Turkish Supreme Court of Cassation has upheld journalist Nedim Türfent’s prison sentence earlier last week. Türfent, whom MLSA represents in court, was sentenced to 8 years and 9 months on December 15, 2017 for terror-related charges although the witnesses have repeatedly admitted that their testimonies were taken under torture. Türfent was the first to receive the court’s notice, even before his lawyers.
Nedim Türfent, a photojournalist with the now-shuttered Dicle News Agency (DİHA), was arrested in Van on May 12, 2016 while he was following a news story. He was repeatedly harassed and threatened by army officials and anti-terror officers while he reported on human rights violations that took place during the curfews in Hakkari’s Yüksekova district.
During the first hearing of Türfent’s trial, where he faced “membership in a terrorist organization” and “making terrorist propaganda” charges, 13 witnesses out of 24 stated that their testimonies were taken under torture. Other witnesses –including secret ones– have also claimed that the were forced to sign testimonies under pressure. Despite these clear violations of the right to a fair trial, Hakkari 2nd High Criminal Court had handed down a 8 year and 9 month prison sentence for journalist Nedim Türfent in December 2017.
Türfent’s lawyers had appealed the local court’s decision. Following this appeal, Erzurum Regional Administrative Court’s Second Penal Chamber has upheld the decision on 19 June 2018.
Constitutional Court and ECtHR applications are waiting to be reviewed
MLSA lawyers then filed an application to the Constitutional Court in July 2018. The application argued that Türfent’s right to liberty and security, right to a fair trial, and the right to be free from maltreatment and freedom of expression were violated as a result of this case and conviction. This individual application is still waiting to be reviewed before the Constitutional Court and has not been included in the agenda.
Türfent’s lawyers also filed an individual application to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on behalf of Nedim Türfent on February 4, 2019. The petition argued that Türfent was arrested in the absence of any legal ground and solely based on his journalistic activities. Lawyers claimed that Nedim Türfent’s right to liberty and security as well as freedom of expression was violated, underlining that the news report he was working on at the time of his arrest was the main motivation behind this prosecution.
Türfent, a celebrated photojournalist and poet, has worked for Dicle News Agency and is most notably known for his journalistic coverage of a Turkish military operation against a group of Kurdish workers. The news story in question and the accompanying footage showed around 50 Kurdish construction workers being handcuffed and made to lie on the ground, after which Turkish officers shouted at them: “Now you will see the power of the Turk.”
Türfent has been behind bars for 1246 days as of today.