A prison in Turkey’s southeastern Diyarbakır (Amed) province forced visitors of Kurdish journalists awaiting trial to disrobe before going through the x-ray machines at the security checkpoint, Gülsün Altan, the wife of one of the journalists, told Mezopotamya Agency on Thursday.
Altan, a journalist herself, said she and other visitors had been forced to strip to their underwear, and then told to walk through the x-ray machine without any clothes on. “We were subjected to what amounts to sexual harassment. All the families were deeply disturbed,” she told Mezopotamya.
The families were allowed to have face-to-face visits due to the Eid al-Adha holiday. Before the most recent visit, they were only able to see their loved ones through the glass in visitation booths.
“The glass was so dirty that we could not make out each other’s expressions. We could make no eye contact. Not being able to share emotions has been terrible,” Altan said.
Altan’s husband, Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG) Chairman Serdar Altan, was arrested on 8 June and remanded in prison eight days later together with 15 other journalists and media workers for terrorist propaganda and membership in a terrorist organisation. The families and lawyers have not received full details on the charges yet, due to a confidentiality order on the casefiles. Known evidence against the journalists include news stories they have written and events they have covered.
The extreme practices, including the placement of the journalists in a high-security prison, aim to intimidate families and dampen the support they receive from civil society, Altan said.
“We will stand by our spouses and friends, because journalists are the eyes, ears and conscience of a society,” she said, calling for solidarity from the public and professional organisations.
Meanwhile the prison administration has been confiscating letters sent by and to at least three of the journalists, Serdar Altan, Mehmet Ali Ertaş and Zeynel Abidin Bulut, on the grounds that they could include “terrorist organisation’s correspondence”, Mezopotamya reported.
The prison administration found letters sent to journalist Hüseyin Aykol to constitute “terrorist propaganda”. Aykol writes for the Yeni Yaşam newspaper, which is part of a decades-long tradition of Kurdish journalism that has long been subject to persecution.
Ertaş, editor-in-chief for Xwebûn newspaper, had another letter to Aykol confiscated earlier in the week, with the prison administration citing Yeni Yaşam as the reason for the violation of his right to communication. The letter in question was an article Ertaş wrote for the newspaper, on the journalists’ unlawful arrest.