pending trial.

The daily was then raided and permanently shut down in August on charges of links with the PKK, which has waged an insurgency against Ankara for more than three decades.

"This trial is a matter of honour for me and my friends, because we stood up and we fought for a noble cause," Fincanci said.

Onderoglu's detention on June 20 triggered international alarm over press freedom in Turkey but concerns have grown further as the authorities imposed a state of emergency in the wake of the July 15 failed coup.

Critics say that the state of emergency is being used against any opponent of Erdogan and not just the suspected coup plotters.

The Istanbul court was also the scene Wednesday of a fresh hearing in the separate trial against the exiled former editor-in-chief of Turkish opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, Can Dundar, and his Ankara bureau chief, Erdem Gul.

Dundar and Gul, who are fighting previous convictions for revealing state secrets, are accused of ties to the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally turned foe.

 

Separate Syria air strikes kill at least 32

Turkish FM in Switzerland amid rising tensions with Europe

Two more 'significant arrests' over London attack

UN says Israel has ignored resolution on illegal settlements

Cities, monuments dim lights for Earth Hour

Gunmen kill Hamas official in Gaza

Veteran politician says Turkey referendum a 'test' for Kurds

More Algerian women in work, but husbands control wages

Beirut university settles US lawsuit over Hezbollah

1.1 million weekend travellers from Dubai hit by laptop ban

Shiite Lebanese women endure painful custody battles

Russia, China seek Iraq chemical weapons probe

Besieged Syrians struggle with dwindling dialysis supplies

Syria army retakes Damascus areas from rebels

Syria says peace talks must first focus on 'terrorism'

12 Syrian refugees dead after boat sinks off Turkey coast

Mosul displaced head into unknown

As war keeps them away, Yemen children dream of school

Ousted Egyptian president Mubarak freed from detention

Iraq's Sadr threatens boycott if election law unchanged

Israel, US fail to reach settlement agreement

Yemen rebel missile kills Saudi soldier

Britain arrests eight as IS claims Westminster attack

Man attempts to drive into crowd of shoppers in Belgiumís Antwerp

Palestinian FA chief says ball in Israel's court

Israel arrests Jewish teen over anti-Semitic terror threats

An Egypt court is to reopen a corruption probe into Mubarak

Bahrain frees award-winning AFP photographer

Erdogan slams 'pressure' on Turks in Bulgaria ahead of vote

Israel policeman suspended after caught on video beating Palestinian

Turkey summons Russia envoy over soldier death in Syria

Bahrain sentences three to death for police bombings

UN-backed Syria talks restart in Geneva

EU summons Turkey envoy over 'safety' remarks

400,000 'trapped' in west Mosul's Old City

Saudi film festival launch postponed after sandstorm

10 Egyptian soldiers killed in Sinai roadside bombings

Qaeda, IS developing harder-to-detect bombs say experts

World leaders condemn Britain terror attack

Terrorist attack at Londonís Houses of Parliament

2016 saw sharp rise in illegal Israeli settlement projects

US-led coalition vows lasting victory against IS

Bahrain arrests photographer on unspecified charges

Humanitarian groups demand access to Yemen civilians suffering 'open-air massacre'

33 killed in US-led air strike on north Syria