An appeals court in Turkey’s southeastern Diyarbakır (Amed) province has upheld a prison sentence of 1 year 6 months and 22 days for Kurdish journalist Abdurrahman Gök, who faced trial over his work documenting police violence, Mezopotamya Agency reported on Thursday.
A prolific photojournalist, Gök is best known for a series of photos he took during Newroz celebrations in 2017, when he inadvertently documented the sequence of events that led to the death of university student Kemal Kurkut.
In the photos, Kurkut was seen approaching the police checkpoint ahead of the area where the most important Kurdish holiday would be observed. The young man then had an argument with riot police officers, took off his shirt in anger, and started to walk away with a water bottle in his hand. As he turned and started to run away, officers shot at him behind his back. He died from the gunshots.
The Kurkut photos, 28 of them in total, were among the social media posts Gök was questioned over when he was arrested in 2018. The investigation was dormant for two years, but the journalist was indicted on terrorist propaganda charges in 2020. The trial concluded in a few short months.
“The police, alongside the judiciary, are trying to take the state’s revenge on me because I’d presented evidence against the governor of the city, the police chief and the interior minister, who all stated that Kemal Kurkut was a suicide bomber, by publishing the photos in question,” Gök had told Medya News in an earlier interview.
The appeals court ruled that the prison sentence Gök was handed had been “appropriate”, and said that there were “no inaccuracies” in the ruling.
Case files, court records and “available evidence and the court’s opinion as a result of the investigation” show that the announced verdict was “in accordance with the law, lawful and sufficient”, the court said.
Even Turkey’s strict anti-terror laws have exemptions for sharing of incidents “with the purpose of informing the public and within the bounds of criticism”, Gök’s lawyer Resul Temur told Mezopotamya. “Everybody knew Gök’s sentence was not lawful and that the court did not act with justice in mind. But the appeals court has both failed to approach the matter from a law standpoint, and refrained from implementing the actual articles of the law.”
Gök’s legal team is now preparing to take the case to the Court of Cassation.
“I did not take a step back when you charged me with 27 years, I won’t do it now that you’ve upheld this sentence. Continuing with journalism,” Gök said in a tweet.