How evidence is planted on journalists

Esben

Ørberg, the EFJ delegate from the Danish

Journalists' Union (DJ) tells his dismay and shock of the visit to Europe's

biggest court house in Istanbul and the court hearing of imprisoned journalist,

Füsun Erdogan. DJ has ‘adopted' Erdogan as parts of the ongoing EFJ campaign to

Set Journalists Freed in Turkey.

 

How evidence

is planted on journalists


(Istanbul,

3 June 2013)I just managed to grab her hands for a quick greeting

before the security guards surrounded the 50-year-old journalist Füsun Erdogan

forming a human barrier between us. 

Erdogan was quickly taken away from the courtroom in Europe's biggest

court house, on the outskirts of Istanbul.

It

was a moving and tragic moment. Her family and friends followed her with their

eyes. It seemed that none of them see this coming - Erdogan is sent back to

jail after 7-year imprisonment and she may not be free again.

We

sat inside the courtroom for two hours for the hearing and listened tentatively

to the lawyer defending her case. But the four judges made no attempt to hide

the fact that they were occupied by something else on their computers.

During the

hearing, we did not hear a word from Erdogan because she was not allowed to

speak.

We were

herded out of the courtroom when a break is announced. Together with a number

of other supporters of Erdogan, I met with a German Bundestag member from Die

Linke, who is a prominent Turkish opposition politician, and my colleagues from

the Turkish Journalists' Union (TGS), with whom I spent the morning in order to

understand Erdogan's case.

My interpreter

is Erdogan's niece, and for two hours she whispered the most incredible story

in my ear: namely the story of what her aunt is being accused of.

While

I was listening tentatively the ‘crime' Erdogan was accused of, a court

official suddenly announced that the trial was to terminate and resume at the

end of September. Three more months in Gebze women's prison for a completely

absurd "crime", her family and friends were struck with disappointment.



Ercan

Ipeksi, the President the Turkish Journalists' Union and I found a place within

a short distance from the court house, where we held a press conference for the

handful of journalists who have been following the trial. Following that, Ercan led the

journalists to Taksim Square and demonstrated together with protesters for press

freedom in Turkey. Meanwhile, I found a little cafe and sat down with three of Erdogan's

sisters and her niece, who filled me in with details

on the story behind her imprisonment.

Several civil

society organisations have been following Erdogan's case and the ‘crime' she is

accused of, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without

Borders and of course the EFJ. But all of them rejected the accusation of the Turkish

government of Ergodan's ‘crime'.

Erdogan was

accused of being a member of a Marxist organisation (MLKP, the Marxist-Leninist

Communist Party), which is accused of undermining the government by violence

and listed as a terrorist organisation. Erdogan was

accused of being a senior member of the organisation providing financial advices.



The truth

is - she has never been a member of such an organisation. But how did the

prosecutor make such claim against Erdogan? Why Erdogan is being put in prison?



In 2006, Erdogan

was abducted on the street in Izmir and taken to a building which was suspected

to house MLKP. The authority found a list of MLKP members

in the building. Erdogan's presence in the building is now being used as

evidence against her. The authority was convinced that her

presence in the building proved that she is a senior member of the terrorist

organisation.

This

fantastic set-up is like something taken from a bad detective novel, but

nevertheless, it is what her two lawyers - one of whom is her sister - sought untangle

during today's hearing.

Erdogan

was put behind bar because of her critical journalism?

Füsun

Erdogan is known by as a socialist for a number of years. In prison, she has

written a book about Rosa Luxemburg (1870-1919) who is seen as an exponent of a

'democratic communism' and places his faith in spontaneous mass action and

rejects Lenin's centralism. The book has not yet been published, so it can

hardly be the reason for her imprisonment.

The reason,

however, could well be her critical radio journalism at Özgür Radyo (Freedom Radio), which was founded by her in 1995.

She was the director at Özgür Radyo until

the police abducted her in Izmir. The radio station still exists and is highly

critical of the authorities - including the past month's heavy-handed treatment

of demonstrators at Taksim Square. Füsun's husband is also a journalist

critical of the government. He is convinced that her imprisonment is intended

to serve as a warning for those journalists critical of the government in the

country. Earlier

this year, Erdogan has written a letter from prison to the EFJ saying that her

imprisonment is related to her work as a journalist. She also reported her deteriorating health as a direct consequence of her

imprisonment.

It has

become evident that the imprisonment of many journalists in Turkey has silence

the critical voices. Self-censorship is becoming a norm in the Turkish media

and solidarity is rare under such circumstances. The union (TGS) has only 1,000

members, out of about 100,000 Turkish journalists. Most recently, 500 union members

were forced to terminate their memberships as they were afraid of losing their

jobs at the state news agency, Anatolian

News. But this made little difference because most of them were fired

anyway.

Many of EFJ

affiliates have ‘adopted' a Turkish journalist in a campaign for their freedom.

The Danish Journalists' Union (DJ) has adopted Füsun

Erdogan and been following her case closely. Since the imprisonment, her health

conditions have deteriorated drastically, The union and the EFJ are making an

appeal to the European Parliament and the European Commission to demand that

Turkey must act to free its journalism in prison.

Before

my return to Denmark, I

encountered a few young people near Taksim Square. They told me that they want

the authority to respect them and their rights. They want understanding and

acceptance, instead of arrogance and violence. They

want education and work. They want a fair share of in Turkey's new prosperity. And

they want the freedom to decide the future themselves, rather than having

religious dogma being imposed upon them.

Sadly, the

vast majority of Turks do not sympathise with these young people. They believe that the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an has

skilfully balanced between Western democracy and strong Islamic traditions. And

they adore him for his firmness and paternal strictness against ‘foreign

criminals who want to split up modern Turkey'. Not least, they regard the Prime

Minister as the economic success of country.

But it is

my impression that the young people who have sparked off a movement that cannot

be stopped. In Istanbul alone, there are 6 million

young people under the age of 30 who are strongly oriented towards the idea of

democracy shared by the rest of Europe. They love their country, but they are seeking

change - peacefully and democratically.

My Turkish

colleagues see the protests as a healthy sign, and as a small step towards

greater democracy and press freedom.

In order to

achieve the above goals, the pressure on the regime must be maintained. All EFJ

member unions, including my union, have sent letters to their respective prime

ministers and foreign ministers to make their influence on Turkey.

It must be

said that, our effort to help Erdogan's case is just a modest contribution from

the Danish union. The pressure on the Turkish government must be maintained

with the efforts of all EFJ affiliates and civil society organisations in order

to free the journalists who are currently in jails.

This article was written by Esben Ørberg and first

published in Danish at magazine of the Danish Journalists' Union.