Journalists Cemil Uğur, Adnan Bilen, Nazan Sala and Şehriban Abi, who were detained during raids in their homes on October 6 and arrested three days later, reported that the quarantine measures implemented due to the Coronavirus pandemic in Van Prison is being used as an excuse for mistreatment.
“We are held in a ward with the highest risk of infection”
Underlining the fact that he and his colleagues were taken into custody because of their news story regarding two citizens being tortured under the detention of security forces, and their hospitalization due to “falling off of a helicopter”, Mesopotamia Agency (MA) reporter Adnan Bilen stated that, although their period of quarantine came to an end, they were not transferred into a normal ward. Bilen, who is imprisoned together with MA reporter Cemil Uğur, told Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) that their fundamental rights were violated and spoke of the mistreatment that they underwent during their quarantine: “We are held in the place where the risk of infection is highest. Positive cases are detected in the neighbouring wards. Despite our request, we have not been taken out of here. Our quarantine period ended two weeks ago but we are still here.”
“Quarantine is used as an excuse for mistreatment”
After the arrest warrant was issued, freelance journalist Nazan Sala and Jinnews reporter Şehriban Abi were taken to the ward in which others had been held before them. Sala emphasized that quarantine was used as an excuse for mistreatment: “Before us, drug-dependent prisoners were kept in that ward. Prisoners with withdrawal syndromes vomited all over the ward and the ward was left like that. We told [prison administration] we could clean if we were given cleaning supplies. For one week, we were neither given water nor a brush. We were kept in that filth. Each of our requests was denied by saying ‘We don’t have enough personnel.’ Hours after we had pressed the bell to call the guards in the ward, someone would come and say, ‘Do not press the button except in emergencies.’ Quarantine is used as a reason for mistreatment in prison.”
Şehriban Abi, who spent the 14-day quarantine period together with Sala, stated that they were punished with mistreatment and said, “They confiscated dozens of notes which I took to write news reports. They have my notebook and my computer. There are only notes there that I take to write news stories and they know that. Our job is journalism, they are also aware of that. Therefore, we had to answer dozens of questions on unrelated issues during the prosecutor’s inquiry because they could not find any justification. Now they are trying to punish us by keeping us under arrest for a long time in cold wards.”
MA reporter Uğur also remarked that their detainment process was not carried out in accordance with the procedure. They said that they were not shown any warrant and that neither them nor their lawyers could get insight into the grounds and decision of their detainment. Uğur recounted the process as follows: “We told the officers who carried out the detainment that they must show us an official order. They didn’t even care. Afterwards, neither we were able to meet with our lawyers, nor could our lawyers meet with the prosecutor.”
“They try to prevent rights-journalism”
Journalist Bilen also talked about their interrogation, where they thought they would be asked questions related to the news about the citizens tortured by soldiers. Bilen said: “When we heard the questions, we understood that they had been looking for an excuse to detain us and that they were not even able to find this excuse. The questions they asked us were for example ‘Tell us what you know about the management of the PKK and KCK [Kurdistan Communities Union].’ They asked us even more absurd questions like ‘What is the first paragraph of Article 14 of KCK’s Convention?’ Is such an interrogation possible? Why are such questions asked to a journalist? They try to render our news invisible and keep us from practicing rights-journalism.”
The journalists whom MLSA visited in the High Security Van T-Type Prison expressed that the delay in the preparation of the indictment against them is also tried to be used as a punishment and that their colleagues and rights organizations should not allow that.