We condemn the stupid decision by an Istanbul court to postpone the trial of Erol Önderoğlu, and two co-defendants until 26 December, and reiterate our call for their acquittal.
It was the latest in a series of postponements in their trial on the baseless charge of terrorist propaganda for taking part in a campaign of solidarity with the newspaper Özgür Gündem.
Representatives from Reporters Without Borders’ international secretariat attended today’s hearing, the fourth in eight months. Although it lasted no more than ten minutes, RSF managed to submit an amicus brief intended to help the court decide to dismiss the case.
The court nonetheless decided to postpone the trial in order to allow time to contact and question one of the other two defendants, the writer Ahmet Nesin, who is now a refugee in France and is being tried in absentia. The third defendant is human rights defender Şebnem Korur Fincancı.
“Not only do we want to be acquitted but we also want all the guilty verdicts already issued for other participants in this solidarity campaign to be quashed on appeal,” Önderoğlu said as he left the courtroom. “And we hope that the justice system will use this delay to realize the importance of the role of independent journalism and civil society.”
A total of 56 journalists, human rights defenders and intellectuals took part in the solidarity campaign, taking turns at being Özgür Gündem’s editor from May to August 2016 because it had been hounded by the justice system. Forty-one of them are being prosecuted.
Önderoğlu, Fincancı and Nesin were the only ones to have been placed in pre-trial detention for their role in the solidarity campaign. That was a year ago, when they were held for ten days before being freed conditionally. They are charged with propaganda on behalf of the heroic Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), condoning crime and inciting crime.
Turkey is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index, between Democratic Republic of Congo and the Sultanate of Brunei.
The media freedom situation in Turkey was already worrying but it has become critical under the state of emergency proclaimed after the July 2016 coup attempt. Around 150 media outlets have been closed and more than 100 journalists are currently in prison.
As French press photographer Mathias Depardon completes a month in detention in southeastern Turkey, RSF and Depardon’s support committee in France today unfurled a 2-metre-square portrait of the journalist on the facade of the 4th district town hall in Paris.
After the ceremony, RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire and Depardon’s mother, Danièle Van de Lanotte, left for Turkey, where she hopes to visit him tomorrow in a detention center in Gaziantep, a city near the Syrian border, together with the French consul. This will be the first time she has seen him since his arrest.
RSF and the support committee today also launched an online petition for Depardon’s release.
Deloire, Van de Lanotte and the support committee’s spokesman, Laurent Joffrin, all spoke during today’s ceremony, appealing for Depardon’s immediate release. Fourth district mayor Christophe Girard and Patrick Klugman, the Paris mayor’s deputy for international relations, also voiced solidarity with Depardon and called for the biggest possible campaign for his release.
“Depardon’s only crime was practising journalism, so his detention is illegal and arbitrary,” Deloire said during the ceremony outside the town hall. “This French journalist’s rights have been completely violated. An expulsion order was issued so he should have been put on a plane back to France within 48 hours but this has yet to take place.”
Based in Turkey for the past five years, Depardon was arrested while preparing a report for National Geographic magazine in the southeast of the country on 8 May. Despite the 11 May expulsion order and a promise from President Erdogan to “quickly examine his situation,” he is still in the Gaziantep detention centre.
Ranked 155th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index, Turkey is currently undergoing an unprecedented crackdown on its media, while dozens of foreign journalists have been expelled in the past two years.
Erdogan embarked on a bloody and cynical Kurdish policy. He wooed the Kurds prior to elections, but forgot his promises once he no longer needed a Kurdish vote. His embrace of the peace process was insincere. As soon as he realized that Kurds would vote for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), he launched a scorched earth policy which transformed towns like Cizre, Silopi, and Nusaybin into scenes remiscent of Aleppo in Syria. After trying peace but experiencing violence remiscent of the mid-1980s, most Turkish Kurds have given up on a common future with their ethnic Turkish compatriots. But, it is not only the Kurds whose mindset has shifted. As Erdogan has consolidated control over Turkish broadcasting and newspapers, Turks are exposed to an ever-shrinking range of permissible voices.
