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20 February

Testimony under torture deemed admissible in Türfent case

Journalist sentenced to 8 years and 9 months for “membership of a terrorist organization”

Nedim Türfent, a local reporter for the shuttered Dicle News Agency in the southeastern Yüksekova district of Hakkâri province, was sentenced to 8 years and 9 months in prison on December 15, 2017 on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization.” However, the reasoned decision published two months after that conviction reveals the court ignored accusations aired during proceedings that much of the evidence against him had been obtained under torture.
Of the 22 witnesses appearing in court, 21 retracted testimony which they said had been extracted under beatings and threats of rape or execution. “They pulled two of my teeth out with pliers,” said Can Güder about his interrogation by police. “They forced me to sign documents.”
Another prosecution witness, Şevket Gürdal, said police put a gun to his head: “They told me to say ‘yes’ to whatever they ask, we don’t want to hear the word ‘no.’ They left me without food for hours.”
The judgement of 2nd High Criminal Court of Hakkâri, which handled the case, cited European Court of Human Rights judgments and the European Convention on Human Rights to justify that freedom of expression and press could be restricted under certain conditions.
“According to witness testimonies during the investigation, it was seen that the suspect was constantly meeting with the high-level officials of the organization in Yüksekova, that the suspect was the press spokesperson of the organization [Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK],” the court said in its decision.
The court also argued in its ruling that Türfent’s articles “distorted the truth” by supporting the PKK, provoking sympathy towards it and portraying it as having popular support.” As a member of a proscribed organization, he could not “benefit from the protection ensured to journalists,” the judgement said. He was also criticized for not reporting that the PKK had exploited children during an attempted uprising.
The court said the accusations leveled at Türfent were based on witness testimonies, the articles he wrote and his social media posts. “Although the [prosecutor] requested that the suspect be convicted of ‘conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization,’ his actions as a whole were considered as amounting to ‘membership in a terrorist organization’ and that he had acted as a press officer for the organization,” the court said.
While the ruling avoided mention of torture, it did say justify its use of police minutes by saying that witnesses had subsequently revised their testimonies after being threatened by the PKK.
However, one such witness, Rojdan Tokçu, denied in court all knowledge of Türfent after seeing him on the screen through the judicial teleconferencing system: “I don’t know that person…. I ended up signing the documents they brought me after they said ‘We will rape you, we will kill your brothers’.”
Türfent himself told the court that he had been subject to death threats and beatings after his detention by the police. His trial began on 14 June 2017, some 13 months after he was first arrested. His lawyers lodged an appeal with the Erzurum Regional Appellate Court and as well as the Constitutional Court on grounds of “unjust detention.”

Tags: Nedim Türfent


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