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.

 

Van ploughs through pedestrians in Barcelona terror attack

13 killed in Barcelona van attack

Qataris to do hajj on Saudi king expenses

Saudi Arabia, Iraq draw closer with wary eye on Iran

Civilians stay on frontlines despite dangers in Raqa

Iraq acknowledges abuses in Mosul campaign

Netanyahu under fire for response to US neo-Nazism

Israel to free high-profile suspects in money laundering probe

Spanish police shut down jet-ski migrant smugglers

Syrian actress, activist Fadwa Suleiman dies in Paris

Israeli court extends detention for Islamic cleric over ‘incitement’

UAE to provide $15 million a month to Gaza

Sudan's Bashir 'satisfied' with Nile dam project

US-backed rebels say American presence in Syria to last ‘decades’

Tunisian clerics oppose equal inheritance rights for women

Israel strikes almost 100 Hezbollah arms convoys in 5 years

UN hopes for eighth round of Syria talks before year’s end

LONG READ: How Syria continues to evade chemical weapons justice

Civilians killed in US-led raids on Raqa

Qatari pilgrims begin flooding into Saudi by land

Turkey arrests 9 more journalists for alleged ‘Gulen links’

Iran’s Karroubi on hunger strike over 6-year house arrest

Saudi Arabia to restart work on Grand Mosque expansion

Algeria reshuffles cabinet, nominates three new ministers

Syria rebels lose heavyweight faction

ICC orders Mali ex-jihadist pay 2.7 m euros for Timbuktu destruction

Libya seeks to ‘organise’ NGOs carrying migrant rescue Ops

More than one million South Sudan refugees in Uganda

Beirut, Damascus pledge to boost economic ties

Two killed on Gaza-Egypt border

Fire breaks out at UNESCO heritage site in Saudi Arabia

Iran military chief in Turkey for talks on Syrian war

Saudi Electricity announces $1.75b in international loans

Israel to strip Jazeera journalist of press credentials

Bahrain state media accuses Qatar of trying to topple regime

Iran's Khamenei blasts US over Charlottesville

Libyan forces snub ICC over warrant for commander

Iran’s detained opposition leader starts hunger strike

Arab fighters struggle to make impact in battle for Raqa

IS suicide bombers kill seven Iraqi security personnel

Lebanon repeals 'marry your rapist' law

Qatar’s sovereign fund plans new investments despite sanctions

Turkey asks Germany to investigate 'top coup fugitive' sightings

Iran laments ‘hypocritical’ US religious freedom report

No single pattern in radicalisation of foreign fighters, says Tunisian study