The new Turkey
Seyithan Akyüz
Adana correspondent for the now shuttered Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat (Homeland's Freedom)

24-Jan-2019
Medium: Print
Charge: Anti-State
Imprisoned: December 7, 2009


Akyüz, the Adana correspondent for the now shuttered Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat (Homeland's Freedom), was serving a 12-year term at Izmir Kırıklar Prison. Before his arrest, according to a letter he sent to the independent news website Bianet in March 2016, in addition to his reporting job with Azadiya Welat the journalist was helping with the newspaper's distribution as well as the distribution of another pro-Kurdish daily, Özgur Gündem, in the region. Occasionally, the letter said, Akyüz also reported for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency, in Kurdish. All three media outlets were shut down on October 29, 2016, by an emergency decree that accused them of having ties to terrorist organizations and representing a threat to national security.

Akyüz was initially charged with aiding the banned Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, an umbrella group of pro-Kurdish organizations that includes the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK. Authorities cited as evidence his possession of banned newspapers and his presence at a May Day demonstration in İzmir. He was later convicted of membership in an armed terrorist organization, the PKK.

Authorities publicly claim that the pro-Kurdish media are aligned with the PKK and the KCK. The government says the journalists produce propaganda in favor of the banned organizations.

A 2012 trial in Adana made national news when the judge refused to allow Akyüz and other defendants to offer statements in their native Kurdish. In his March 2016 letter to Bianet, the journalist said he was never allowed to testify in court. A June 2014 report by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) also found that court officials withheld case documents from Akyüz's lawyer for more than a year.

In late 2016, Akyüz was waiting for Turkey's Constitutional Court to decide whether it would hear an appeal in his case, his lawyer told CPJ. In late 2017, the lawyer did not return CPJ’s calls requesting an update on the status of the appeal.*

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