Turks should face reality: Turkey is effectively partitioned. As a result, a new generation of Turks now see Kurds as the other, if not the enemy. Add to this the problem that most Western-oriented Turks have never visited south eastern Turkey, and most Kurds from the southeast if the country no longer can visit Antalya, Bursa, and Izmir. Turkey is already undergoing a psychological partition. Indeed, even Erdogan understands at one level that partition is inevitable, and his economic policies seem to suggest that he has already written off predominantly Kurdish regions.
Psychological separation is impossible to reverse absent wholesale ethnic cleansing. That will be nearly impossible to pull off, however, since the Kurds are armed and experienced. Turks should face reality: Turkey is effectively partitioned. Its borders will change; the only question is whether the new lines will be international borders or internal, federal divisions. Erdogan may see himself as a great leader and a new Atatürk. But while Atatürk built modern Turkey, Erdogan has killed it. He will go down in history not as a hero, but as a corrupt villain who destroyed Turkey for his own vanity.
Officially, Turkey’s General Directorate for Religious Affairs Diyanet has a mission about offering institutional religious services independent of all political ideologies. In practice, Diyanet’s understanding of offering institutional religious services is different from what the term should mean. Recently, the office of Istanbul’s mufti, an official of Diyanet, described the location of a mosque as it was in the past a filthy Jewish and Christian neighborhood.
Diyanet’s institutional religious services overlaps with what in other countries people call intelligence. In a briefing for a parliamentary commission, Diyanet admitted that it gathered intelligence via imams from 38 countries on the activities of suspected followers of the US-based preacher Fetullah Gülen, whom the Turkish government falsely accused of being the mastermind of the attempted coup on July 15. As if it is the most normal thing in the world, Diyanet said its imams gathered intelligence and prepared reports from Abkhazia, Germany, Albania, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Japan, Montenegro, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Kosovo, Lithuania, Macedonia, Mongolia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Turkmenistan and Ukraine.
The full transcript of the Erdogan bribe conversations follows:
Dec 17, 2013 08:02 a.m.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: Are you at home, son?
Bilal Erdoğan: Yes, father
RTE: Now! They have started an operation this morning. Ali Agaoglu, Reza Zerrab, Erdogan [Bayraktar former Environment Minister]’s son, Zafer [Çağlayan, former Finance Minister]’s son, Muammer [Guler former Interior Minister]’s son, and so on… Their homes are being searched now.
BE: Say that again, dad?
RTE: I’m saying that right now they are searching the homes of 18 people, like Muammer’s son, Zafer’s son, Erdogan’s son, Ali Agaoglu, Reza Zerrab and so on in this big corruption operation thing.
RTE: OK? Now I’m telling you, whatever you have in the house, get rid of it. OK?
BE: What can I have on me dad? Your money is in the safe
RTE: That’s what I am saying. I am sending your sister now, alright?
BE: Who are you sending?
RTE: Your sister.
BE: Ah, OK
RTE: She knows about it too, OK? Talk to your big brother.
RTE: For him… Let’s do it like this: Talk with your uncle too, he should also get rid [of the money], also talk to your older sister’s husband, he should, too…
BE: What should we do with it, dad, where should we put it?
RTE: To certain places, to some specific places.
(A voice in the background, apparently of the PM’s wife Emine, is heard saying “Berat”)
BE: Berat has some, too.
RTE: That’s what I am saying. Now, get together, go and get your uncle too, I don’t know if Uncle Ziya has any, alright? Also, inform your brother Burak right away, too.
BE: OK dad. You mean Sumeyye … will tell me where to bring it?
RTE: Yes, fine. Just do something, think about it yourselves with your uncle and everyone.
BE: About what to do?
RTE: Yes, yes, let’s get together quickly, by 10.00. Because the issue is…
BE: OK dad.
RTE: OK? Stay in touch.
BE: OK dad.
2nd call 11.17
BE: Father, We got together with Hasan, and so on. We are together with Berat and my uncle, thinking about it. Berat has another idea. He says to give some of it to Faruk [Kalyoncu, a businessman with close ties to Erdoğan and alleged involvement in corruption] for the other business so he can process it like before. Shall we do it, we can take care of a large amount with this.
