Jailed journalist Nedim Türfent pays a heavy price

Journalist Nedim Türfent has been in jail in Turkey for more than 1,250 days since his detention in May 2016 on charges of being a member of a terrorist organisation.

Before his imprisonment, Türfent was covering from Turkey’s southeast, which has suffered from a fierce conflict between Turkish security forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) since 1984.

A correspondent for the Dicle News Agency (DIHA), shut down by a government decree after a failed military coup in 2016, Türfent’s reports revealed human rights many violations, including torture committed by the state.

A series of curfews were declared by the Turkish government to conduct military operations when the PKK’s youth wing attempted to take over cities after the collapse of peace talks between the government and the group in 2015.

The journalist answered Ahval’s questions from his high-security prison cell via a letter.

“I am in prison because of my journalistic activities. In our country, undoubtedly, touching the status quo on its sore spot comes at a price. I had been harassed many times by the security forces and received death threats. The price I have paid is heavy indeed. Today, it has been 1,249 days in prison, which is too much and absurd,” Türfent said.

He was kept behind bars without indictment and trial for the first 13 months of his incarceration, but was eventually sentenced to eight years and nine months in jail.

Türfent’s defence team say he was imprisoned as a result of fabricated evidence and false testimony. Witnesses have since said they were tortured by security forces to sign documents used against Türfent, Bianet reported.

Normally, all torture allegations should be investigated, but during the two years of state of emergency following the failed coup, the rule of law was entirely shelved, Türfent said.

“State authorities began to cleanse Yüksekova, my hometown in eastern Turkey, and other cities in the region. Operations, fierce clashes, burning down premises, forced displacement, civilian deaths, dead bodies gnawed by cats on the streets,” he said, describing the military operations to put down the PKK urban revolts that spread to many cities in the mainly Kurdish southeast over the winter of 2015 and 2016.

“The free media has been silenced, so the public was only informed by official statements of the security forces from a single centre. It was my journalistic responsibility and moral imperative to report the truth,” Türfent said.

Despite many death threats, Türfent did not leave the region.

“If I had left at that time, I would not have forgiven myself and never done my job again,” he said.

Transferring political inmates between the prisons across the country is a common method of increasing the burden of captivity and Türfent has so far been held in six different prisons. 

To prevent him from writing behind bars, Türfent said he was kept in solitary confinement. According to the law, only those who are sentenced to life imprisonment can be kept under solitary confinement, but after public pressure was transferred to a cell with two other people.

“I miss visiting villages in the middle of nowhere, hiking and playing with children on the streets the most. Also, seeing as far as the eye can see,” he said.

© Ahval English