Turkish authorities continued their crackdown on pro-Kurdish opposition circles with more arrests on Wednesday, adding to those made during raids on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the law enforcement made additional arrests to Tuesday’s 128 detentions, including four in the northwest province of Tekirdağ. More detentions are expected since there are a total of 216 arrest warrants within the scope of the investigation, overseen by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, which triggered the police operations.
Beritan Canözer, Mehmetşah Oruç and Abdurrahman Gök, three of the detained journalists have been sent to prison awaiting trial on charges of terrorism.
The prosecutor’s office built the case against the detained journalists on witness testimony, according to Mezopotamya Agency. The secret informant in the case has previously testified against 20 journalists who were arrested in June 2022 in Diyarbakır (Amed).
The arrest of the journalists has sparked outrage among media advocacy groups, who have called for the immediate release of the journalists and an end to what they have called the ‘criminalisation of journalism’.
Green Left Party parliamentary candidate Ayten Dönmez was also sent to prison awaiting trial following her detention in Istanbul on Wednesday. Dönmez is accused of being a member of a terrorist organisation based on a photograph of people in camouflage uniform. In her statement, Dönmez denied the accusations, saying, “I present to you the photos taken during my youth and in subsequent periods. It will be clear from these photos that this person is not me.” Dönmez also disclosed that she was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2019 and that her treatment is ongoing.
The lawyers detained in the Diyarbakır-based operation, which Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu accused of “practising law on behalf of an illegal organisation”, were charged over their call for the release of sick prisoners.
The prosecutor’s case against the detained lawyers is also based on witness testimony. A person who was alleged to be in the “youth structure of the illegal organisation” testified against the lawyers, 26 of whom were issued detention warrants and 16 of whom have been detained.
The statements of the detainees started to be taken on Wednesday after the 24-hour restriction on legal counsel had ended. They will be referred to a court after their statements to the prosecutor’s office. A confidentiality order remains in effect regarding the case.
A total of 128 people, including journalists, politicians, lawyers, unionists, artists and human rights activists were detained on Tuesday’s raids in 21 provinces. The operations came just three weeks before pivotal elections in May, which can end the two-decade-long reign of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
As the raids heightened tensions in the country amidst the election campaigns, the crackdown on the pro-Kurdish opposition has been widely condemned by both local and international press freedom and human rights advocates. The protests continued on Wednesday and Thursday as press conferences were held in various provinces.
The Turkish government has been criticised by many international organisations for its human rights abuses and the clampdown on the press.