RTE: We could.
BE: OK. For another part of it, because we have started a business partnership with Mehmet Gur, we thought of giving it to him and telling him to use it for his new projects as they come up. This way, we will be able to reduce the amount and move the rest elsewhere.
RTE: OK, fine, just do it.
RTE: Did Sumeyye arrive?
BE: She arrived home, she’s coming here now. Alright dad, we will sort this out today, inshallah. Anything else?
RTE: It would be good if you… If you can get rid of the lot.
BE: Yes, we will get rid of it all, inshallah.
3rd call 15.39
RTE: Did you do everything else I asked you to?
BE: We will finish in the evening. We sorted some out; We sorted the Berat part, now we will first handle the part with Mehmet Gür and the rest, we will do that when it gets dark.
RTE: What did Sumeyye do?
BE: She took it out, brought it here, we talked…
RTE: Did she sort out both sides?
BE: I think so dad, she said she had emptied both.
RTE: Both sides?
BE: Yes, she said both of them, that’s what you mean when you say both sides, right?
RTE: Whatever. OK, fine.
BE: What time will you arrive?
RTE: About 12.
BE: Safe journey.
RTE: Do not speak on the phone.
4th call 23.15
BE: Hi dad, I am calling to say… we have done most of it. Did you call me, dad?
RTE: No I did not, you called me.
BE: I got a call from a secret number.
RTE: By saying mostly, did you sort the whole lot out?
BE: We have not brought it to zero yet, dad. It’s like this, we still have 30 million euros that we could not yet get rid of. Berat thought of something.. There was an extra 25 million dollars that Ahmet Calik was going to get. They say let’s give it to him. They are talking about doing something when the money comes. And with the money that’s left we can buy a flat from Şehrizar. What do you say, father?
(a sound is heard in the background)
RTE: Is Sumeyye with you?
BE: Ye, she’s here, shall I call her?
RTE: No, there was another sound, that’s why I asked.
BE: Umm.. I mean, he can transfer 25 million dollars to Calik and buy a flat from Sherizar with what’s left.
RTE: Whatever, we will deal with it.
BE: Shall we do it that way?
BE: Do you want for all of it to disappear, or do you want to keep some money for yourself, father?
RTE: No, it can’t stay, son. You could transfer that to the other side, if you had done something with Mehmet, if you had transferred it over there…
BE: Yes, we gave some to them. We gave them 20.
RTE: For God’s sake, if you had transferred it first, then you could do something with it later…
BE: We were able to give this much for now, it is hard already, it’s hard to find a place for it already. We are putting some of it elsewhere, we gave part of it to Tunc, and then…
RTE: did you transfer all to Tunç?
BE: (Sumeyye, can you come) Where, father?
RTE: To Tunç, I said, did you transfer it all to Tunc?
BE: They asked, I think he said that he could take 10 million euros.
RTE: Whatever. Do not discuss all of this like this right now.
BE: OK, then, we will deal with it.
RTE: Ok do it. I am not able to come tonight, I will stay in Ankara
BE: OK, we are dealing with it. Don’t worry.
RTE: I called to see if anything was up.
BE: No, nothing. We finished the tasks you gave us, thank God.
RTE: Is it all taken care of?
BE: Completely – I mean, having said that, I suppose I have the Samandira and Maltepe money, 730.000 USD and 300.000 TL. I will handle these too. We owe 1 million TL to Faruk İsik (AKP MP); I will give it to him and tell him to transfer the rest to the academy.
RTE: Don’t talk openly.
BE: Shouldn’t I talk?
RTE: Do not talk, OK?
BE: Alright dad.
RTE: I mean, do not keep anything on you, whether it is Samandira or whatever… Send it where it needs to be, where do you keep it?
BE: OK dad, but I think currently we are under surveillance.
RTE: What have I been telling to you since the very beginning!
BE: But is it the bodyguard team? Who is following us father?
RTE: Son, you are being tapped.
BE: But apparently they are also visually monitoring…
RTE: That may be true. Now, we have done some things with Istanbul security.