Rûdaw TV reporter Rawin Sterk, detained in in Turkey’s northwestern Edirne province while reporting on border crossings of refugees on 6 March, still remains imprisoned without an indictment.
In late February, Turkey announced it would soften border controls to allow Syrian refugees in Turkey to cross into third countries, after dozens of Turkish troops were killed in Syria’s Idlib province. Journalists flocked to the town of Edirne to report on what was expected to be an exodus of refugees into Greece. Although they were initially able to work with no interference, as many as 22 journalists were briefly detained after some while in the Pazarkule region on charges of illegal border crossing.
Although all of them were released after being held briefly, Rûdaw TV’s Sterk was arrested on “propaganda charges” in relation with another investigation and he is still imprisoned in Ankara. No indictment has been prepared so far.
Sterk’s lawyer Veysel Ok states that it is highly likely for Sterk to be released pending trial once the indictment is submitted and that him being in prison during the COVID-19 pandemic puts him at great risk.
‘He could be released once the indictment is submitted’
Sterk’s lawyer Veysel Ok states that the authorities chose to look into Rawin’s social media accounts when they couldn’t find any reason to detain the journalist. Ok claims that Sterk was arrested based on several tweets that criticized the government’s Syria policy and that him working for Kurdish media and having a Kurdish name played a role in the authorities’ determination to send him to prison.
Lawyer Ok says that Sterk is taken to Ankara and that there is no indictment prepared thus far although there is no need to collect further evidence. “If the indictment is submitted, it’s highly likely that he would be released right away,” Ok adds.
Ok reminded that the recently passed amnesty bill that foresees the release of 90 thousand inmates deliberately excluded journalists. According to Ok, Sterk being behind bars for pre-trial detention during the COVID-19 pandemic puts him at great risk.