On Friday 26 April, three members of the Brussels Regional parliament presented their observations from the latest hearing in the KCK press case at high security prison Silivri outside Istanbul.
At the Belgian Association des journalistes professionnels’ newly opened House of Journalists, attendees of an unofficial observation mission to Turkey, Jean-Claude Defossé, Green party, Fatoumata Sidibé, FDF, and André du Bus, CDH, gave their account on the trial. The trial sees 44 journalists and media workers appearing in court for being members or working on behalf of KCK, the so-called "city organisation" of the illegal and armed PKK, the Kurdish Workers' Party.
The three parliamentarians paid for the three-day trip themselves having previously been refused funding. From Monday to Wednesday, 21 to 24 April, they went to attend the hearing, visit newsrooms and hold talks with journalist, trade unionists, non-governmental organisations as well as next of kin of imprisoned journalists who gave them information about the situation and circumstances of the detainees.
Fatoumata Sidibé pointed out that when they arrived in Silivri at the beginning of their trip they were struck by the sight of children playing and when heard that the complex even incorporates a school and a mosque. She explained that there are 11,000 prisoners at the high security prison that covers an area of 960,000m². In the court room, armed guards were present at all times. What was most staggering to her, however, was that the indictment was read aloud by a fellow journalist, an anchorwoman working for public TV station TRT, a move that was most probably intended to further put psychological pressure on the jailed.
The MPs went on to meet with the parents of Omer Celik who has been in prison for 17 months and is accused of propaganda in favour of a terrorist organisation. His parents are only allowed to see their son for one hour each month.
The united assessment of the parliamentarians’ following the trip was in that the international community needs to keep up the pressure on Turkey supporting the detained journalists that are being accused for doing none other than their work.
Jean-Claude Defossé observed that it is surprising that on a national as well as international level, the press do not take more action to support and help their imprisoned colleagues in Turkey. “There is an interesting silence by certain media on the subject,” he said. Fatoumata Sidibé said: “The silence that these prisoners have to endure is, to them, another condemnation.” And André du Bus described how they learnt that when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was Mayor of Istanbul he compared democracy to a means of transport. For him, it was only a tramway to achieve his aim, to erect a Sunnite state.
For more information on the European Federation of Journalists' Set Journalists Free campaign, click here.
You can find an in-depth report on the mission in French on the AJP website here.