A Turkish prosecutor has asked for up to two years prison sentence for the prominent journalist Cengiz Çandar, who has been nominated as a parliamentary candidate by the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP).
The prosecutor demanded the prison sentence on charges of “praising an offence and an offender”, for a 2017 post on social media, in which Çandar commented on Ayşe Deniz Karacagil, also known in Turkey as “the girl with the red scarf”. Karacagil died in Raqqa in Syria while fighting against the Islamic State (ISIS) alongside Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey sees as being linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“The girl with the red scarf, Gezi’s most heartwarming and smiling angel, fell to the ground outside Raqqa and rose to the stars, burning our hearts once again,” wrote Çandar after the death of Karacagil, who first became known during protests that swept Turkey in 2013.
Çandar denied the charges and asked to be acquitted during the second hearing of his case on Monday.
“As a father myself, I was moved by her father’s social media post, and I posted the cited tweet. The expressions ‘angel’ and ‘rose to the sky’ are actually words used by her father. It was a post I had shared purely for conscientious reasons. The person who was killed was in her early twenties and died while fighting against the terrorist organisation known as ISIS, which Turkey too recognises as a terrorist organisation, in Raqqa,” Çandar said at court.
Çandar’s lawyers also demanded the court to investigate whether Karacagil had any convictions, noting that if she did not, Çandar’s comments could not be deemed as praising an offender.
The prosecution requested the court to reject the demand of the defence lawyers, saying that Karacagil died due to her terrorist activities in Syria. The prosecutor said that Çandar had “praised the deceased in a way that attempted to glorify, justify, and legitimise the actions of the deceased, who acted on behalf of ‘the organisation’ and participated in clashes”, referring to the PKK, adding that as a well-known public name, Çandar “provided psychological support” to the PKK and that expressions used by Çandar in his posts “posed a clear and imminent danger to public order”.
The judge adjourned the trial to 16 May, two days after Turkey’s coming elections, in which Çandar will run as candidate for the HDP in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır (Amed).
Çandar started his career as a journalist in 1976 and is known as a Middle East expert who has published seven books in Turkish. He is also the author of the English language book “Turkey’s Mission Impossible, War and Peace with the Kurds”. The journalist has been living in Sweden since 2016, but returned to Turkey after he was nominated as a parliamentary candidate and he was present in court on Monday.