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.


Saudi to carry out nuclear power deal with or without US

Egyptians prepare to vote with Sisi reelection guaranteed

Israel ministers welcome US appointment of 'friend' Bolton

Iran slams US sanctions over hacking scheme

Exiled Syrian doctors treat refugees in Turkey

Policeman dead in bombing in Alexandria

Syria rebels prepare to quit penultimate pocket of Ghouta

Syrians in Manbij fear Turkey, bet on US

Mother Courage: Iraqi widow who saved recruits from slaughter

Quick victory unlikely in Egypt assault on IS

Sisi, Egypt's undisputed leader and 'father figure'

PKK to quit northwest Iraq after Turkish threat

Iraqi asylum seeker gets life sentence for London bombing

UK says Israeli sentencing of Palestinian teenage girl "emblematic"

Sarkozy vows to clear name in Libya probe

Syria announces second evacuation deal for rebel-held Eastern Ghouta.

Three dead after suspected IS gunman takes hostages in France

170,000 flee violence in Syria's Afrin

Norway proposes bill to ban full-face veils in education

Turkey says EU statements on Cyprus 'unacceptable'

Air strikes hit Ghouta despite rebel ceasefire effort

US approves $1 billion in Saudi defence contracts

In world first, flight to Israel crosses Saudi airspace

Saudi, US must pursue 'urgent efforts' for Yemen peace: Mattis

US, Jordan launch new counterterrorism training centre

Turkey’s largest media group to be sold to Erdogan ally

Rebels evacuate Syria's Eastern Ghouta

Two Hamas security force members killed in raid on bomb suspect

Turkey gives watchdog power to block internet broadcasts

EU leaders to condemn Turkey’s ‘illegal’ actions in Mediterranean

Sarkozy says life ‘living hell’ since corruption allegations

Hezbollah leader says debt threatens Lebanon disaster

Ahed Tamimi reaches plea deal for eight months in jail

UN launching final push to salvage Libya political agreement

Conditions for displaced from Syria's Ghouta 'tragic': UN

Sisi urges Egyptians to vote, denies excluding rivals

Rights Watch says Libya not ready for elections

Saudis revamp school curriculum to combat Muslim Brotherhood

American mother trapped in Syria’s Ghouta calls out Trump

Syria workers say French firm abandoned them to jihadists

Grim Nowruz for Kurds fleeing Afrin

Sarkozy back in custody for second day of questioning

'Saudization' taking its toll on salesmen

Syrian rebels reach evacuation deal in Eastern Ghouta town

Israel confirms it hit suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007