Journalist Merdan Yanardağ has been arrested from a broadcasting studio in Turkey for stating on live TV that the Turkish government’s absolute isolation of the jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan violates the country’s own laws. A chief state prosecutor has initiated a legal investigation against him.
Yanardağ, editor-in-chief of the internet TV channel TELE1, criticised the secretive policies of the ruling government and remarked that Öcalan had been turned into a bargaining chip by the government during a programme on Sunday night.
Following the broadcast, both government-affiliated media outlets and members of Turkey’s centre-right opposition Good Party (İYİP), have criticised Yanardağ accusing him of “praising Öcalan”.
A few hours after the programme was broadcast, the chairman of Turkey’s broadcasting oversight body Ebubekir Şahin announced that an investigation had also been launched against the channel in connection with Yanardağ’s remarks about Öcalan.
On Monday, Yanardağ participated in another broadcast in which he explained that his words had been taken out of context. Directly after this broadcast he was placed under arrest.
Yanardağ had sparked national debate by remarking in the original programme that the isolation imposed on Öcalan had no legal basis, saying,
“It [the isolation] should be lifted. We don’t see him, hear him, or discuss him. We don’t know if he is watching or not”.
Addressing the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government he added,
“You have kept him there as a hostage and tried to bargain with him.”
He pointed to allegations that the government had tried to reach an agreement with Öcalan during the election campaign period, saying, “We don’t know what negotiations took place, what kind of offers were made, and what was given or received in return. [Öcalan] cannot even meet with his family or lawyers. What kind of a sentencing regime is this?”
Yanardağ highlighted that Turkey’s execution laws were not being applied in Öcalan’s case, saying, “Abdullah Öcalan is not someone to be underestimated. He is an extremely intelligent person who reads a lot, correctly understands politics, and correctly analyses it.”