Journalists in PrisonPress Freedom

We stand with Aziz Oruç!

Kurdish journalist Aziz Oruç will appear before the court for the first time at Ağrı 2nd High Criminal Court on 21 July Tuesday, which will mark his 217th day behind bars. The journalist is accused of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “making terrorist propaganda” charges. We are calling for solidarity from everyone willing to support him, by using the hashtag #AzizOruçIsAJournalist on Twitter on 20 July, Monday at 8:00 PM.

Oruç, who is defended by Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) Legal Unit, was arrested on 18 December 2019, and had to wait for a total of six months for his indictment to be prepared. Oruç will finally appear before a judge, after seven months of imprisonment.

The Turkish Ministry of Interior had declared Oruç a “terrorist” on 11 December when he was taken into police custody, prior to his arrest by a court order on 18 December.

Indictment came on his 174th day of imprisonment

Oruç was working as an editor and translator for pro-Kurdish media outlet Roj News when he was arrested. His indictment was prepared on 8 June, which marked his 174th day in Patnos Prison. The only evidence regarding the charge “membership in a terrorist organization” is based on the judgment that “he entered the country illegally, indicating membership to PKK/KCK terrorist organization”.

Oruç, who had been working in Iraq since 2017, was detained by Armenian border police late last year for carrying a forged passport. Because he had entered Armenia from Iran, he was unlawfully returned to that country, where officials dragged him to the Turkish-Iranian border, where they allegedly left him for dead in freezing temperatures. At the border, he was able to contact Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) officials Abdullah Ekelek Muhammet İkram Müftüoğlu. The three were detained by Turkish gendarmerie along the Ağrı-Doğubeyazıt highway on 11 December and later arrested on 18 December by a Doğubeyaz Court.

Hülya Oruç was taken into police custody in April

Hülya Oruç had raised some concerns via her Twitter account regarding the Patnos Prison, where her husband Aziz Oruç was held, stating that the facility lacked the necessary hygienic measures against the COVID-19 pandemic. Later on, she was taken into police custody on 30 April from her home, due to her critical statements. After testifying at the prosecution office, she was transferred to the Court of Peace, which decided to impose her a ban on leaving the country and released her on house arrest.

Commenting on the detention and judicial control measures imposed on her, Oruç said, “I had to go to the Courthouse with my two kids. I am really afraid of getting arrested. I posted those tweets solely to defend fundamental humanitarian values, with no intention to provoke anyone.”

Journalist received 2 years 1 month imprisonment from a separate case in March

Another ongoing case against journalist Oruç came to an end on 2 March, when the court sentenced him to 2 years and 1 month imprisonment for “making terrorist propaganda”, solely based on 12 tweets he posted in 2016, which were all news related posts. Oruç’s punishment was not postponed.

As for the most recent indictment prepared against Oruç, his Twitter and Facebook posts are presented as evidence for “making terrorist propaganda”, besides the fact that he liked the Facebook pages of Roj News and İMC TV news outlets.

Who is Aziz Oruç?

Oruç, who started journalism as a correspondent for the Dicle News Agency (DİHA) in 2013, moved to Sulaymaniyah, Iraq in 2017 where he worked as an editor and translator for Roj News.

Oruç chose to work in Iraq because of the legal pressures he faced. He has many ongoing cases in Diyarbakır and İstanbul from the time when he was a reporter at DİHA. He was sentenced to 6 months and 3 months in prison in 2012 and this sentence is currently under review by the Court of Cassation.