A Turkish court in the eastern border province of Van ruled to convict Kurdish activists and politicians to six months in prison for favouring a ‘criminal’, based on their help to Kurdish journalist Aziz Oruç, who was acquitted of terrorism charges in the same case.
Oruç was arrested in 2019 at the Turkish border, as he attempted to cross into Armenia from Iran. Former local administrator for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Abdullah Ekelek, was in the car with him and was also arrested for aiding and abetting.
At the time Oruç was already facing several charges of terrorism over the stories he covered and agencies he worked for as a journalist, but had not been convicted for any of them. In Wednesday’s hearing, the same court acquitted him of membership in a terrorist organisation and dismissed charges of terrorist propaganda, Mezopotamya Agency reported.
The prosecution had argued in the indictment that Oruç being caught at the border constituted an attempt to illegally enter the country, which in turn signalled his membership in Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), news website Bianet reported.
Previous charges stem from Oruç having worked for Dicle News Agency (DİHA), which was shut down with a presidential decree during Turkey’s state of emergency following the failed coup attempt of 15 July 2016.
In the current case, Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG) Co-chair Dicle Müftüoğlu, Muhammet İkram Müftüoğlu, Turgay İlboğa and Yücel İlhan were also found guilty for ‘favouring’ Oruç.
State-run Anadolu Agency reported on Oruç’s original arrest as “PKK terrorist and HDP administrator who aided him captured at border”, citing a statement by the Interior Ministry. “Anti-terror and intelligence units arrested terrorist organisation member Aziz Oruç and HDP Doğubayazıt District Co-chair Ekelek who attempted to help and take him to a safe place were arrested on the Ağrı highway,” Anadolu wrote at the time, while Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu directly called Oruç a terrorist in a speech.
Oruç’s wife Hülya Oruç told reporters that he had been subjected to torture by Iranian soldiers for three days, after which his possessions were confiscated and he was unlawfully thrown to the Turkish side of the border.
“Abdullah Ekelek rescued my husband as he almost froze to death in the bitter cold of Ağrı. He helped a journalist, a human being,” Oruç said. The journalist suffered health problems over the prolonged exposure to the cold, and was refused treatment.